JONATHAN A. MASON SR.
When Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated tapped Jonathan A. Mason Sr. to be its 34th International President there was no question he was a man well suited for the job.
A lifelong servant of the community and tireless proponent for social justice, Brother Mason – a hands-on pastor, loving husband and father, barrier-smashing sales executive and immensely active member of Phi Beta Sigma – had every quality necessary to lead the organization into its next 100 years.
Primed for the position through the various executive leadership positions he’s held over the course of 22 years, including International First Vice President, International Director of Social Action, President of the Delta Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma and President of the Pan Hellenic Council, to name a few, Mason’s towering list of achievements for and on behalf of the more than 150,000 members of Phi Beta Sigma worldwide are nothing short of astounding. And he’s committed to paving the way for future leaders – a committed and outspoken advocate for youth, Mason is hard at work building a life-changing, self-esteem-boosting retreat for at-risk boys and teens called Camp New Joy.
Responsible for founding the groundbreaking Sigma Institute Youth Outreach Program, the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity International Anti-Hazing Campaign and the Wilford L. Smith Scholarship Fund for at-risk youth, the Norfolk State University alum is clearly no stranger to “firsts.” The first International President of a Greek letter organization to graduate from NSU, Mason’s alma mater crowned him Grand Marshal at its homecoming in 2013.
From championing initiatives to aid the homeless to spearheading a nation-wide voter registration drive, Mason – who graced the cover of 2013’s Who’s Who of Black Washington magazine featuring, among others, fellow honorees President Barack Obama, retiring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and then D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray – has proven his commitment to helping his fellow man again and again. Responsible for the creation of Sigma’s Waging War Against Cancer – a national movement he founded in 1999 in partnership with the American Cancer Society– since its inception the fraternity has provided critical health disparity awareness, information on healthier living habits and the encouragement to get regular checkups to more than 500,000 predominantly African American men, a group that is historically less likely to see a doctor.
But the passionate and civic-minded Mason – winner of innumerable awards including the National Pan Hellenic Council Outstanding Frater Award; Nu Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Liberty Bell Award; Samuel B. Newton Eastern Regional Officer of the Year Award; Edgar B. Felton Eastern Region Service Award; National Social Action Outstanding Service Award; and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Man of the Year – is more concerned about what’s happening now. Under his leadership as International President the fraternity has renewed focused on several monumental programs and initiatives including the Trayvon Martin Petition; the Sigma Beta Club (Youth Auxiliary); the Thunder Back Campaign – otherwise known as the 50th Anniversary March On Washington – and the Anti-Hazing Week Announcement in partnership with the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. As a result of the announcement hazing within the 100-year-old organization was decreased by more than 65 percent across American college campuses.
However the Norfolk State University graduate’s most ambitious undertaking to date may be Phi Beta Sigma’s partnership with the White House on its landmark initiative My Brother’s Keeper. Through I Am My Brother’s Keeper, the fraternity’s official response to President Obama’s call-to-action, Phi Beta Sigma—with support from the March of Dimes and other national charities — pledges to help transform the lives of thousands of Black men and boys and their families for generations to come through the execution of its comprehensive 10-point plan. The unprecedented plan includes providing $1 million dollars in scholarships to Black men; training and educating 5,000 Black men to be good fathers; and targeting congressional leaders in at least 10 states to support legislation including the National Criminal Background Check System and the Repeal the Gun Show Loophole Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.
As Director of Sales for New York’s WABC and WMBM – one of the only Blacks in the country presiding over broadcasting sales for major radio stations within a general-market company – Mason is simply putting his money where his mouth is. At just 42 years old Jonathan has long been a leading voice in the media on critical social justice issues impacting Black men, appearing as a guest on such TV and radio shows as Politics Nation, Imus in the Mornings and News One Now. He has also appeared in Crain’s Business Weekly, the American Society’s Annual Report as well as the American Cancer Society’s Legislative Newsletter, and been featured in a national campaign on prostate cancer alongside motivational speaker, author and Phi Beta Sigma brother Les Brown.
Mason’s love for community and the mighty Blue and White may only be exceeded by his love for God and family, and he gives all the credit for his success to his parents, Eunice Mason and the late Rev. Lee Mason Jr. Having taught and modeled for him early what it is to be upstanding young man of color, Mason – the co-pastor of the Northeast Baptist Church in Philadelphia – plans to pass the values he absorbed from his folks down to the scores of often fatherless, at-risk youth who will attend Camp New Joy, a rural refuge he is building for them on 19 acres of land he purchased near his father’s property in Rustburg, Virginia. Destined to become the nation’s first 100-percent free camp for disadvantaged Black boys, Mason’s goal is to partner with churches, schools, fraternities, sororities and other community service organizations to identify youths between the ages of 10 and 17, pull them out of the inner cities and into the countryside. There they will have the opportunity to participate in workshops on self-esteem building, personal confidence and interpersonal skills. Having already mentored thousands of young men throughout his lifetime and now poised to mentor thousands more, Mason — chairman of the board for the camp – believes the charitable milestone is all part of his Christian duty: “To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” (Luke 12:48)