Updated: Nov 4, 2019
22 years ago, 6 young women came together to create a space for young women to flourish. An organization that allowed us to experience true friendship, accountability, discipleship and service. Formerly Female Steppers for Christ, ZAO (Zeta Alpha Omicron) became a beacon of light for hundreds of Chicago’s young Black women. It offered them something no program could. Above all, it gave us Jesus.
I remember being an 8-year-old girl looking at these young women walk through the aisles of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, longing for the day when I would join the ranks of such poise, grace, and boldness. They had fun, but they served. They were dedicated to one another. They, alongside the brothers of ZOE Posse, modeled what life could look like as a teenager in Christ. At such a young age, they were more important to me than any other group in the world. They were celebrities in my eyes, famous for their energetic stepping and unapologetic proclamation of the power of God.
As soon as I was old enough, I pledged. Spring 2006, a 14 year old eighth grader was granted membership into arguably the most well-known Christian youth organization in the Chicago area that didn’t sing. Through the process and shortly after my admittance into the sorority, I found my idolatry of these young women to be replaced with a more honest reflection of my own identities. No longer did I put them on this pedestal of perfection. Instead, God used this ministry to push me closer to Him. My sisters and I were just teenaged girls for Christ’s sake! Full of hormones and identity crises, but the safety, accountability, discipleship, and service always remained at the forefront.
I spent the next 4 years of my life being shaped by this organization into a woman that pursued virtue and fell in love with the Lord. There is no telling what being a part of ZAO did for me, the kind of trouble it kept me away from. I gained most of my closest relationships as a part of this ministry and for that, I am forever thankful. I think there are few members who don’t share this sentiment.
Youth ministries like ZAO are something I miss that churches like mine don’t practice. While I definitely think there is good reason for young adult integration into the corporate worship setting, the Black church does something powerful when it allows young people to have safe spaces to become young adults, providing us with the leadership, social, and psychological support to help us be more successful. Being a part of ZAO gave me an appreciation for other women and helped me to realize the need to keep strong women in my life. It gave us the parents that we needed to stand in gap for us in ways our own parents could not. We got to see parts of life the average Black teen in Chicago never saw, and while we took it for granted then, I will never cease to praise God for His grace in providing such a space for me.
I pledged to be a part of ZAO for life, therefore, I will continue to dedicate my life to “living the life of God and causing others to live it as well.” No matter where you are, my dearest sister, I love you. You are still a butterfly.
Happy Founder’s Day ZAO.