The following is a continuation of the paraphrased introduction from Tangela Serls’ “The Spirit of Friendship: Girlfriends in Contemporary African American Literature.” This part discusses the role Delta Sigma Theta had in her friendships and spirituality, as well as an example of why she began studying girlfriend relationships.

Tangela Serls and friends

My college circle of friends. 
From left to right: Anastasia Boone, Tiffany Baskerville-Powell, Jocelyn Hyman, Me, Kimberly Tanner, Melissa West, Shinece Hampton
Not Pictured: Nicole Cleggs-Burn, Brandie Palmer

In the historical account, In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement, Paula Giddings compares our sorority to a social movement organization. According to Giddings, the primary focus within a social movement is to transform the individual. For me, transformation meant getting to know God as a friend, rather than the racist patriarchal dictator many other Black women initially encounter. Giddings refers to Delta Sigma Theta’s third national secretary, who wrote that the organization had “made friendship an art… by means of its comprehensive oaths and obligations.” That line immediately resonated with me, especially in the context of my own friendships.

Giddings reports that many members consider the sorority the “beloved organization.”  I also consider it my “beloved organization,” primarily because it led me to a friendship with my beloved Savior. The Holy Bible influences our oaths and obligations. Thus, when I review my organization’s doctrine, I am pointed to God and instructed in the art of friendship. Even though all sisters have access to these teachings, sisterhood does not automatically create the type of girlfriend relationship I examine in this project. My own experiences with sisterhood demonstrate this point.

Not all of my friendships have come from the sorority. In fact, some of my most inspiring girlfriend relationships have been with women who are not affiliated. What follows is an example from one of my girlfriends; it shows an experience that led me to study girlfriend relationships. Last November she sent me the following audio message:

Hey girl, so I’m sitting in my hotel room this morning, getting all extra emotional and grateful and thanking the Lord that I’m able to be here and accomplish the goals that I set out to do, and I started thinking about you… there is so much of what I do or what I’ve done that I wouldn’t have had the strength to do or the courage to do or the motivation or the inspiration to do if you didn’t have a place in my life… and I wanted to let you know that you are appreciated, you are celebrated, you are thought about… There is so much that you do to inspire my decisions and my actions… There are certain ways that I am that you inspire just by being the person that you are… just by me knowing that I have you, and that I have this foundation in you, and I have this backbone in you, so to speak… When I fall I know that I’ll never fall too hard because I know that you’ll sit right there on the ground with me and to have a friend like that, to have somebody you know without a doubt will be there for you and will sit on the ground with you in the dirt, just as she’s there to praise you in the light is something that I will never be able to truly have the words to thank you for… because it’s just not something that is common. And in my own personal journey and in my own personal growth with family and with upbringing and all of that it’s not something that was a norm in my life; it’s not something that I grew up having, so I think because it’s not my norm… I appreciate it so much more because I know what it’s like to not have it. I know what it’s like to circle through life by yourself, wondering who supports you, wondering who is there for you, wondering who will be there for you when it’s maybe not so pretty to be there for you…

My friend’s message to me brings these ideas full circle: Experiences within my beloved organization, which is based on Christian principles, influenced my decision to know God more intimately and to know God as friend. As a result, my girlfriend relationships have been enriched. So when I get reminders such as the audio message above, I cannot internalize the praise too much because it is all for God’s glory.

Be on the lookout for more excerpts from Tangela Serls’ “The Spirit of Friendship: Girlfriends in Contemporary African American Literature.”