By: Press Release
Monday February 16, 2009
On January 9, 2009, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. launched the five-year countdown to its celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Fraternity on the campus of Howard University in 1914. Several significant events held in the greater Washington, DC area marked the preparation and approach of this milestone in the history of this organization of college and professional men, established by Abram Langston Taylor, Charles Ignatius Brown and Leonard Francis Morse.
These events were superimposed on the momentous time in our nation’s capitol of the election of the 44th President of the United States, Barack H. Obama, and the advent of his historic inauguration as the first African American to hold the most powerful position on this planet. It was also the eve of the celebration last week of the 200th birthday of the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and the celebration also of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). These historic markers are not without significance as we embrace the spirit and men that gave rise, purpose and passion to Phi Beta Sigma, a fraternity committed to championing Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service to Humanity.
On February 12, 1900, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” , known as the Negro National Anthem, written by Phi Beta Sigma Brother James Weldon Johnson, was sung publicly for the first time on the occasion of the celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln at the Colored High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Johnson, who would be an early leader of the NAACP, said that “the song not only epitomizes the history of the race, and its present condition, but voices their hope for the future.” Small wonder that it was aptly chosen to begin the benediction delivered by Reverend James Lowery at the inauguration of President Obama, on January 20, 2009:
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Even as our country faces dire economic times, we rejoice in the grace of Almighty God that has led us as a people and a nation to this moment in time, with the strength of spirit to carry on as stewards of the legacy passed to us for future generations. And, so it was that the current and living past International Presidents of Phi Beta Sigma gathered in Washington with the Brothers of the mother chapter, Alpha Chapter, on January 8-9, 2009, and paid tribute to the Founders of our wondrous band as we march in pride and humility toward our Centennial.
In so doing:
- A Past International Presidents Welcome and Rededication Ceremony was held on January 8, 2009 hosted by Paul L. Griffin, Jr., current International President (32nd); in attendance were Demetrius C. Newton, Esq. (24th), James T. Floyd (25th), Moses C. McClendon (26th), Carter D. Womack (27th & 29th), William E. Stanley, Jr. (28th), Peter M. Adams, Esq. (30th), Arthur R. Thomas, Esq. (31st) and Roswell O. Sutton (17th) joined by teleconference; President McClendon rendered the Invocation; Eastern Regional Director, Daryl Williams and Vice President of Alpha Chapter, Kyle Denning brought Greetings; Centennial Co-Chairman Carter D. Womack gave an Overview of the Weekend, together with further briefing by the Centennial Co-Chairmen William E. Stanley, Jr. and Peter M. Adams, Esq.; also in attendance were International Vice President Jimmy Hammock, Executive Director Marco McMillian, International Director of Education William Powell and Centennial Committee member and the Countdown logistics coordinator Eric Gilliam;
- The Fraternity’s current and Past Presidents and leadership met with the Howard University officials at Howard University President Sidney Ribeau’s Offices on the campus, on January 9, 2009; the meeting was facilitated by Alpha chapter alumnus, Medgar Evers College President, Dr. Edison Jackson and Centennial Co-Chairman Peter M. Adams, Esq.; The Fraternity leadership was warmly received and graciously hosted by the President’s Chief of Staff, Phi Beta Sigma Brother Andrew A. Rivers and Director of Development Virgil Ecton; Introductory Remarks were brought by Dr. Edison Jackson, Alpha Chapter President Steven Page and International President Paul L. Griffin, Jr.; Greetings were brought by Andrew Rivers and Virgil Ecton; an overview of the Centennial plans were presented by Centennial Co-Chairman 28th International President William E. Stanley, Jr. and Centennial Co-Chairmen Carter W. Womack and Peter M. Adams, Esq. and, with President Griffin, outlined the anticipated involvement of the University when we return to the campus in mass during the Centennial; Closing Remarks were provided by President Griffin; the Fraternity’s plans were met with great excitement, pledge of support and commendation for the early involvement of the University by the Fraternity, as we begin the strategic planning leading to 2014, which will be mutually beneficial to both institutions;
