ST. PETERSBURG — Under the leadership of Chapter President Cedric Ferrell, members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. gathered earlier this month at a banquet to commemorate 102 years of brotherhood, scholarship and service.
Members join the fraternity, which was started at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1914, while in college but continue with community service and brotherhood as adults.
“Sigma is a lifelong commitment. When we joined, we pledged our lives to serving our communities,” Master of Ceremonies Corey Givens Jr. said to the more than 100 guests.
The inaugural event, “An Evening of Blue & White,” was held at Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse.
During the banquet, members had a chance to travel down memory lane and view historical items collected over the years as well as pay homage to the brave men who chartered the chapter on Nov. 14, 1963. The chartering members were Atty. Fred G. Minnis, Louis Brown Sr., O’Cain Thumbtzen, Alvie Benton, Lawrence Lindsay, Joseph Johnson, Charlie Ford, Latas Edwards, Fred D. Burney, Rudolph Miller, Kenneth Valentine and Samuel Kicklighter (the chapter’s last living charter member).
The chapter also recognized the following members of the fraternity who have served more than 50 years: Samuel Kicklighter (Brotherhood), Reuben Nesbitt (Scholarship), Thomas “Jet” Jackson (Service) and Emma Cooper Cavin was also honored with the 2016 Dove Award for her 50 plus years of service to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Phi Beta Sigma is the only National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity that is constitutionally bound to a sorority, Zeta Phi Beta.
“Chartered during the height of the civil rights era in 1963 by nine college-educated black men, the St. Pete Alumni Chapter has been a link in the chain of service throughout Pinellas County for over five decades,” said Ferrell.
During the occasion, the fraternity’s Social Action Chair, Christopher Lampley, announced the kick-off of their inaugural Sigma Scholarship Sundays, which is an initiative where the brothers visit a different church in south St. Pete each month and donate $100-$150 towards their youth/education ministries.
“It’s our hope that this small token of love will help at least one student along their educational journey,” said Lampley.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Frederic J. Guerrier, a St. Petersburg physician and member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Guerrier grew up in Haiti with his grandmother until the age of 16. He thanks her for instilling in him a sense of self-worth.
“She always told me that I was the best no matter what,” said Guerrier about his grandmother. “Eventually, I started believing her.”
Guerrier’s confidence as a result of his grandmother’s unyielding encouragement came in handy when he moved to Miami to live with his mother. His mother worked as a maid to support all of her children and ensure that they all got a college education.
Not able to afford a car once he went to college, he got around the University of Florida and University of Miami campuses on a bicycle. His humble upbringing developed within him a deep sense of empathy to serve his community. At one point in his presentation, he pleaded with the audience to embrace the young people-especially the boys—and guide them to achieve success.
“We need to free these kids so they can free the bond of slavery in education,” said Guerrier.
He made the audience break into laughter when he emphasized his stance on education in his own family.
“No, they don’t get a new toy for Christmas, but their education is paid up in full—paying it forward,” said Guerrier, as he encouraged the audience to position our youth for success in the future.
Other event highlights included a video tribute to the honorees, a proclamation presentation by Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Brown on behalf of the City of St. Petersburg, along with special greetings from U.S. Congressional candidate Eric Lynn.
Cassandra Williams, president of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., presented the Sigmas with a resolution, and Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers congratulated the honorees and commended them on their distinguished service to the Pinellas County area.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded on January 9, 1914, at Howard University in Washington, DC. Led by International President Jonathan A. Mason, Sr.; the organization equips college-educated men with the tools necessary to improve the social and economic conditions of communities worldwide.