With Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Striving to Embody Our Nation’s Diversity
The Service's Nancy Monroe, holding a certificate of Appreciation to the Service from Phi Beta Sigma, stands with Dr. Mario Brown (from left), International Coordinator, Sigma Beta Program; Dr. Philip Harris, Southern Region Coordinator; the Service's Tiana Jones; and Brandon Brown, Special Assistant. Photo by Phi Beta Sigma
Service employees from a number of our programs are in Orlando, Florida, this week taking part in both the 2016 Serious Sigma Summit of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and the 2016 Grand Boulé of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., annual meetings of two of the nation’s largest and most significant African American organizations.
I am enormously proud of our partnerships with these organizations, which are helping the Service bridge the gap between the African American and conservation communities. Our aim with these partnerships is to introduce new constituencies to conservation. We hope to provide avenues for all Americans to learn, enjoy, and support fish and wildlife conservation.
Our mission as an agency entails working with others. Unless the wild things and wild places in our care are accessible to all people – regardless of where they live, where they come from, or what they look like – we will ultimately fail to achieve our mission.
Along those lines, we will only succeed if we create an agency that embodies our nation’s diversity.
Across the country, through initiatives such as our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program and through partnerships like those with Sigma and Zeta, our work is increasingly showing new communities the wonders of nature. Efforts like these help give communities and organizations a real sense of ownership in the wildlife and public lands that belong to all Americans. These experiences enrich the lives of not just our visitors, but also us.
The Service’s staff in Louisiana are familiar with Sigma. At Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans, we signed an agreement with Sigma making this the model refuge for similar localized partnerships. And last summer, we formed a national partnership with Sigma’s sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, and Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex created an on-the-ground partnership with them.
Zeta Grand Basileus Dr. Mary Breaux Wright and Zetas in the Houston area are partnering with the Service through our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. This year, they took Zetas and Zeta youth to visit both Anahuac and Brazoria Refuges in southwest Texas.
In November, at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, refuge staff welcomed members of Sigma Beta Club, the Sigma youth auxiliary, and their advisors. Special behind-the-scenes tours introduced the youth to the many different careers on refuges. The visit also served to establish a personal connection between the youth, their advisers and refuge staff that will hopefully persist long into the future.
Dan with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority members at the announcement of a $1 million investment in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Zeta Phi Beta
I had a chance to meet with several Zetas when they helped us celebrate a $1 million investment in Philadelphia’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to foster education and community engagement.
If we foster these partnerships, and ensure we make diversity a priority, I am confident we will one day look, and think, like the American public we serve. And the conservation community will be better for it.