Brotherhood, scholarship, service.
Those are the watchwords of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, whose members will observe their 100th anniversary on Jan. 9.
Members of two local chapters, Delta Gamma Sigma, of Dover, and Lambda Delta Sigma, of Bear, gathered Jan. 5 at the Mt. Zion AME Church, Dover, to mark the anniversary with a meeting, religious service and meal.
In addition to chapter officers, also in attendance were James L. Simmons III, Delaware state director for Phi Beta Sigma, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, presiding prelate, 20th Episcopal District, AME Church, and the Rev. Winton M. Hill, presiding elder of the Dover District, AME Churches.
The Phi Beta Sigma fraternity was founded in 1914 by three African American students at Howard University, Washington, D.C., with a mandate to serve the community from within. Membership was determined by merit, without regard to race or nationality.
In the century since, the fraternity has branched out across the world, with more than 200,000 members in more than 700 chapters.
Delta Gamma Sigma, which encompasses central and southern Delaware, was founded in 1960 at Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and today is headed by Kurtis A. Thomas Sr., of Salisbury, Md. The Dover-based group is dedicated to social action through community service, helping those who are in need, Thomas said.
“We were founded to provide service to the community,” Thomas said. “That’s our main purpose.”
As it was a century ago, the fraternity is open to anyone willing to serve.
“We don’t want to exclude anyone from our organization,” he added. “We want people with like minds and like ideas, and a desire to give back to the community.”
Delta Gamma has two undergraduate chapters, Alpha Alpha Psi, at Wesley College, and Gamma Upsilon, at Delaware State University. There also is a chapter at the University of Delaware, Thomas said.
A former member of the Wesley College football squad, and now a counselor at Wicomico High School in Salisbury, Thomas learned of Phi Beta Sigma during his college years.
“A lot of brothers on the team were Sigmas,” he said. “It was the kind of people they were, their demeanor, that drew me to them.”
Donald Clark Jr., of Dover, became aware of Sigma while at Dover High School through the fraternity’s youth group, the Sigma Beta Club. His father, Donald Sr., who also is a Delta Gamma member, often was away from home as a member of the U.S. Army, and the Sigmas helped provide some of the guidance he felt he needed.
Page 2 of 2 - “There were a lot of guys there I looked up to,” Clark said. “Above all, it was the community service that they do, both locally and nationally.”
Operating in the Dover area, Delta Gamma Sigma recently was involved in the fraternity’s Thanksgiving dinner program, providing full meals to more than 80 families.
They’ve also worked with the March of Dimes, held a book bag drive to collect school supplies for children in the Liberty Court apartment complex, and sponsored Barbershop Health Days, where they provided medical screenings and handed out information on subjects such as diabetes, hypertension and prostate cancer.
The Sigmas do a lot of this work without drawing a lot of attention to themselves, Clark said.
“We don’t go out for accolades, but we are letting people know we are here to help,” he said.