Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, founded at Howard University on Jan. 9, 1914, celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2014 with a year-long slate of activities.
The centennial celebration commences on Jan. 9 with simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies at the gravesites of the three founders. Regional galas will also be held.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity is one of the “Divine Nine” predominately African-American fraternities and sororities founded from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century to provide Black college students and professionals social and service outlets in their communities. The members are known as “Sigmas.”
Founded by three young scholars—Abram Langston Taylor, Leonard Francis Morse and Charles Ignatius Brown—the membership now includes 150,000-plus members in 700 chapters on four continents.
Phi Beta Sigma’s commitment to service 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 sought to assist students in college matriculation and scholarship support. Social Action became an international program in 1934 in response to the fraternity having a desire to address social injustice and seek to bring about a more equitable “social order” in the era of racial segregation.
For more than 60 years, the fraternity has made manhood training for young boys a priority through its Sigma Beta Club. Founded in 1950, the mission of the 120 clubs is to encourage young Black males to be responsible and work toward attending college. The boys are mentored by members who are enrolled in college and graduate school.
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 the 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.
“The seeds planted by our founders in 1914 have established deep roots in American society,” said Sigma President Jonathan A. Mason.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity counts among its members many notable figures in the 20th century’s social change and cultural movements including leaders in law, business, education, public service, entertainment and sports. 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
Famed members include Dr. Alain Leroy Locke, the Black Rhodes scholar who went on to become executive secretary of the NAACP; James Weldon Johnson, who wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” the Black National Anthem; Dr. George Washington Carver, scientist; U.S. Rep. John Lewis; and Chicago’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington.
Phi Beta Sigma also counts amongst its members four American educated African presidents. Former President Clinton is an honorary member of the fraternity.
The centennial celebration will kick off with a round of events Jan. 9-11, when thousands of Sigmas are expected to converge on the nation’s capital. Scheduled activities include a ground-breaking ceremony for a Sigma monument to be placed at Howard University and a gala at the Washington Renaissance Hotel.
The ceremony will honor Lewis; former U.S. Rep Edolphus Towns; Johns Hopkins medical research legend C.T. Vivian; and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sigma member and actor, Malik Yoba will serve as master of ceremonies. Civil rights activist and actor Harry Belafonte will deliver the keynote address.