In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.’s Zeta Chi Sigma in Prince George’s County, Maryland and Metropolitan Washington, DC and did an interview with Wes Lewis the President of the chapter.
The position of president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Lewis, who works as a Web Marketing Leader and Agile Coach, has been in the position of President for two years.
We interviewed Lewis, who is a Spring 2006 (March 12, 2006) – Beta Gamma Chapter at Hampton University initiate of his fraternity and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
Passionate about Sigma and its impactful work, I’m a Prince George’s County native with a strong desire to contribute locally. Returning home in 2006, I was unaware of Zeta Chi Sigma’s existence—a small chapter of 20-30 brothers. I initially joined a distant chapter, leading to limited involvement. In the early 2010s, I discovered an alumni chapter in Prince George’s County, dedicated to local impact despite its size, and promptly transitioned. I initially focused on improving chapter operations and marketing through strategic technology integration. This involved revamping our website and refining content for better engagement. I also further aligned our social media messaging with our mission. Approaching the 2022 election, I recognized the need to elevate our county service mission. Embracing progressive and agile approaches as a servant leader, I aimed for a Vice Presidential role initially but was encouraged by fellow brothers to lead directly. With their confidence and despite the learning curve, I’ve guided Zeta Chi Sigma toward a brighter future, building upon past successes. Today, I proudly stand here as a result of that journey.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
Our Fraternity’s national programs focus on Bigger and Better Business, Education, Social Action, and the Sigma Beta Club, which is our national youth auxiliary program. Under Bigger and Better Business, we offer free virtual sessions on estate planning, wealth building, homeownership, and entrepreneurship. We designate the first Saturday of each month as “Swarming Black Business Saturday,” promoting select Black-owned, Prince George’s County-based restaurants and stores. Regarding Education, we consistently award 10-15 scholarships to college-bound Prince George’s County Public School high school seniors. Last year, we awarded a chapter record of $16,000 in academic assistance! As far as Social Action, our commitment to men’s health intensifies. Our “Stronger Together 5K: Promoting Men’s Health Awareness” with ZERO Prostate Cancer (@zeroprostatecancer) aims to eliminate stigmas, foster vulnerability, and share healthcare success stories. We plan to host this annually, raising funds to support research on pressing men’s health issues. Additionally, we’re partnering with Alpha Sigma – the DC alumni chapter – for a blood drive, and collaborating with a Brother of ours, a local martial artist, for self-defense training during October’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness month. We also consistently partner with Operation Earnie’s Plate on food drive initiatives, to include our upcoming National Sigma Day of Service project with our Sigma Beta Club supporting our local seniors and our annual Thanksgiving food drive, where literally thousands of turkeys and dinners are distributed to the community. We typically close out our years with our Adopt-a-Family initiative, where we identify between 10-15 local families to bless throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with food and gifts, respectively. Our Zeta Chi Sigma Chapter Sigma Beta Club, currently mentors thirteen 13 young men. The program readies them for adulthood through exposure to valuable experiences. Zeta Chi Sigma is now in the process of establishing The Blue Bridge Foundation, a 501(c)(3) as our chapter’s philanthropic arm. Prince George’s County, MD, a hub of Black excellence and wealth, has pockets needing our support. Our dedicated chapter aims to uplift and foster progress in these communities.
