A Vital Partnership Takes Root, And Urban Kids Benefit

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(Seated – Left to right) International President Jonathan A. Mason and FWS Director Dan Ashe.

One year ago today, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. signed a historic Memorandum Of Understanding with the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) to engage urban youth in outdoor recreation and STEMs Education. This initiative commemorated American scientist, botanist, and inventor, Dr. George Washington Carver’s groundbreaking research on plant biology and early experiments to improve soil conservation in the United States of America. Dr. Carver is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. In celebrating our first year anniversary, our partnership has bred several engagements with the young men and communities we aim to serve. We are excited for this amazing opportunity to continue our partnership with USFWS in engaging our youth through education and physical activity. We’ve aligned our focus with President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative with Phi Beta Sigma’s response initiative “I Am My Brother’s Keeper,” as we take this opportunity to teach our young men that food does not come from the box, but from the ground.

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As I call out cities such as Philadelphia, PA, New Orleans, LA and San Diego, CA where our members have engaged the initiative, I look forward to more cities being added this year to this worthwhile program. The joined forces of our historic memorandum of understanding have forged an excitement amongst our Sigma Beta Club members, our male youth mentoring program, to become environmental stewards. Our future leaders are looking forward to the engagement that the USFWS will provide at our International Conclave in July 2015 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In keeping with our initiative’s mandate to focus on “securing the future of our boys and young men of color,” I plan on making sure that the youth are engaged in outdoor recreation on public lands to promote health through physical activity, overseeing their pursuit of biological sciences careers through stewardship and STEMs, building national, regional and local conservation partnerships and engaging Sigma as a voice on conservation issues.

Thanks to Dan Ashe, Noemi Perez and the USFWS Team, Dr. Mario Brown and all Sigmas that have helped to lead this effort. We welcome everyone reading this statement to join with us as we continue to make a difference in the lives of young individuals. We forever thrust our cause speed on its ways and hold fast to our motto, “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity.

Jonathan A. Mason, Sr.
International President

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Spring’s Here and so is March for Babies!

Spring’s Here and so is March for Babies!

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Why do we support the March of Dimes?
Because we all know babies and families – Phi Beta Sigma Families – affected by premature birth, birth defects, and infant death. Our babies deserve better! 
 
With your participation, more women will have full-term pregnancies and more babies will begin healthy lives. Are you ready to help?  Our goal is 40% or 211 chapters raising $150,000!   As of today, we have 13% or 66 chapters donating – so we ask each chapter to get involved today!  
 
Congratulations to Southeast Region for leading the country with 20% of their chapter’s donating!!!  Great work!  Look at these results!
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Next week we will share the region with the biggest increasein chapters participating – want to see your region on top?  You can do it! Donating is fast and easy, and great tools are available to you online: 
 
Step one: Sign up to fundraise at marchforbabies.org/phibetasigma
Step two: Create your team or personal page.
Step three: Decide how your chapter will raise donations – Walk? Ask friends and family for donations or host an event?  
 
Need help registering your chapter? Email us at OFTHelp@marchofdimes.org or call 888-274-3711.  
Have you connected with your local March of Dimes office yet? Visit www.marchofdimes.org/contactus for a list of state March of Dimes offices.

ADOPT-A-BUSINESS: An Interview with Ms. Juanita Morris, Owner, Juanita’s Fashion R Boutique

Juanita-MorrisPhi Beta Sigma hit the front lines in the aftermath of the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. As part of the organization’s I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER initiative, the Fraternity joined in solidarity in support of this local business destroyed during the riots. Be a part of the collective efforts to help raise dollars to restore this valuable business back to the community.

We took the opportunity to talk with Juanita Morris, as she shares her story of perseverance, faith and forgiveness. We encourage every Sigma Brother and Chapter to click the Adopt-A-Business link and help us reach our financial goal.

Phi Beta Sigma (PBS): When was Juanita’s Fashions R Boutique founded?
Juanita Morris (JM):
I started the business 28 years ago out of my home. It was in my home for three years, then we moved to a storefront in the Roberts Building-being there for the next three years. From there, we moved to Fox Hall Plaza for eight years. We outgrew the location each time! We purchased the building at 9844 W. Florissant Avenue in St. Louis-going on 11 years.

PBS: What inspired you to open the business?
JM:
I was working for Missouri Butcher selling restaurant equipment, when it was downsized three day before Christmas. I was laid off. Not wanting to just sit at home,
I wanted to do something. One day a friend of mine said to me, “you love to shop!” So, I turned that desire into making money. But I did not know how to start.

I got some information about a merchandising show in Rosemont, Illinois. I got a plane ticket to Chicago, and found out how to start a business on an account with a manufacturer for $135. I bought a few items and a man showed me how to “work it”-the tricks of the trade. I got the items sold!

I struggled at first, but kept with my plan. The business kept building and I was always able to pay my bills. Business kept increasing with steady clients and loyal customers. I believe that when you’re good to your people, they will stick with you.

PBS: Who’s the typical Juanita’s Fashions R Boutique customer?
JM:
“An old-lady (as she laughs)!!!” They are the “church women” who love to dress from head-to-toe in their fine suits, hats and dresses. The seasoned woman, age 30 and up. It’s not for every woman-only the unique. When they step out, people will say “you’ve been there!”Fashions R 088

PBS: How was business prior to the fire?
JM:
Well, the retail business is like a roller coaster ride–it’s up and down. We experienced a very good season prior to the Christmas holiday. We were regrouping, preparing for a good Christmas season. We were fully stocked, getting ready!

PBS: Were you usually engaged or involved in the community at all?
JM:
Absolutely. I believe in being a Giving Servant. When the devastation of Hurricane Katrina hit, we provided $8,000 to $9,000 of merchandise to needy families. Many families came to our area. So many did not have money to dress themselves. We contributed many garments and items, and I was able to minister to them as well through praying, listening and encouraging their souls.

