Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. (Iota), the most recently
formed black Greek-letter organization, was founded on September 19, 1963 on
the campus of Morgan State University
in Baltimore, Maryland. Established by twelve men who were active in
the local civil rights movement, early Iota members differed from the members
of other black Greek-letter organizations in that they were mostly
non-traditional students–older students, military veterans, and men with wives
and children. They wanted a support
network but did not have the time, resources, or inclination to follow the
patterns of the older fraternities and sororities. Their ideas were incorporated into the
fraternity motto, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One.”
Today the fraternity has approximately 35,000 members in 270
chapters in the United States,
the Bahamas, and South Korea. Fraternity members include former Black
Panther and now Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush, Spencer Christian, former
weather anchorman, Good Morning, America,
television actor Terrence “T.C.” Carson, Elvin Hayes and Calvin
Murphy, National Basketball Association Hall of Famers, and Major General W.
Montague Winfield, U.S. Army.
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity has as a guiding principle the refusal
to have its members bind themselves to a defined fraternal image. Instead they celebrate the individuality of
each member. The fraternity also takes
pride in its national programs which focus on the disenfranchised. One program,
the Developing Better Fatherhood Project, is an initiative designed to
encourage fathers to remain married and support their children despite their
poverty. This project seeks to reclaim
the value of a father as a mentor, role model, and supporter of the emotional
state of the child.
The fraternity also manages other programs such as the National
Iota Foundation which is a clearing house for funding inner city development programs.
The Foundation has contributed over $250,000 towards grants, aid, and services
in high poverty neighborhoods. The
fraternity also runs a Black College Tour which takes inner city high school
students to historically black colleges and universities in hopes that they
will eventually attend college.
The Iota Youth Alliance allows individual chapters to craft
programs that address the concerns of youth in their communities. This
initiative led to the African Male Educational program, a mentoring program for
boys ages eight to thirteen designed to enhance their social, academic, and
leadership skills. Another unusual
project is the Digital Heritage Initiative which provides computer education
and skills to inner city youth.
Iota also has projects that mirror those of the older
Greek-letter organizations including political actionvoter registration,
education and cultural awareness, and physicalmental health programs.