- A processional and Wreath-laying Ceremony was conducted on the campus of Howard University at the Alpha Chapter monument near Locke Hall (named for Professor Alaine Leroy Locke, a Phi Beta Sigma Brother , and the first Black Rhodes Scholar); Executive Director Marco McMillian served as Master of Ceremony; Eastern Regional Director Darryl Williams brought Greetings; the 28th International President William E. Stanley, Jr. rendered the Reflection and Purpose; in the course of the wreath-laying ceremony, three strong white doves were individually released into the clear blue sky (the first by International President Paul Griffin, Jr., the second by Alpha Chapter President Steven Page, and the third by the oldest Past International President in attendance, Demetrius Newton, Esq.), symbolizing the release by the three Founders of the grand idea of Phi Beta Sigma; each dove, intriguingly, took flight in a different direction, then gracefully came together in the sky above the Brothers assembled, soaring off into the blue yonder in majestic formation - a remarkable sight to behold;
- A police-escorted motorcade next proceeded to the grave site of Founder Abram LangstonTaylor in Suitland, Maryland, where a further wreath-laying ceremony was held; the 24th International President Demetrius C. Newton, Esq. brought Reflections on this Occasion; the 25th International President James T. Floyd provided the Prayer; and the 30th International President Peter M. Adams, Esq. rendered Closing Remarks; at this elevated area of the cemetery on a very gusty, very chilly, yet spectacularly sunny day, warm and moving respects were paid to Founder Taylor ( wreath-laying ceremonies will take place 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida and 2011in Kansas for Founders Morse and Brown, respectively);
- The Fraternity leadership also met on January 9 with the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s President, Clayola Brown at the APRI’s offices in Washington, DC to explore plans for the erection of a full statue and dedication of a national park or space, during the Centennial Celebration 2014; this would provide more conspicuous recognition to this historically significant civil liberties advocate, A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), a Phi Beta Sigma Brother, the organizer of the first union of predominantly black workers to be granted a charter by the American Federation of Labor, who served as President of the Sleeping Car Porters Union, Vice President of the AFL/CIO, and was organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and counselor to Past US Presidents; International President Paul L. Griffin, Jr. provided introductory Remarks at the meeting; an overview of Centennial plans was provided by Centennial Co-Chairman Peter M. Adams, Esq.; APRI President Clayola Brown greeted the leadership present with great enthusiasm and introduced her APRI Board member present; Phi Beta Sigma Historian Clarence Davis and Centennial Co-Chairmen William E. Stanley, Jr. and Carter D. Womack provided remarks; the Fraternity was very warmly received with obvious excitement by President Brown regarding the plans and prospects for partnership between APRI and Phi Beta Sigma to stage a march, and to honor and dedicate a monument to A. Philip Randolph during the Centennial Celebration 2014;
- A Reception at Howard University’s Blackburn Center hosted by Alpha Chapter and alumni, Alpha Sigma Chapter and the Eastern Region, with a 100-Year scroll book-signing, concluded the day’s activities; in attendance were University administration officials, local Brothers, Zeta Phi Beta Sisters, Pan Hellenic members, friends and family; Greetings were brought by representatives of the foregoing, including Eastern Regional Director Darryl Williams, Chapter President Steven Page; remarks About Phi Beta Sigma were made by the 31st International President Arthur R. Thomas, Esq.; and, finally, a special tribute and toast to the 44th President of the United States, Barack H. Obama was made by International President Paul L. Griffin, Jr..
The Countdown clock to Centennial 2014 was activated on the International web site: www.pbs1914.org on January 9, 2009, at 00:00 hours. Photos of the various events of the Countdown-launch, during these Founders Day 2009 activities in Washington, D.C., will be available for viewing on the web site. This was a symbolic gathering only, to mark the beginning of the Countdown. Look for updated information on the web site of other Centennial Countdown activities planned for the next five years, as Phi Beta Sigma men prepare with great anticipation to converge en masse on Washington, DC for our 100th birthday Celebration!
The Fraternity will capture and preserve, as part of the Centennial Countdown memoirs, your Founders Day activities for 2009 and years 2010-2014. Special Request, please note: Chapters are requested to forward your Founders Day 2009 photos and stories by March 15, 2009 to firstname.lastname@example.org.