Fraternity brings distinctive women in media to share their success with the Syracuse community

Women of Distinction panelists were media standouts LaLa Vasquez, Loretta Divine and Iyanla Vanzant.

Schine Student Center was filled with the sounds of laughter and words of inspiration this past Wednesday, when three distinctive women in the media industry came as guests.

The Theta Xi chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated presented its fourth annual “Women of Distinction” event on Oct. 15, which included a panel of exceptional women in the business. These included known TV host, actress and entrepreneur LaLa Vasquez, renowned actress Loretta Divine and the famous life coach and TV personality Iyanla Vanzant.  The event, which was open to the community drew in a large and diverse crowd.

"If we want to see people of color grow, we have to start supporting each other." --LaLa Vasquez

With the intention of recognizing women who have broken down barriers in order to make it in distinctive fields, the fraternity wanted to bring something to campus that could make a difference.

“We are a social fraternity. We can do many events such as parties or concerts, but we wanted to provide people with an opportunity to get something more at Syracuse University,” said Travis Davis, a public health junior and the president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. “Women of Distinction is something impactful for the community. It leaves people with something lasting, where they can connect and obtain advice from people they look up to.”

The eventful evening began with the fraternity presenting a check for $9,000 to the March of Dimes foundation. Then it went on to a Q-and-A with the three women, where they discussed their inspirations in life and stories about overcoming struggles in their careers as women of color, as well as shared advice on what it takes to be successful. Vasquez spoke of growing up in the Marcy projects in Brooklyn and shared advice to grow.

“It goes down to us women supporting each other. If we want to see people of color grow, we have to start supporting each other,” Vasquez said.

Growing up in a time when there were not many people of color on TV, Divine also spoke of the importance of defining one's own success.

“You as a person need to define what success is to you and then you will get there, enjoy your life and what you want to do,” Divine said.

Each coming from a different background, the three women stressed the importance of individual success.

“To be successful, for young people it is important to have a cultural, and historical understanding of who you are,” Vanzant said.

As the evening continued, audience members were given the opportunity to ask the panelists questions. While many sought out career advice, one lucky student inspired Vanzant so much that she awarded her with a scholarship right on the spot.

The fraternity concluded the event by presenting its own Women of Distinction Awards in areas that the fraternity greatly values to women in the Syracuse community. Courtnee Futch, a communication and rhetorical studies senior, was presented with the bigger and better business award. Annette Briggs, a Syracuse native, was awarded with the social action and service award.  

As the event came to an end it was very clear it did just what the fraternity intended it to and impacted many. Sonya Branch, 49, accompanied her daughter to the event, felt inspired and particularly moved by Vanzant’s answer about the importance of forgiveness and moving forward.

“I learned a lot from this event tonight and because of it I am going to do a lot for me now,” Branch said.

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