Phi Beta Sigma

Article excerpt

IT all started, as Panhellenic lore has it, some 78 years ago, when three enterprising young Howar University students--A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F Morse and Charles I. Brown--determined that there was room for a fourth fraternity in the new-but-thriving realm of Black Greek-letter societies. Their vision was to create an organization that would receive men of integrity and purpose, build upon their innate gifts and inspire them to go into the world to serve mankind.

From the lofty dreams of Taylor, Morse and Brown grew Phi Beta Sigma Fratenity, Inc., an international brotherhood dedicated to academic excellence and community service.

Since its inception in 1914, approximately 92,000 college-educated men have joined the ranks of Phi Beta Sigma. Its 325 alumni and 311 undergraduate chapters are located throughout the United States, with foreign chapters in West Africa and the Caribbean.

At the outset, the fraternity's founders aimed to create an organization that was global in membership and scope. Listed on Phi Beta Sigma's membership rolls are internationally renowned figures of past and present such as the late Liberian President William Tolbert; Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana; Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria; Alain Leroy Locke, the first Black Rhodes Scholar; scientist George Washington Carver; author/poet james Weldon johnson; and two current members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus; and John Lewis, D-Ga., one of three chief deputy whips.

The Phi Beta Sigma "family" also includes the members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., founded in 1920 at Howard University under the auspices of the fraternity. The Sigma-Zeta tie is the only constitutionally sanctioned brother/ sister relationship in the domain of Black Greek-letter societies.

Phi Beta Sigma's motto--"Culture for service and service for humanity"-- expresses its purpose.

"Our reason for being is to serve our communities," says Carter D. Womack, 27th national president of Phi Beta Sigma and senior vice president of Black Collegiate Services, publishers of Black Collegian magazine and the journal of the National Technical Association. "I know that sometimes it looks to outsiders as though Black Greeks exist mainly as social organizations. But the men of Phi Beta Sigma are serious about our pledge to aid humanity, and it has been that way since the beginning."

Almost since the beginning, the fraternity has maintained a three-pronged action plan to carry out its civic service mission. The components of the plan are: Bigger and Better Business, a program designed to promote minority-owned business ventures; Social Action, a vehicle for addressing the critical problems affecting the nation's communities; and Education, an ongoing effort to support--financially and otherwise the academic endeavors of minority youths. …