Thursday, August 13, 2020

In Response to Social Justice Movement, Gamma Pi Forms New Black Greek Coalition

In recent months, Gamma Pi chapter's attention has turned to social justice issues, given the direction of the country and the African American community during the flareup of racial tensions as part of the civil unrest that gripped the nation after the George Floyd police killing in Minneapolis in May.

Bro. Jason Crump, Esq.
Over the summer, the chapter's Public Relations Committee interviewed Bro. Jason Crump, Esq., head of the chapter's Legislative Committee, about a new organization his committee has spearheaded among Divine 9 organizations in Prince George's County, the chapter's home.

Below is the transcript of a Que&A interview with Legislative chair Bro. Crump about the new D-9 Coalition.

What is the D-9 Coalition, how did it start and what is its purpose?

The D-9 Coalition for Civic Engagement is a group consisting of representatives from each African-American Greek letter organization who have come together on a united front for the purpose of educating and informing citizens on issues relating to land use, taxes and budget within their community.   From the Coalition perspective, these three issues are fundamental to our understanding of how hot sub-topics such as economic development, police reform. and education are handled within our communities on a local and state level.  I started the The D-9 Coalition in January 2020 as a way to bring together black Greek letter organizations to engage our communities in meaningful discussion so that they understand not just the importance of voting on a local and state level but to have a true understanding of what it is they are in fact voting for hy it is on the ballot - and why it affects them.  I believe that if our beloved D-9 organizations act on a united front to tackle these issues rather than separately, our overall strength in numbers would have a tremendous impact on not only the communities in which we serve but collectively across the nation.    

How is the D-9 structured and how is the leadership determined?

Currently, the D-9 Coalition does not have a "structure" per se.  It consists of 10 persons who are committee leaders in their own respective organizations who have joined forces to create events to realize the Coalition vision and purpose.  It is the Coalition's goal to expand in each county of the state of Maryland where there is a significant Greek letter presence.  Ultimately, the Coalition intends to replicate its vision and purpose across the nation. Although not yet envisioned, there is potential for it to become a non-profit or even a Political Action Committee (PAC) depending on its influence.  

Have you determined priorities or crafted an agenda?

Yes.  The D-9 Coalition implemented an Agenda briefing statement which is as follows:

I.                   PURPOSE:  

Inform and exchange information, knowledge and ideas as well as create awareness about the issues affecting our immediate community of Prince George’s County, Maryland.  

II.                MISSION:  

Disseminate information and remind us that what we do in this committee can affect and assist in the growth of our different respective organizational committees by our direct contact with council members and/or other lawmakers who can potentially assist us with our respective initiatives and goals.  
III.             WHO ARE WE   

This Committee can be an educational source for our respective organizations BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, a resource for the community whereby we disseminate information for the public at-large so that they can make informed decisions when presented with issues that affect their respective communities (Think Amazon in Upper Marlboro, where the issue was economic growth for the county versus the residents’ worry of overdevelopment and increased traffic in their individual community)  
IV.             WHY ARE WE IMPORTANT?  

It is my opinion that we are not taking advantage of our collective potential.  We have the ability to do exactly what pastors in our community have historically done – be the visible forces in the community that lead and inform.  Rather than be bystanders, we can exert influence and show our worth by having increased visibility in the county by hosting events that allow potential voters to seek information and be well-informed of the issues. Maximum presence by the public will get the attention of legislators and future potential candidates for office. We can be a political force by simply utilizing our “pull” within the community.   
V.                OBJECTIVES:    

1.  Make sure that our respective organizations are aware and knowledgeable about how local and municipal government works and affects our everyday lives.

 2.  Ensure that municipal legislators/council members and state lawmakers know who we are and how we intend to make them accountable – but not directly. *** (Due to our 401(c) status, we are not partisan and cannot take a particular political position.  However, if we are able to show our visibility in the community by having these information sessions and/or town halls, they will want to come to us and get our ear as to what is affecting our communities.  Our show of force can also definitively and indirectly influence what bills will be introduced.  

3.  Educate our community about how the government process works (i.e, how laws are enacted).

4.  Host our own town hall sessions (whether physically or via Zoom) in conjunction with other organizations (100 Black men, Black Chamber of Commerce, Minority Supplier Development Council) in an effort to educate the community on three specific topics that affect Prince Georgians and Marylanders in general: (1) Land Use; (2) Budget; and (3) Tax Structure.  These three specific areas are key because they ultimately affect everything that happens in our community.  This includes crime, education and economic development.  Collaboration with other like-minded organizations is key to our success efforts so that we can reach the maximum amount of persons possible.  

VI.            SHORT TERMS GOALS:    
                  Quarterly Information/Reach out Sessions that are hosted by the D-9 Coalition. Beginning in March 2020, we will have guest speakers from the legislative and executive branches of government that are able to come out to speak for 1 hour followed up by a question and answer session.  Potential guests would include: legislators on the county (county council) and state (P.G. County delegations) level, Prince George’s County government department heads county executive, etc.  It is necessary that we have full participation. Hence the reason that this needs to be a full collaborative effort with all fraternities and sororities (and potentially other organizations).  

VII.          LONG TERM GOALS:  

 Host events/information sessions that inform the public of how state government works. Speakers would include Maryland legislators and the Governor.  
             Become a force in Maryland politics where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle would want to come to our events/sessions to get the ear of the community.  
                   Replicate these efforts nationwide so that our community is knowledgeable of the issues before heading to the voting booths. 

