IOTA SERVICE INITIATIVES
Current Service Initiatives
From the beginning of its existence, Iota Phi Theta has sought to "Make a Difference." One of the very first activities of the newly-formed Iota was participation in the protests at the segregated Northwoods Shopping Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The founders of the Fraternity considered themselves "Militant" at a time when militancy was not an entirely popular stance.
This commitment to service has been a constant thread throughout the history of Iota Phi Theta. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Iota was a strong supporter of the "Big Brothers of America" program. In fact, in 1974, then Grand Polaris, Thomas Dean appeared in a local television commercial on behalf of Big Brothers of America.
The commitment to service has continued and is manifested in the activities of local chapters of the Fraternity. A partial listing of involvements undertaken by Iota Phi Theta chapters includes:
- The NAACP
- The United Negro College Fund
- The Southern Christian Leadership Conference
- Project IMAGE
- The National Federation of the Blind
- The National Sickle Cell Foundation
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights the type of community involvement and spirit that exists within the Iota Phi Theta brotherhood.
A NATIONAL EMPHASIS:
In the initial stages of the Fraternity's existence, the Fraternity's service initiatives were local in nature as reflected by the size of the Fraternity and the scope of its resources. As the Fraternity began to take on a National dimension, it became evident that its programmatic thrust would have to be adjusted accordingly. This adjustment was complicated however, by the fact that many chapters have had historical ties to service organizations and causes in their local areas.
In order to address these concerns, In 1993, the Fraternity created 2 important National initiatives that remain the primary focus of its service thrust. These Initiatives are The National Iota Foundation and The IOTA Youth Alliance.
Additionally, in 2001, the Fraternity has undertaken a new program called, The Digital Heritage Initiative. This initiative is a collaborative effort between Iota Phi Theta, Africana.com, and Microsoft Corporation. To learn more about the Digital Heritage Initiative, click here.
In recent years, the Fraternity has expanded its list of national programs to include:
- The Afya (aah-fee-yah) Njema (j-ma) Program
- The Developing Better Fatherhood Project
- The IOTA Political Mobilization Campaign
- Community Reclamation Initiative
- Cultural Education Movement
This expansion of the scope of our service endeavors is a testament to the ability of the Fraternity to remain aware of the needs of the communities that we serve.
AN ONGOING COMMITMENT:
As Iota Phi Theta continues its growth and development, commitment to the African-American community shall remain the priority of its activity. The Fraternity understands that its primary mission should be to serve as an enabler for the empowerment of the African-American community and as a continuing source of positive images and assistance for our youth.
National Iota Foundation
The National Iota Foundation is a Tax-Exempt, 501(c)(3) organization founded by Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. to serve as a clearinghouse for funding and programs for worthwhile endeavors. Since its creation, the Foundation and its subsidiaries have distributed over $250,000 in grants, aid, and services.
An example of the Foundation's work is the annual IOTA Black College Tour. The tour, which is conducted each Spring and is underwritten by the Foundation. This tour is designed to introduce graduating High School Seniors to Historically-Black Colleges and Universities with the further intent to have them select and attend such an institution. The tour group typically consists of 50- 75 students and staff members.
As a result of this tour, students have enrolled at HBCUs throughout the nation with several approaching graduation. Activities such as the Black College Tour are prime examples of how the National Iota Foundation is attempting to channel funding and resources into the minority community.
The National Iota Foundation is an important cornerstone in the Fraternity's future strategy for providing assistance and uplift to the African-American community.
The Digital Heritage Initiative
In an effort to continue to serve our communities in new and innovative ways, the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity is pleased to announce our latest national service program, The Digital Heritage Initiative. This initiative is a collaborative effort between Iota Phi Theta, Africana.com, and Microsoft Corporation.
Each of the Fraternity's chapters nationwide will donate a copy of the highly acclaimed Africana Encyclopedia to an elementary or secondary school in its local area. For each copy of the Encyclopedia donated by the Fraternity, Microsoft Corporation will donate 10 copies of Encarta Africana, the CD-ROM multimedia version of the encyclopedia. Additionally, each of the recipient schools will receive proprietary access to proprietary learning resources on the Africana.com website. The total value of the donation will exceed $100,000.
The Africana Encyclopedia is a one-volume encyclopedia of the black world. Consisting of more than 2100 pages, two million words and 3,500 entries from more than 220 contributors, it was inspired by the dream of the late African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and brought to fruition by Harvard scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kwame Anthony Appiah. This single-volume encyclopedia is the most comprehensive collection of African and African American culture and history ever published.
Encarta Africana is published by Microsoft Corporation and is a comprehensive and authoritative multimedia encyclopedia focusing on the history, geography, and culture of people of African descent worldwide. Encarta, the world's #1 multimedia reference brand, and coeditors Gates and Appiah have joined together to create a multimedia encyclopedia that provides the best user experience through technology-driven innovation.
Africana.com is a website that capitalizes on the spirit and content of the Africana Encyclopedia. The site was launched in January 1999 by Dr. Harry M. Lasker in conjunction with Gates and Appiah. The goals of the site are;
- To present accurate, interesting, entertaining, and socially constructive information and commentary reflecting the diverse concerns of people of African descent
- To create "a Global Grapevine:" interactive vehicles and forums for communication and commerce with a pan-African, global focus
- To contribute to "Bridging the Digital Divide," promoting technological literacy and work-readiness for people of African descent, narrowing disparities in computer use and competence vis-à-vis other demographic groups in the US and worldwide.
At the formal announcement of the program, Iota Phi Theta's Grand Polaris, Hon. Rondall James, stated, "As an organization dedicated to uplifting our community, we must lead the way in providing the tools and training for our children to achieve success in an increasingly competitive world. This initiative is one that has our full focus and commitment, and we welcome the opportunity to lead the charge toward educating our youth."