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
As a first-generation American, my parents emigrated from Guyana in the early 1980s. Despite my father’s graduation from Howard University, Greek life wasn’t part of his experience. Similarly, my mother’s nursing studies in Guyana didn’t introduce her to historically-Black Greek letter organizations. This lineage gap left me in the dark when I began at Hampton University in 2002. Serious contemplation of pledging emerged during my junior year. By then, I’d gathered insights into fraternities and sororities, enough for a preliminary evaluation. Facing common frat stereotypes and remarks, I set out to observe and assess extensively. In this evaluation process, I emphasized dual assessment—while they evaluated me, I keenly observed their actions and omissions. From their campus presence to their initiatives and service, I made an informed choice. Among them, the Beta Gamma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. stood out. Despite their small size, they made a remarkable impact with humility. Surrounded by larger organizations, I watched the Sigmas achieve the most with just six members on the yard. That was enough for me to make my decision.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Zeta Chi Sigma’s uniqueness stems from its diverse member expertise and the distinctive context of Prince George’s County, MD, where we’re located. While I haven’t extensively researched other chapters, our chapter thrives on a wide range of specialized experiences. We value the skills of military, law enforcement, federal employees, tech professionals, marketers, health experts, and more, enabling impactful community engagement. Located in Prince George’s County, MD, spanning 599 square miles with over 955,000 residents, our chapter operates in a complex environment. With a 60% Black majority, the county ranks as the second wealthiest with a Black majority. However, disparities persist in areas like education, public safety, and healthcare. That being stated, there are countless opportunities to serve this diverse community’s pressing needs, and Zeta Chi Sigma leverages our position to do just that.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
The Brothers of Zeta Chi Sigma Chapter have the distinct honor and privilege of advising the Delta Mu chapter at Bowie State University (@deltamusigmas on IG). As advisors and mentors, our role is to provide our undergrads with a broader perspective beyond their immediate campus environment. We support their academic and professional development, guiding them in strengthening their networking skills (and granting them access to our own networks) and gaining a better understanding of their chosen fields. We familiarize them with the workings of our Fraternity at local, state, regional, and national levels and reinforce what is expected of them as recently-minted Sigma men. Team building is essential, transforming individual officers and members into a united front, enhancing success and conflict management. Encouraging self-reflection is crucial, allowing members to analyze their actions while benefiting from your constructive insights. We aim to maintain a strong connection between Zeta Chi Sigma and Delta Mu by adapting our approach to their needs, uplifting them in every way possible. It’s important to note that this isn’t a one-way learning experience; as a group that values continuous learning and innovation, we gain insights from our young brothers too, especially in modernizing our use of social media for engaging campaigns and dynamic performances (the memory and athleticism required for these new-school Sigma strolls is astronomical). Lastly, motivation is pivotal, involving recognizing their efforts, tapping into their drive for change, and linking their college experiences to community impact, all while fostering and sustaining high enthusiasm.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
I emphasize building on our Fraternity’s foundation of Brotherhood, Scholarship, and Service. Brotherhood is key; we encourage social gatherings where members bond naturally. We’ve even introduced semi-regular stroll practices to stay active and polish our Sigma walks. These efforts rewarded us HANDSOMELY with a remarkable 41% increase in membership in 2022. Scholarship is vital, with our diverse membership sharing experiences and knowledge. Service is central, and we involve members in tailored initiatives for Prince George’s County, aligning with our motto. This approach fosters genuine investment and robust support. In essence, I reinforce our timeless principles to strengthen unity and camaraderie, ensuring our chapter thrives together.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
I value this question, as my journey to a humble chapter role was unconventional. My top insights:
1. Cultivate self-assurance and self-awareness. Prior experience isn’t necessary, but commitment is key. Recognize your limits and brace for challenges.
2. Build a diverse advisory board within your chapter, gathering perspectives from past leaders and members of varying ages.
3. Communicate your intentions and align with your support network if you have personal commitments. Leading requires balance. Navigating this path offers growth, resilience, and teamwork, bringing great rewards for those who dare to lead.
