Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. turns 100

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Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, founded at Howard University on January 9th, 1914, celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2014, with a year long slate of activities designed to highlight the organizations contributions to American society over the past century.

The centennial celebrations commence January 9, 2014 with events taking place around the country including simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies at the gravesites of the three founders and regional galas.

Internationally known by the Greek name, “Sigmas,” Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, is one of the “divine nine” predominately African American fraternities and sororities, founded from the turn-to the middle of the 20th Century, to provide black college students and professionals social and service outlets in their communities during a racially-segregated America. Founded by three young scholars, Abram Langston Taylor, Leonard Francis Morse and Charles Ignatius Brown, the fraternity’s membership has grown to span ten decades and four continents, and includes members of all races, religions, ethnicities and nationalities. More than 150,000 men have become members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity over the past 100 years, represented in over 700 chapters.

Phi Beta Sigma has a near century long commitment to service that is centered in the fraternity’s three international programs; Bigger and Better Business, Education and Social Action. Concerned about the state of African American businesses and the state of economic development in black communities, improving the economic state of black America was the charge in launching the Bigger and Better Business in 1924. Education became an international program in 1929 as the fraternity wanted to assist students in college matriculation and scholarship support. Social Action became an international program in 1934, in response to the fraternity having a greater desire to address social injustice and seek to bring about a more equitable “social order” in the era of racial segregation. All three of these programs represent the core of Sigma’s programmatic initiatives and are carried out at the international, national, regional and local levels.

For more than 60 years, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity has made manhood training for young boys a fraternity priority through its Sigma Beta Club founded in 1950. Its mission is to bring a responsibility mindset to instill a college going culture among young black males. Collegiate, as well as graduate members, are their mentors. There are over 120 Sigma Beta Clubs nationwide. Furthermore, for the past 40 years, Phi Beta Sigma has focused on the health and wellness of its communities through national partnerships with the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization was one of the first fraternities to adopt a national AIDS Awareness campaign. In 2012, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity took a national stand against hazing and formed an Anti-Hazing Coalition to stop hazing not only in the African American community, but also within the mainstream. Today, Phi Beta Sigma is among the nation’s leaders in calling for personal responsibility and accountability among all institutions and agencies that practice any form of hazing.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity is steeped in scholastic, social advocacy and cultural traditions, having as members some of the most historical figures of the 20th Century’s “social change” and cultural movements. Among the hundreds of notable members throughout Sigma’s history that include College Presidents, Judges and Public Officials, business leaders, accomplished athletes and entertainers are: the first African American Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Alain Leroy Locke, the first Black Executive Secretary of the NAACP and writer of the “Black National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson, the person singularly responsible for saving the South’s agriculture industry with his 20th Century advancements in crop rotation, Dr. George Washington Carver, the founder of the first AFL-CIO endorsed Black labor union, A. Phillip Randolph, the first President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, now Congressman, John Lewis, the most significant figure in America’s Pro-Black Radical movement and co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Dr. Huey P. Newton, Chicago’s first Black Mayor, the Honorable Harold Washington and the 7th United States Secretary of Education, the Honorable Rod Paige.

Phi Beta Sigma also counts amongst its members four American educated African Presidents; Ghana’s first President, the Honorable Kwame Nkrumah; Nigeria’s first President, the Honorable Nnamdi Azikiwe; the Honorable William V.S. Tubman, the 19th President of Liberia; and the Honorable Dr. William Tolbert, the 20th President of Liberia, as well as one American President, the Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States.

Phi Beta Sigma members having held significant roles in the Niagara Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, the Chicago Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, the Pro-Black Radical Movement, the Million Man March and the election of President Barack Obama, the fraternity has left an indelible cultural imprint on America for centuries to come. With “Culture for Service and Service to Humanity” as its motto, Phi Beta Sigma has been a part of every significant political and cultural movement of the last 100 years.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Centennial celebration will feature nationwide tributes to its founders and highlight significant events in the fraternity’s history. Beginning with a grand weekend of activities from January 9th through 11th in Washington, D.C., thousands of Phi Beta Sigma members are expected to return to Washington to celebrate Sigma’s “100th Birthday.” Activities will include a ground-breaking ceremony for a Sigma monument to be placed on the campus of Howard University later this year, wreath-laying ceremonies at the gravesite of Founder A. Langston Taylor and a nationally broadcast and webcast Gala at the Washington Renaissance Hotel, where significant contributors to the Civil Rights movement will be remembered.

Honorees include Congressman John Lewis, civil rights icon Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, former Congressman, EdolphusTowns, political commentator/civil rights leader, Rev. Al Sharpton, Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, civil rights leader, Clayola Brown and homeless activist, Elisabeth Williams-Omilami. Sigma member and actor, Malik Yoba, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. There will be a video greeting message from President Bill Clinton and the keynote message will be delivered by actor/entertainer/legendary activist, Harry Belafonte. The fraternity’s “Centennial charge” will be delivered by the honorable Mary Breaux Wright, the International President of Sigma’s sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

The grand centennial celebration will occur in July, 2014, where Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity members will return to Washington and will be joined by its sisters, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority during their Grand Boule, for five days celebratory activities throughout the city. Entitled the “Centennial Jubilee,” it will be held from July 16th-July 20th, 2014.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity has made a proud contribution to the advancement of American society. It invites its partners in the Black Greek movement and in the society at large to join them in this100 year celebration of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service.

For more information about Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and its Centennial Celebration activities, visit http://www.PBS100.org or http://www.PhiBetaSigma1914.org.

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