On this day, 49 years ago, twelve men bonded together on the footsteps of Hurt Gymnasium on the campus of Morgan State College (now known as Morgan State University) and formed Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. These men are acknowledged and honored today for their courage to stand up against the stigma of conformity, and their will to provide a perpetual image of hope, self-respect, dignity, perseverance, and brotherhood for all persons underserved.

For more than 400 years, blacks in North America faced trials and tribulations in hopes of someday reaching the Promised Land.  Surely, in the rebellious years of the 1960s, black Americans could not fathom the idea of pledging allegiance to a land whose actions suggest “three-fifths of a person” still suited them best.

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Tired of continuous discrimination, blacks pulled themselves up by their bootlace and sought after free will and equal rights. (It is telling to note how this era of radical change re-sparked a flame in America that stirred many black men and women to take a stand for freedom, liberty and justice for all once more.)

Among the first to make a serious effort for change were Iota Phi Theta Founders Albert Hicks, Lonnie Spruill Jr., Charles Briscoe, Frank Coakley, John Slade, Barron Willis, Webster Lewis, Louis Hudnell, Charles Brown, Charles Gregory, Elias Dorsey Jr., and Michael Williams.

These men are the true meaning of “rebels with a cause,” and as non-traditional students, they had no time for trivial games.  They rallied on their motto, “Building a Tradition, not Resting Upon One!” and encouraged people to be leaders in their community rather than solely followers.

With their instrumental hard work to improve the character of black men, and the black community, the Founders of Iota Phi Theta are remembered for their fundamental principles toward the development and perpetuation of scholarship, leadership, citizenship, fidelity and brotherhood among men.

Let’s pay tribute to these honorable men who paved the way for many of us, though we must also be reminded that the struggle for freedom, peace and happiness is not yet over.