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
Mentorship has been a driving force in shaping my path. It has propelled me forward as a devoted family man, a professional, and a committed Sigma member. The give-and-take nature of mentorship has allowed me to uplift others just as I’ve been uplifted. It’s clear that I owe much of my growth to the guidance I’ve received, especially given my strong focus on service and mentorship. As a father now, I’m determined to pass on the same support to my children, making it my top priority. My parents stand as my primary mentors, shaping my character and work ethic. They instilled in me a pursuit of excellence that I carry with me. Within Sigma, the late Bro. Leonard K. Barrett, a mentor from my childhood, had a profound influence on me long before I even knew about Sigma. In my role as President, mentorship has been my lifeline. Facing the challenges of my initial months was like a “baptism by fire,” with a rapid learning curve. Unlike non-fraternal leadership roles, fraternity leadership turned my leadership perspective around. I greatly value the guidance of Bro. Carlton Wourman, Bro. Jeff Shelton, Bro. Steven Davis, Bro. Willard Hutt, Bro. Germaine Norman, Bro. Willie Harrison, and Bro. Ben Dashiell, who have played crucial roles in my journey as mentors. Their insights and support have fueled my momentum and confidence. I also acknowledge my Beta Gamma mentors, including my Dean, Bro. Korey Colbert, Bro. Jason Fahie, and Bro. Eduardo Jackson (also a member of Zeta Chi Sigma), who keep me connected to my Sigma roots and my Hampton University origins, reminding me of our role in guiding the next generation.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is definitely a game-changer in the online world of Black news, culture, and conversations. With a mission of empowering the next wave of leaders, creators, and go-getters, this platform promotes the Black college and Black Greek experience, preserving legacies, and celebrating contributions. Being completely transparent, Watch The Yard’s impact on Zeta Chi Sigma has been real. Thinking about our June 2023 chapter photo which this platform shared over the summer – dashikis and polos mixing it up. We are STILL hearing from Sigmas in other chapters inquiring about our dashiki plug (which, by the way, you have to join the chapter to snag, haha). It’s clear that Watch The Yard knows how to grab attention and spark conversations. In a world where online platforms rule, Watch The Yard stands out for all the right reasons – connecting communities, highlighting achievements, and keeping it fresh.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love and cherish my membership in Phi Beta Sigma because I value the rich variety of perspectives and personalities within our Brotherhood. As Sigma men, we break away from stereotypes and embrace inclusiveness. Our actions validate this commitment – from how and where we serve, including our core operations, we defy categorization. Our style isn’t imposed; it’s a conscious choice. This philosophy runs deep, carried by respected Sigmas, even our Most Honorable Founders, backed by tangible accomplishments. This explains why my connection with Sigma remains strong. My love for Sigma is further fueled by the deep-rooted commitment to service that’s been instilled in me since childhood. My parents’ experiences in the Guyanese military and nursing profession shaped my belief in aiding and supporting others. This foundation was reinforced during my time at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC, where the motto “men for others” inspired community work. Meeting the dedicated Brothers of Hampton University’s Beta Gamma chapter, who were tirelessly serving with limited brothers on the yard, felt like finding a true home. Throughout my years within the Brotherhood, the common thread remains – no matter our backgrounds or interests, we unite under the Royal Blue and Pure White to SERVE OTHERS. This commitment to service is intrinsic to our identity. It was this natural alignment that drew me to Phi Beta Sigma and continues to fuel my unwavering love for this organization.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood holds a unique place in my life. Being an only child amidst a large extended family, I’ve always regarded my cousins, god-brothers, and the closest of my friends as my actual brothers and sisters. Upon joining Phi Beta Sigma, my understanding of brotherhood deepened as I formed strong connections with my line brothers. To me, Brotherhood goes beyond mere agreement or similarity; it’s a profound bond rooted in mutual respect, trust, support, and camaraderie. It extends beyond blood ties, forged through shared experiences, values, and a commitment to each other’s well-being. Brotherhood thrives on genuine care, empathy, and a unity that surpasses individuality, fostering a community where individuals uplift, inspire, and steadfastly stand by one another, especially during challenging times. It’s evident that our Most Honorable Founders were wise to prioritize Brotherhood as the first of our principles. It serves as the driving force behind everything we do, and we’re equally wise to continue nurturing and promoting this essential ideal in the model they established more than a century ago.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Wes Lewis for his work as the President of the Zeta Chi Sigmawhich has a legacy that spans back to .
Share this on Facebook and help us highlight Wes Lewis’s chapter.
Photo Credits: Maya Darasaw (@madworksphoto); Damian Barton(@uknowmoo1914); Oral Grant (@blutransformer1914); Colin Peart (@peart_colin)
Leadership Highlight2 days ago
Leadership Highlight: Michelle Banks the Basileus of Sigma Gamma Rho’s Gamma Omicron Sigma Chapter in Jacksonville
Leadership Highlight2 days ago
Leadership Highlight: Sharae Half Sharp the Basileus of Zeta Phi Beta’s Sigma Psi Zeta Chapter in Fort Washington, Maryland
Deltas2 days ago
Leadership Highlight: Takija Gardner the President of Delta Sigma Theta’s Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter