Phi Beta Sigma and the legacy of brother John Lewis

Phi Beta Sigma celebrates the legacy of brother John Lewis

Americans and advocates for freedom from around the world continue to celebrate civil rights icon John Lewis for his commitment to not only live his life, but also his willingness to lay down his life in service to others. A long-time member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, the “Good Trouble” activist found that the fraternal organization’s mission of “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity,” aligned closely with his personal beliefs and formed valuable alliances with his fraternity brothers around the world.

Stephen McDaniel, former national officer of Phi Beta Sigma and a 50-year member Phi Beta Sigma explained that he first met Lewis while at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland while organizing a national event for the Sigmas.

“I knew him before he was Congressman Lewis,” McDaniel explained. “Most people think he became who he was when he became a member of the House of Representatives or when he became a civil rights leader … but he was very noted long before that.”

Members of the Phi Beta Sigma paid respects to their fraternity brother Rep. John Lewis during a final induction ceremony into the Omega Chapter at the Georgia Capitol Building. During the myriad of poignant and heartfelt tributes to Lewis in the weeks since his passing from cancer, the fraternity’s moving and private send-off for their beloved brother exemplified the high regard he was held in and remains a testament to the love of Lewis’ Sigma Brothers. He was theirs and he chose them to help develop his character and mold him as an advocate for honor and a staff bearer for justice.

Throughout his life, Lewis consistently lived up to the fraternity’s motto “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity,” William E. Stanley, Jr., a former international president of the fraternity said during the induction service.

Lewis, who is mourned by millions around the world, joined the organization in 1974, two years after delivering the keynote speech at Phi Beta Sigma’s National Conclave in 1972.

Real Times Media spoke with members of the august organization about Lewis and the Phi Beta Sigma connection.

What was it about the Phi Beta Sigma creed that compelled John Lewis to join?

International President Michael Cristal. Michael Cristal:

“He exemplified the noble conditions of our organization,” said International President Michael Cristal.

Throughout the decades the civil rights icon challenged others to get involved in their communities and do something that makes a difference.

“He always challenged collegians and younger alumni to get in ‘good trouble’, challenge organizations, he said you have a moral obligation to speak up,” said Cristal.

Stephen McDaniel: “I think it was the same thing that motivates most people to join social organizations. They recognize people who have similar philosophies. He could [discern] like-spirited and like-minded individuals

“People think that the challenges we face today are a new phenomenon. But Phi Beta Sigma was established in 1914 at Howard University and we’ve been having challenges with police brutality and institutional racism caused us our due. We have been very vocal about being involved in equality and justice and all the issues we’re facing today are decades old,” explained McDaniel.

A Phillip Randolph, one of the organizers of the March on Washington was a member of the fraternity and John was a great friend and admirer of Randolph. Hosea Williams was also a member and great friend of John’s along with Tim Brown who was then a member of Georgia’s state legislature.

Dr. Carter D Womack 27th and 29th International President Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Inc.

“Brother John Lewis was a man I got to know as friend someone you could talk with about anything. He would want us to continue to do the works that he lived and fought for each day. I will miss our Brother John Lewis.”

The Phi Beta Sigma fraternity continues to honor the iconic Congressman and civil rights leader through service and leadership projects exemplifying Lewis’s “Good Trouble” maxim. Current “Good Trouble projects include:

  • Voter Registration / Education and Absentee Ballot Request Process/Census 2020 – Men of Sigma are encouraged to register citizens in their community to vote in preparation for the upcoming Nov. election.
  • Canned Goods Collection – Sigma chapters are encouraged to join forces with its sister organization Zeta Phi Beta and collect canned goods and make a substantial donation to your local food bank in response to COVID-19 and for the families that have been impacted by the pandemic.
  • Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery – Hon. Bro. Lewis personally offered active opposition to human trafficking and slavery; if this is a major issue within your community, please go to the Department Homeland Security website for additional information

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