"Bleed blue, bleed blue, until you cry white!” Chants and stomps radiated through the East Hall of Winona State University’s Kryzsko Commons as a crowd looked on with wide eyes, cameras flashing and red lights of handheld video cameras sparkling Jan. 22 in Winona. Phi Beta Sigma fraternity’s six new members formed a cohesive team as they marched single-file into their probate—the "coming out" ceremony for those pledging.
The members of the newest chartered Greek organization at WSU performed their probate, premiering the style and attitude they plan to bring to WSU's Greek life. Intense deliveries of Phi Beta Sigma history as well as greetings made to former noble members drove the crowd—many fellow WSU Greek members—wild.
Then the six removed their masks and revealed the importance of the newest fraternity.
Phi Beta Sigma is the first multicultural Greek fraternity at WSU. Vice President Kevin Pace, who helped organize the group of men he believed could become leaders, said it was their time to make a difference in the Winona community.
“I wanted to make sure that we had a group of guys who were willing to work hard,” Pace said. He said he believes the diversity aspect of Phi Beta Sigma will create a more inclusive atmosphere, and that members will seek ways to bring unity both to the WSU campus and larger community.
The Phi Beta Sigma fraternity was founded in 1914 by three male students at Howard University, the prestigious and historically African-American college in Washington, D.C. Membership—restricted to men—is based on a level of commitment as well as demonstrating leadership ability. Other requirements include a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA, attending and working toward obtaining a degree at a recognized college or university. Their mission includes creating an environment that encourages connecting with community.
In order to bring a chapter to Winona, Pace and prospective Winona members studied intensively with the state's only other chapter, located at the University of Minnesota. Last fall, the men traveled to Minneapolis every weekend, where they learned history, created greetings and learned traditional steps. During weekdays back in Winona, they held practice nightly to foster their growing bond.
Member Josh Brandon called the organization "a group of men committed to bettering ourselves and our community." While it begins in college, he said, "it is a lifelong commitment to greatness."
Member Michael Onuigbo agreed.
“(We) want to be a part of something greater than ourselves, and (have) ambition to leave a positive footprint on the school and community even after we leave here,” he said.
The Winona State Sigmas' community contributions include volunteering at the Maplewood Family Center where they children in grades 7-12, and hosting charitable events including blood drives. Members will perform at WSU at the 34th Annual Soul Food Dinner February 19, co-sponsored by WSU’s Black Cultural Awareness Club.
Visit the Phi Beta Sigma website for more information. They also can be found on Twitter and Facebook under Winona State Sigmas.