Interview with David A. Turner at Phi Beta Sigma
Earlier this month, we interviewed the International 1st Vice president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, David A Turner. He talks about Phi Beta Sigma, how the Fraternity supports and implements diversity and Inclusion, the start of the Fraternity, and why he enjoys working with us at PDN.
What tangible goals does the organization have surrounding diversity, equity, and Inclusion? Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc empowers Generations of Men to Believe in Advocacy, Community Service, and Engagement. The tangible impacts of our work are achieved through our national programs of Bigger & Better Business, Education, and Social Action. Further support is provided through our affiliated entities: Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union, Sigma Beta Club Foundation, SigmaPAC 1914 (Political Action & Advocacy), and PBS Impact Foundation Inc (Charitable). What do you do through your programs through your organization to help push the ideas of diversity and Inclusion? In the area of Bigger & Better Business, the Fraternity has committed to advancing African-American-owned businesses, with our chapters logging more than $4.9M in “Black Spend” in 2021. In August 2021, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated announced a groundbreaking partnership with Operation HOPE’s national One Million Black Business Initiative (1MBB). Phi Beta Sigma’s commitment includes supporting the creation of 1000 Black entrepreneurs and business owners by 2030, with a focus on leveraging its 580 active chapters throughout the US and abroad. HOPE and Phi Beta Sigma will leverage the Fraternity’s 250,000 servant leaders to further its mission of inclusiveness, with a focus on building a supportive ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs.
Through our Education national program, the Fraternity provides scholarships to underprivileged youth pursuing higher education. One such scholarship is the James Weldon Johnson Scholarship, available through NAACP’s Inspire Initiatives. Funded by the Fraternity, the scholarship honors Sigma Brother James Weldon Johnson, a long-time NAACP member and Executive Director of the NAACP from 1920-to 1930. Johnson was a leader, civil rights activist, writer, educator, lawyer, journalist, and a leading figure in the creation and development of the Harlem Renaissance. Through our scholarship programs, we advance efforts to ensure equity in educational opportunities that prepare students for success in school, work, and life. Our chapters also partner with the Sigma Beta Club Foundation, providing mentorship to young men ages 8-18 during the most critical stages of their personal development.
Finally, through our Social Action program, we promote awareness of health, political, and community issues across marginalized populations by providing advocacy and resources. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity has partnered with the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program to build one of the most diverse health databases in history. The All of Us Research Program is an ambitious effort to gather health data from one million or more people living in the United States to accelerate research that may improve health. Where we live, how we live, and our background can affect our health. By studying data from diverse people, researchers can learn more about what makes people sick or keeps them healthy. What researchers know could lead to better treatment and disease prevention for all of us.
How do you celebrate the diversity of ideas and people?
As an organization, we first seek to educate and bring awareness to the struggles of historically disenfranchised groups and respect for cultural diversity. Among other strategies, this includes public recognition and education on cultural and religious observations and times of historical appreciation and remembrances.
Being a greek organization established during a time that endured high amounts of racism, how did Phi Beta Sigma combat such issues, and how did you spread awareness throughout the campus?
The founding members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity desired to create an organization that viewed itself as a part of” the general community; they believed that each potential member should be judged by his own merits, rather than his family background or affluence and without regard to race, nationality, skin tone or texture of hair. Further, the Founders conceived Phi Beta Sigma as a mechanism to deliver services to the general community. Rather than gaining skills to be utilized exclusively for themselves and their immediate families, they held a deep conviction that they should return their newly acquired skills to the communities from which they had come. This deep conviction was mirrored in the Fraternity’s motto, “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity.”
What tip would you give to emerging professionals about influencing DE&I strategies?
As a leader, I expect DEI professionals to clearly understand and communicate the connection between DEI and our organization’s mission. In doing so, recognize that alignment with our organization’s core values is crucial. Translate DEI initiatives into everyday language, focusing on the impact on real people and aligning with our core values.
Why did your company choose to work with PDN?
PDN was a natural partner for Phi Beta Sigma. Like the Fraternity, PDN is an established and progressive leader in its industry.
What has been the most significant benefit of working with PDN?
With an expert team and established corporate relationships to complement our own, this partnership has greatly benefited our membership and the communities we serve.