In the Beginning…
“The Birth of Phi Eta Psi Fraternity”
By the end of 1959, Willie Buck had touched the heights of fame in
Even on the North Side of Flint, as James Humphrey was forming a firm reputation for stirring up passions, with a “fresh” point-of-view, somebody was almost always putting Willie Buck’s name into the mix. It was customary, in neighborhoods all across the City, for residents of the North and South sides to be aptly referred to as the others’ arch rivals. However, as expected of men that innately believe in lasting legacies for vital heroes, there were never negative words uttered about Willie Buck!
Willie was as serene as he was heroic, however. His calm demeanor matched the mood of a man at rest behind a noble shield that guarded his more private and sacred thoughts. At any time, only God and Willie knew the faint images lingering in the gray silence of Willie’s mind. During an unprotected moment, however, he hinted of a moving dream - a dream more powerful than his mild conduct could put across. Humphrey argued later, “Words in the mind stir and direct the energy within us to move the material world.”
Now, Humphrey wasn’t known as a star athlete like Willie Buck. But, it was widely rumored that Humphrey could “catch and hold” anybody’s attention! James Humphrey was celebrated as a confrontational talker. As it was with Moses, and his brother Aaron, visionaries may find it fitting for a voice more vigorous than their own to reveal a dream. Like fabric cut to fit, Willie Buck and James Humphrey were destined to come together.
As for the truth of that destiny, after graduating from their respective junior high schools, Willie entered Flint Central High, on the South Side; and Humphrey registered at Flint Northern High. But, as vision unveils the promise of form, a world of destiny follows. To some people, both vision and destiny, as do all things, flow from God. In this light, on entering his junior year of high school, Willie was transferred to Flint Northern High!
Finally, early in their junior year, the “legend” met the “talker.” On their first meeting, the two young men fused together in a forceful friendship that would last for a lifetime.
The camaraderie between Willie Buck and James Humphrey crossed beyond the realm of chaos where envy and mistrust break up the friendship bonds between ordinary men. Beginning at Flint Northern, “Buck” and “Hump,” became like “for real” brothers, continuing Northern’s “golden era” of championship sports; and good times.
Since the mid 1940’s, Flint Northern High had reigned as the undisputed “king” of high school sports, in the State of Michigan. Moving into the 1960’s, Northern’s winning tradition of state championships in football, track, and wrestling continued, making its sports program the most successful in the history of the state. It was in this sports rich environment - at the seat of a winning tradition - that Willie Buck began blazing an even greater trail! Willie, from the “rival” South Side of Flint, would soon become captain of the Flint Northern High football team, and captain of the Flint Northern High track team. Beaming high in the sky above the City, Willie Buck’s flame was still burning bright!
Until their friendship,
“Harris” was one of less than a handful of brothers across the entire city considered as “cool.” He was often seen cruising along the streets of the City in a sweet, “baby blue,” convertible, Chevy Nova. Soon, it would be said about this trio, “If you only see one, just wait a minute! It won’t be long before you’ll see all three, back together again!”
This trio wasn’t held hostage by old conventions either. They resided in a wider world - one that was broadened by their thirst for adventure; a healthy appreciation for education; and a hearty appetite for first-class fun!
Tied by a thick thread of respect, self-love and tenacity, “Buck,” “Hump,” and “Harris,” as they were called, would soon embark upon an even greater “spirit of brotherhood.” Seen only by the light from the burning flame shining across the gray silence keeping hope alive in their coming together, these three young men, generational “soul brothers,” would soon bring into the world a new vision, giving birth to a “silent dream.”
Amply supplied, madness ruled the day.
The insanity of laws establishing and sustaining segregation, lay in their routine use in shaping and supporting economic, political, and social norms. These standards were the “blueprints” for the erection of the institutional structures that governed the daily affairs of all Americans. But, these institutions, envisioned by the sickly minds of the majority, stifled the potential of willing and able Blacks to proudly build an even better nation. However, increasingly, the bells of freedom were ringing! A new hope filled the air.
A burgeoning awakening was taking shape in Black communities all across the country. Roars for “self-love,” and “equality of opportunity” through self empowerment, were rising from the ringing voices and rapier pens of a people fed up with the one-sided “point-of-view” of racism. Blacks also suffered the debilitating effects of racism caused by disunity among them. The ill effects of that disunity were manifested in the development of internal violence, mistrust, and an overall lack of a viable economic base. Reaping the benefits of a wealthy nation, built by the unpaid hands of a proud people, was a promise yet touched by time.
Buck, Hump, and Harris saw racism as it was, a crippling disease - chronic insanity! They saw no benefit in constantly complaining about someone else’s sickness. However, inoculating oneself against the effects of the disease was necessary.
The trio saw hope in the new vaccine of “self-love and empowerment” in songs like James Brown’s, “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and, “Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself.” Just as moving was Curtis Mayfield’s “Keep on Pushing.” Also, throughout the 1960’s, James Baldwin, transferring “his faith…to literature,” wrote at length on the cutting impact of racism. He also centered on another dispossessed group. Their classification, like his own was, “Black and gay.”
The seeds of change were taking root all around. The “promise” of hope was spreading. By a viral mix of self-love, unity, and respect, “wicked chains” would soon be broken! New chains, however, that linked together the best of a proud people needed to be forged. 1965 had arrived!
On a mellow night late in the month of March, as Buck was cruising up
Before Hump could speak, which was surprising, Harris quickly turned to him and said, “Hump, you can organize it!”
In truth, Hump had never organized anything before, except long sentences. But, he was a business major, and Buck and Harris knew that he owned a record shop on the corner of
But, the first order of business in organizing it would be in finding a suitable site to meet. Of course, the record shop! That seemed simple enough to Hump, it was like, or as if, somebody had already thought it through!
By acclamation, among the trio of three, the new fraternity would be, “Phi Eta Psi.” The next order of business was “colors.” Buck put forward that the colors for the fraternity should be “green and gold.” He said the colors represented attentiveness toward control of land and money, the best means of perpetual wealth. By acclamation among the three, the colors for Phi Eta Phi would be, “green and gold.” Buck’s dream had been fulfilled. Phi Eta Psi Fraternity was now, “for real.”
Buck then handed the “baton” to Hump. The fraternity needed to be recognized by
The initial statement of the philosophical and fraternal ideals of Phi Eta Psi Fraternity was prepared by Willie Buck, James Humphrey, and Rondy Harris. The trio would soon expand to include, Leon Lucas, Ronald Thompson, Jerome Davis (Jihad Hassan Sharif),
Later in 1965, Phi Eta Psi Fraternity crossed its first pledge line. The “baton” was then passed to Gerald Smith, Al Collins, Ron Hawkins, Michael Petross, Darnell Cole, Vance Truss, Preston Strozier, Robert Marve, Robert Seay, and Joseph Wright. Collectively, they were called, “The First and Ten.” The historic attribute of this line wasn’t in the fact that they were the first to pledge and cross into Phi Eta Psi brotherhood. But, because, it was a member of this first line, Brother Gerald Smith, “The Imperial Wizard,” that developed the first fraternity “coat-of-arms,” and developed the first “secret hand shake,” and, was the first to utter the word that is now the name of endearment among Phi Eta Psi members, “IMP.”
Phi Eta Psi continued to grow, pick up momentum and gain in popularity. Today, the presence and influence of Phi Eta Psi Fraternity, Inc. stretches across the nation and literally around the world. The vision and ambition of those special young men we revere as our Eternal Founding Fathers is alive still today and continues to motivate, influence and inspire the brothers of this sacred fraternal brotherhood.