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 Delta Zeta Sigma in Durham, NC and did an interview with Jason Rutherford 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. Rutherford, who works as a Group Sales Manager, TQL, has been in the position of president for 3.5 years.
We interviewed Rutherford, who is a Fall 2009, Delta Zeta Sigma, Durham Alumni 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?
I had just completed my term as the North Carolina Associate State Director, and I foresaw our chapter’s ability to operate at a higher level and to truly have a deeper impact on Durham, North Carolina and the surrounding area. I also considered what it would mean to my chapter brothers, other black men, and the other fraternities in the area if I took the helm of the chapter. It was my plan to push all the beforementioned groups of men to perform on a new level. Moreover, I knew that in Durham, North Carolina, I could make quality, service, and highly active all synonymous with the chapter when people thought about the Bull City Sigmas (Durham Alumni Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated). On a more personal note, I was in the best position of any brother at the time. I had time for the Fraternity.
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 alumni chapter, Delta Zeta Sigma or as known in the community, the Bull City Sigmas, has specific signature initiatives outlined by our organization, Bigger and Better Business (BBB), Social Action and Education. Throughout the year the chapter highlights black business and finds ways to stimulate the black economic ecosystem. Whether it is with our patronage of a black business every two weeks with BBB Tuesdays and/or our Annual BBB Business and Community Expo, we designate a specific date in which all of the businesses we support our community partners come together at an agreed upon time in one place. Our largest service project in our Social Action initiative is the annual Thanksgiving Feed-a-Family event. Last year, with help from community partners including members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, the chapter was able to feed 205 families and impact approximately 1,500 individuals within the Durham community and surrounding areas. The simple goal of this program is to provide a dinner similar to what we would feed our own families to others who might not be able to afford it. For 2023, the Delta Zeta Sigma chapter has set the goal to feed 225 families. Lastly, in the realm of Education, much like with our other two initiatives, we identify an opportunity gap and step in to help fulfill the need. We have adopted three (3) schools in Durham County North Carolina (i.e., a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school). At these schools, we mentor young men in social and life skills. We also organize “Storytime with the Sigmas,” where we bring in black authors to read their books in person and virtually. Additionally, under our “Black Books Rocks” program, we purchase at least 10 books from black authors and donate them to schools around the city of Durham. Thus far, six (6) schools have received books, such as Stacey Abrams’ ‘Stacey’s Remarkable Books.’
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
There are three (3) very specific reasons that I remember being catalysts for why I decided to go through the intake process with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. To begin, during my first three years at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), I believed fraternity life simply was not for me because I assumed I already had everything fraternity life affords you. Secondly, my senior year, I thought, “What if I get one of those ‘good jobs’ and must move across the country?” If that happened, my blood brother, Enoch Rutherford, would not be able to drop everything at the drop of a dime and pull me out of whatever situation I might find myself in. So, I did the research; I began looking for a fraternity of genuine men who would treat me like family and help me increase my capacity to serve the community. My brother Enoch seemed to have an army of boys that he mentored and would pray for anyone at any time. Most importantly, I would host a lot of service projects on campus, and the members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated would always show up and serve without seeking credit or recognition. Honestly, I did not realize that most of the men who would come out to my programs were members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. The epiphany occurred in my dorm where I worked as a resident assistant (RA) and we were assigned a new residential director (RD), who was a member and my eventual membership intake chair for the fraternity. Mr. Stewart Johnson was the brother that symbolized “He made it all make sense.”
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
This is a most interesting question. I would say in this chapter we are “humble” in considering ourselves “The People’s Fraternity” but take pride in being extremely intentional about our brotherhood, scholarship, and service. This chapter is a place were black men intentionally work to get out of the “man box.” We pray together, we cry together, we celebrate with one another, and we are accountable to one another on all levels of the chapter. The president is not immune to being held accountable and “called to the carpet”. We are unique as we operate with brotherhood in mind. If the connection between us is not strong, then none of our aspirations manifest. Lastly, we work to find different ways to tell our story.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
For each of our undergraduate chapters we have an advisory team that elevates the risk of having a single point of failure. A more specific example of support is our bi-annual Colligate Care Drive. Specifically, we provide each of our undergraduates at North Carolina Central University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a laundry basket with basic items such as laundry detergent, dish detergent, toilet paper, trash bags, toothpaste, deodorant, wash clothes, condoms, etc. Since we began doing this in 2019, we have seen an increase in brothers transitioning from our undergraduate chapters into our graduate chapter. The project symbolizes the support and care we provide to the collegiates.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We are intentional. Six years ago, we had an honest conversation in which we discussed what we wanted our chapter to be and what brand we wanted to have. After that meeting, the former chapter president held a workshop on conflict resolution and our bonds grew. Moreover, one of first things we did at the beginning of my presidency was perform a SWOT analysis. We documented the experiences of the chapter and addressed the opportunities and threats based on the previously mentioned conversation. The most essential strategy learned was that activities should be performed while keeping the brotherhood in mind. For example, communicate with love, make sure messages are received, but do not devastate. Lastly, simply do or create events in which the focus is brotherhood.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
If you want leadership, go for it. In all things there is a lesson to be learned. So, make sure you learn the lesson. If you win your election, evaluate why you were elected and live up to it. If you lose your election, learn why and comeback undeniable. Do not be bitter or sour. Furthermore, do not just transfer out of the chapter. Do your best to understand, it is all “a steppingstone to progress,” and a pathway to personal and professional growth.
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?
The conversations with my older brothers have been so crucial as they have been beneficial in my life, love, and leadership approaches. Whether it is a session in which I received difficult feedback or guidance in addressing gatekeepers Greek and/or Non-Greek. Specifically, I would highlight two of my chapter brothers Brother Travis Rouse and Brother Stewart Johnson. Brother Travis Rouse is the ultimate business professional who I often discuss leadership strategies and tactics. Brother Stewart Johnson and I are very similar and often gives fraternity guidance drawn from things he has encountered.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
In an era in which it feels as if all things Black are under attack, Watch The Yard highlights the best of us and tells our stories. I enjoy seeing my sisters and brothers in greekdom demonstrating service and its impact in the community, on their jobs, and abroad. Watch The Yard, whether intentionally or unintentionally, adds value back to being a member of a Black -Greek Lettered Organization (BLGO) because of its reach. Essentially, Watch The Yard is the modern-day version of “A Different World” with a social media platform in which you can (a) post, (b) share, (c) tag, and (d) elevate the content with pride.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. This organization has helped me to grow and develop professionally, socially, and kept me sane mentally. In 2020, the world went remote and my chapter’s weekly meet ups to walk outside around the Duke Wall at Duke University kept us all “normal.” Then when I lost my brother blood brother Enoch Rutherford in 2021 my chapter members and brothers from around the country reached out and wrapped their arms around me and would not leave me alone in despair. But I must also love this organization because we “shine” in everything we do. I’m always willing to facilitate a program with any of our counterparts, whether it is with a fraternity, sorority, community partner, or government entity.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
A brother is a brother. This means being what you expect. Brotherhood means listening when you do not want too. It means being a role model for the internal and external communities. It means fostering vulnerability, fostering strength, fostering communication, fostering networking. It means living up to the legacy of the founders while embodying our motto of “Culture for Service and Service to Humanity!”
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Jason Rutherford for his work as the President of the Delta Zeta Sigma which has a legacy that spans back to 1961.
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