PBS: After the fire, did you consider leaving the fashion industry?
JM:
It never crossed my mind. Never. The reason is because this is a ministry. I have a chance to witness to hurting people. It’s more than money and there’s more to life. I’m often reminded of the lyric “If I can help somebody…”

PBS: Were you angry with the community?
JM:
Never angry! I was disappointed and hurt to see what I had built over the years, just disappear in three hours. Fire trucks never Fashions R 019came!

I had a feeling that something was going to happen, but nothing like this. Merchants were told that we would be alright. The National Guard was down the street, so I didn’t expect it to get too bad.

I was also forgiving. Even though I disapproved of the perpetrators’ actions, I understood that out anger people do bad things. I’m glad at one thing: out of all that happened, no life was lost.

PBS: How did you feel when contacted by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity?
JM:
I cannot explain – a miracle! I kept asking why me? Out of all the people effected, I was chosen. This was a great honor that I will never, ever forget. The bus-loads of people that came to pray on my property-oh my God-that was awesome! I’m a strong believer in prayer and when your leader and the others came to pray, I was just speechless.

PBS: Were you familiar with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity?
JM:
I was not familiar with the organization. I’ve heard of fraternities and sororities, but I didn’t know of any members, personally.

PBS: What’s the status of the rebuilding?
JM:
We signed a 1-Year Lease for a temporary location and we recently celebrated our Grand Re-Opening!

PBS: Have there been any lessons learned from the experience?
JM:
This whole circumstance was bad, but this whole situation has turned around for my good. I’m praying to be an even stronger Giving Servant.Fashions R 008

PBS: How has the community responded?
JM:
Awesome! I have never felt or seen this kind of outpouring of support before. You hear so much negativity in the world: destruction, jealousy and hatred. People magnify and spread that stuff, but not the good. The good is boring. There are so many people that have love in their hearts. You’ll never see it until you get into that position. I didn’t realize it until this situation.

From international nations like Germany, Australia; and since Anderson Cooper’s interview on CNN…I can walk on water!!

PBS: Any closing words to the Brotherhood of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
JM:
THANK YOU! Thank you is not enough! To Mr. Jonathan Mason and Mr. Quentin Goodwin, and the whole fraternity, please keep doing what you’re doing. This is not only for me. I will tell this to my grandchildren and they can tell it to their children. I’ll never stop. You have my support from now on.

*Store photos prior to the Ferguson riots.

INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT OF PHI BETA SIGMA FRATERNITY, REV. JONATHAN A. MASON SR., ASSUMES POSITION AS SENIOR PASTOR OF THE HISTORIC NORTHEAST BAPTIST CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA

President_Jonathan_Mason_web_smallThree months following the passing of his beloved father Reverend Lee Mason Jr., Rev. Jonathan A. Mason, Sr. has been appointed senior pastor of the historic Northeast Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.

Assuming the pastoralship of the community cornerstone this past Sunday, with an official installation ceremony planned for the spring, Mason brings a powerful new voice and decades of organizational and leadership experience into the esteemed position. The International President of the historically Black fraternity Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. says he is proud to accept the torch from his father and excited to continue executing his vision for Northeast Baptist.

“The church moved very slowly to fill the position of senior pastor,” explains Mason. “My father has left a large shadow being a great pastor for 41 years. I’m overwhelmed by the trust that Northeast has placed in me and I’m even more excited by the challenges ahead. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us’,” he cites, quoting Romans8:31.

Through his work as one of the nation’s leading African American sales executives in radio, Mason brings more than 20 years of corporate skills to the position and is currently Director of Sales for New York City’s WABC and WNBM radio stations. Such a diverse background is important, as the elder Mason left big shoes to fill: a celebrated civil rights leader who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. during his more than 40 years presiding over Northeast Baptist, he inspired generations of prominent pastors to include Pennsylvania State Representative and radio personality Rev. Louise Williams Bishop, the Rev. Sarah Hyman, the late Rev. F.L. Donaldson and late Rev. Michael Edwards.

Mason steps into the pulpit at Northeast Baptist at an exciting and pivotal time. “My dad was the ‘People’s Pastor’,” Mason says of the senior theologian. “He truly cared for his congregation. As a church we will continue to be a family that cares about the socioeconomic conditions of the people in our church and in the community,” he vowed.

Mason’s efforts coincide with transformative work he’s doing within the greater African American community. Last year Phi Beta Sigma partnered with the White House on its landmark initiative My Brother’s Keeper. Through I Am My Brother’s Keeper, the fraternity’s official response to President Obama’s call-to-action, Phi Beta Sigma—with support from the March of Dimes and other national charities — has pledged to help transform the lives of thousands of Black men and boys and their families for generations to come through the execution of a comprehensive 10-point plan. The unprecedented plan includes providing $1 million dollars in scholarships to Black men; training and educating 5,000 Black men to be better fathers; and targeting congressional leaders in at least 10 states to support legislation around gun control and addressing police brutality.

It also coincides with the work he’s doing on his own time. Since 2013, the husband and father of two young sons has invested in Camp New Joy, a spiritually guided retreat in rural Virginia designed to help improve the lives of thousands of Black and Brown boys. As founder and chairman of the board Mason has been hard at work raising funds to continue building on the more than 20-acre property. Destined to become the nation’s first 100-percent free camp for at-risk boys and teens ages 10 to 17, his goal is to partner with churches, schools, fellow fraternities, sororities and other community services organizations to identify youth and pull them out of the inner city and into the countryside. There they will have the opportunity to work with trained teachers and mentors in workshops aimed at building self-esteem, personal confidence and interpersonal skills.