The XX Factor

Obama Gets Cranky About Alpha Kappa Alpha

It’s not a good week for Alpha Kappa Alpha. For starters, the group’s national president, Barbara McKinzie, may be forced out following allegations that, among other “financial misdeeds,” she “used the organization’s money to commission a $900,000 ‘living legacy wax figure’ of herself,” as reported in the Washington Business Journal .

And then there was the New York Times Magazine cover story on Valerie Jarrett this weekend, which opened with an anecdote from the campaign trail, in which Jarrett wielded her trusted-advisor power to convince Barack Obama to go to an Alpha Kappa Alpha event-an event he desperately didn’t want to attend. As Robert Draper reports, Obama’s response to the request that he make an appearance at the African-American sorority’s Pink Ice Ball was: “I’ve been to sorority events before … We’re not gonna change anybody’s mind.’” After which he “snapped”: “I’m not going to any sorority event.” And “barked”: “I told Anton I’m not going to any Pink Ice Ball!”

As I made my way through the piece, I couldn’t get that lede out of my head. Why was Obama so against going to the sorority event, and what did he mean that he wouldn’t change anybody’s mind? Is Alpha Kappa Alpha notoriously conservative, or aggressively pro-Hillary?

Not at all. As my colleague with friends in the sorority put it, “If you can find a Republican at the Pink Ice Ball, I’ll clean your bathroom with a toothbrush.” And Megan Taylor, who was an undergrad member of the Theta Zeta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, confirms that the sorority as a whole is very pro-Democrat, and pro-Obama. She says they released Obama T-shirts and signs with their signature green and pink colors to the entire organization (which requires approval at the national level), and inducted Michelle as an honorary member. Like me, Megan couldn’t make sense of that “We’re not gonna change anybody’s mind” line. Does it make sense to anyone else?