Sigma Pi Phi, a more than century old African American organization, has made a major contribution to Charleston’s International African American Museum. 

Also known as the Boulé, the fraternity’s foundation gave $100,000 to the museum that’s rising now on Charleston’s waterfront.

The funds will support the new museum in opening its doors early next year, including the hiring of staff, the development of public programming and education curriculum and the development of the museum’s infrastructure.

Museum CEO Tonya Matthews said in a statement that she was “honored” to see the IAAM become part of the fraternity’s legacy.

“It is particularly meaningful to receive a gift from an African American organization that is more than a century old — a clear indicator that the African American journey is a story not only of resilience, but also of empowerment and community investment,” Matthews said.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1904, Sigma Pi Phi describes itself as the “oldest Black Greek-letter graduate-level fraternity in existence.”

The fraternity has a Charleston chapter which last week hosted a regional conference for the organization. That conference included a tour of the grounds of the soon-to-open International African American Museum, said Dwayne Green, the secretary for the local chapter.

“Everyone was moved,” Green said of the experience of seeing the museum site that was once part of Gadsden’s Wharf, a major port of entry during the transatlantic slave trade.

Green said some fraternity leaders also decided to become charter members of the IAAM to show their support.

The fraternity presented its donation for the museum at a June 25 event that included members and leaders from around the region, including State Sen. Marlon Kimpson and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.

Another donation for $10,000 was given that day to the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation, which is building the Emanuel Nine Memorial.

The memorial to the nine members at Emanuel AME who were killed in a mass shooting in 2015 and the five people who survived that attack is expected to break ground at the church this fall.

Matthews said the fraternity’s “commitment to education and working as a community to accomplish great things” resonates with the IAAM’s mission.

“The fraternity is very active in giving money to causes that help move the community forward,” Green said.

The International African American Museum announced June 1 that the highly-anticipated museum would open the weekend of June 21, 2023, almost exactly 23 years since then-Mayor Joe Riley made a commitment in a speech to build a museum of African American history in Charleston.

After raising more than $100 million, the museum broke ground in mid-2019. Its stated mission is to “honor the untold story of the African American journey at one of America’s most sacred sites.”

Fundraising efforts didn’t stop after construction began, and, so far in 2022, several major contributions have been announced.

Most recently, TD Bank said that it was giving the museum $250,000 to fund a special series of large events. In March, North Charleston-based chemical maker Ingevity Corp. announced it would donate $500,000 spread over four years to the IAAM.

Also this year, the Ford Foundation made a donation that brought its total contribution to the museum close to $1 million, and the Massachusetts-based Yawkey Foundation donated $1 million.

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