Brotherhood Sisterhood: A Look Back and Moving Forward

Brotherhood Sisterhood (BHSH) will be celebrating its 60th anniversary this year here in the Greater Baton Rouge Area.  What started with a mission of looking past individual differences, but instead looking at each other as brothers and sisters is still the mission today. Each year the BHSH committee has recognized individuals in the community who have over their lives worked toward the elimination of bias, bigotry and racism across ethnic, gender and religious lines.  We sat down with BHSH Committee and past honorees Donna Saurage, Joseph “Joe” Simmons, and John Smith about what Brotherhood Sisterhood means to the community.


A look back at the history of BHSH:

More than 60 years ago, the National Conference of Christians and Jews (later known as the National Conference of Community and Justice or NCCJ) formed Brotherhood Sisterhood nationwide during a divisive time leading up to World War II.  With the nation and world is such a divide among religions, there was a need for something to bring Americans together and see past religious and racial divides. The NCCJ worked to advance the mission of joining hands across racial, socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious lines and break down the barriers that divide our community and prevent us from working and living together in harmony.

When the NCCJ was dissolved in the Greater Baton Rouge area, community members wanted to make sure this legacy would continue in the community. Host duties resumed with 100 Black Men of Baton Rouge and Forum 225 before finding a home with Capital Area United Way in 2016.  Donna Saurage comments that the basis of the Brotherhood Sisterhood theme is still the same rather it is through its religious, ethics or racial.


What does BHSH mean to the community?

The BHSH award is a very prestigious award in the community, and the committee wants to bring attention to this honor dating back 60 years ago to the current generations. 

“It is important that we recognize what each person in our community can bring to the table and take into account all of elements of someone’s background, including traditions, cultures, etc. to enrich life,” said Joe Simmons, 2016 BHSH Recipient and Committee member. “My great uncle was the first recipient, and I am honored to carry that tradition on.”

“The goal of the award is to honor those people in the community who embody the message and missions of BHSH, those who look past the obvious differences and look into the heart of people. “This award recognizes the work parents put into their children.” said John Smith, 2016 BHSH Recipient and Committee member.


How can I get involved?

“I would start with Capital Area United Way,” said Donna Saurage, 1996 BHSH Recipient and Committee member. “Volunteering and serving on committees is a perfect way to get to know your brothers and sisters in the community.  

Simmons and Smith both agree and mentions that having a one-on-one relationship carries the mission onto someone else. 

The value of United Way should not be viewed only as a money missioned organization, but as a connector among people and providing opportunities to make a positive difference. One way to make a positive difference is through Brotherhood Sisterhood.

To nominate someone for the BHSH Award visit


Thank you to Donna Saurage, Joseph Simmons and John Smith for contributing their time to this blog post.

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