Also present at the announcement was Philippe Wamba, editor in chief of Africana.com. Wamba expressed support and gratitude to the Fraternity for taking a leadership role in facilitating technology access for schoolchildren. Wamba also told of his desire for Iota Phi Theta and Africana.com to explore further areas of partnership.
Iota Phi Theta is pleased to have created this program and is thankful for the support of Africana.com and Microsoft Corporation. We look forward to the ability to continue to further our aim of serving as well as upholding our motto, Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!
The IOTA Youth Alliance
The IOTA Youth Alliance is a national umbrella program through which individual chapters of Iota Phi Theta address the needs of Black Youth in their communities. Under the auspices of the Alliance, chapters either work with existing organizations or create new ones based on the requirements and available resources in their locality. In order to insure continuity, each of the Fraternity's chapters is strongly encouraged to prioritize youth alliance activities as a part of their programmatic thrust.
The Youth Alliance is especially important because it allows the Fraternity to make a national impact while maintaining ties to those causes and organizations with whom it has had historical relationships.
One of the many examples on Iota Youth Alliance Activities is the African-American Male Educational Network (AAMEN). Created and sponsored by the Beta Omega (Washington DC) Graduate Chapter, AAMEN is a mentoring program consisting of boys between the ages of 8 and 13 years old. Meeting twice a week, these young men are tutored by members of the chapter in academic, social, and leadership skills.
As a testament to their success, the 40 young men currently enrolled in the program are collectively in the top five percent of their classes. As a recreational and reinforcement activity, the AAMEN program has also formed a "Step" team which performs routines that reinforce the positive principles of AAMEN. Membership on the team is contingent upon the establishment and maintaining of a 3.0 grade point average. The team has performed throughout the nation and continues to be in high demand.
THE AFYA NJEMA PROGRAM:
Afya (aah-fee-yah) Njema (j-ma), which means "Good Health" in Swahili, is a concept which allows the fraternity to deal with a number of “health-related” issues faced by African-Americans and persons of African decent. The program has three main categories: Physical health, Mental health, and Spiritual health. Under the umbrella of the Afya Njema Program, the fraternity will attempt to educate the public on matters which fall under these three categories. The fraternity plans on not just becoming a educational force, but will also endeavor to raise money to aid in the research of various diseases.
The Fraternity plans to also make this an international effort (as the name insists) and will work to build relationships with organizations based in Africa and in other nations which are home to those of African-decent.
The 1st project undertaken by the Fraternity in conjunction with the Afya Njema Program was the Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Campaign. This campaign was a collaborative effort with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and was the 1st time a Historic African-American Greek-Letter Organization has nationally co-sponsored a project together with St. Jude.
The Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Campaign kicked off with a National Raffle in May 2002. A portion of the proceeds collected by Iota Phi Theta were donated to St. Jude in at the fraternity’s National Summer Conference in Miami, Florida in August 2002.
THE DEVELOPING BETTER FATHERHOOD PROJECT:
Statistically, a substantial amount of African-American children grow up without fathers and/or father figures in their homes. These children (especially males) grow up to reciprocate this precedent. To combat this disturbing pattern, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated has created The Developing Better Fatherhood Project: Developing Better Fathers and Father Figures. The objective of this project is to attempt to address the pattern of fatherlessness in the African-American community. Iota’s mission is to promote the notion of a father’s importance within the home as not just a parent, but more as a mentor, role-model, and co-provider of the positive emotional and behavioral stability of children. Iota Phi Theta will look to develop fathers and father figures with the premise that a father’s worth is simply not just procreation, but to also play a significant role in the improvement of the future of the African-American community and the world-at-large.
THE IOTA POLITICAL MOBILIZATION CAMPAIGN:
Participation in the American political process has been a long-term concern for minorities. Because of various factors (racism, lack of concern for the political system, lack of awareness), minorities (especially African-Americans have found themselves politically disenfranchised. To combat this problem, Iota Phi Theta launched the IOTA Minority Political Mobilization Campaign. Through this program, Iota Phi Theta will seek to make minorities aware of their role in the political process. One major way to do this will be through the mass distribution of political-based information (contact information of local/state/national representatives, contact information of political parties, current news of interest in the field of politics, etc…). Another way that Iota will seek to get minorities more involved is through our involvement in mass voter registration drives. Through our involvement, Iota Phi Theta will look to make our communities more politically aware and increase general participation in the political process.
COMMUNITY RECLAMATION INITIATIVE:
The concept of "community" has always been important for African-Americans. From the time of slavery to the Civil Rights Movement, the idea that the community would sustain itself as a cohesive unit for the purpose of survival was paramount. In years since the end of the Civil Rights Movement, the ideology of the community has seemingly become obsolete. Because of this, many people have suffered.
The holidays especially, for many of us, are a time of celebration. Although many people have been afforded the opportunity to celebrate by having the bare essentials (food, clothing, shelter) and more, there are others that are not as lucky. Iota Phi Theta, in the spirit of community, believes that every person should have these bare essentials during the holidays and throughout the year. To assist in efforts to provide the opportunity to obtain these necessities, Iota has created the Community Reclamation Initiative.
CULTURAL EDUCATION MOVEMENT:
In the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (during which the Fraternity was founded) and Black History Month, Iota Phi Theta presents the Cultural Education Movement. This program will seek to educate the masses about the impact that the African-American culture has had on our society. Iota Phi Theta chapters will sponsor numerous activities during January and February that will promote cultural awareness. Iota’s goal is to bring forth a change in race relations in society. In order to bring forth this change, we believe that cultural education is essential