Will any of this feed into a national D-9 effort to address these important issues? Is this a model for something larger?

As stated above, the goal of the D-9 Coalition is to ultimately address and educate citizens as to how land use, tax and budget relate to hot button issues such as police reform, education and economic development.  Citizens must understand the bigger picture as to how their government works before they cast a ballot.

What projects or activities has D-9 undertaken to this point?

Thus far, due to the pandemic crisis and the need for our citizens to take part in our decennial census, our short-term goals have been revised to reflect the current needs of the citizens of Prince George's County, Maryland. In that regard, the D-9 Coalition has done a Zoom seminar on Gamma Pi television to address how small business owners can obtain economic relief during the pandemic.  We also partnered up with the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) to put on a virtual step show whereby some of the undergraduate chapters in the DMV competed in a step show competition and within the footage created, educated those watching on the importance of the Census and gave reasons why Census forms need to be completed within underserved communities.

Do you foresee working collaboratively with local and regional elected government leaders on important issues?

As stated above, the Coalition's primary purpose is to work collaboratively with state and local leaders in a non-partisan effort to educate and inform their constituents so that they can develop their own reasoning as to why it is they should or should not support certain positions offered by their local and state elected officials. 

How can people reach your organization and stay abreast of your activities?

They can contact me directly to join our organization. the Coalition seeks to expand its membership in Prince George's County so that it can effectively achieve its goals stated above. 

Would you like to provide any closing thoughts?

Political strength comes in numbers. By unifying our efforts and acting as one voice, our black Greek letter organizations can become a political strength in our communities- just as our respective founders intended. 

For more information:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Project ENRICH Overcomes Numerous Obstacles and Challenges to Finish the Year on a Strong Note

 A very familiar sight during 2020 - a Zoom gallery screen

Bro. Willie Hines on video
It could very well have ended up being a bad year for Gamma Pi Chapter's Project ENRICH program. In fact, it could easily have been written off as a lost year, what with the global pandemic, the 40 million Americans on the unemployment rolls and more recently the coast-to-cost protests over police brutality, all taking place just since March. But for Project ENRICH, the challenging 2019-2020 year will go down as anything but "lost." This may have been the program's best in its 40-plus year history. Project ENRICH survived a multitude of unforeseen hurdles to complete the year.

The success of the 2019-2020 version of Project ENRICH was evident in the closing program held today in the same virtual venues where the rest of the world is meeting these days due to the pandemic  -- in a ZOOM video-conference. The venue may have been virtual but the success of Project ENRICH was -- and is -- real. Students, parents, family, Gamma Pi Chapter leadership and members all joined to salute the students who participated in the year-end program. Project ENRICH is normally held Saturdays once monthly in-person on the Bowie State University campus.

Emcee Bro. Tony Kelly
The students were the real stars of the closing program. From freshmen and sophomores talking about what they were getting from the program to juniors talking about "stepping up" to seniors looking ahead to college after four solid years of Project ENRICH, the student experiences was quite encouraging.

Several students were recognized for as essay contest winners from April: Jana Tengen (freshmen), Jada Smith (sophomores), Kennedy Cheeks (juniors) and Munyang Tengen (seniors.). Each receives $500. Munyang was also named Outstanding Senior and receives $1,000 for that honor.


Words of Wisdom
"You are the next leaders we are aspiring leaders to, here in our country," said Bro. William Reese, who as Assistant Director is one half of the husband-wife team helping director Bro. Willie Hines run the program. This is Bro. Reese's first year with Project ENRICH.  He also developed a new program for Project ENRICH's young men, called MSPU: Manhood-Scholarship-Perseverance-Uplift. The centerpiece of this effort was monthly candid conversations led by him and other Brothers about real life and manhood.

Basileus Steven Walls
Gamma Pi Basileus Steven Walls  was also among those who addressed the group early in the program, saying "If each of us were to write down  a definition of  successful Project ENRICH participant and graduate, the most common themes would be dedication, perseverance, integrity, conscientiousness, dependability and hard work. The one that should get top billing to me is winners - you are all winners."

At the end of the program, Project ENRICH director Bro. Willie Hines looked back on a difficult but productive year. "Our Project ENRICH 2019-20 year culminated with a closing program that was a moment that captured Project ENRICH’s past, in our alumni; present, through our graduating seniors; and the future, thanks to our returning students next year. Our closing program highlighted the leadership, innovation and persistence of Project ENRICH staff. Despite the pandemic and political-social unrest, our students persevered and demonstrated the standards that exemplify Project ENRICH.".

Reflections from Staff and Others
Project ENRICH's other staff, the team leads, used the opportunity to highlight their groups' achievements: Bro. Jason Crump (freshmen), Bro. James Riley (sophomores), Bro. John Howard (juniors) and Bro. Andrew Clarke (seniors) all led their classes from beginning to end. "One of the moments that from this year that stood out for me is our discussion about the inequities involving  black and brown students," said Bro. Howard in saluting his group, pointing out how that topic ironically is relevant to current events. The junior class, he says, contains students who have expressed career interests as pilots, orthodontists, engineers, nurses, teachers, accountants, entrepreneurs, pediatricians, chemists, lawyers and architects.

Other advisors are Bro. Brett Blake and Bro. Kelly. Also, Rita Reese, spouse of Bro. Reese, this year joined the program to initiate a new effort that identified and advised about special concerns unique to young black women, called I-N-S-T-A-G-R-A-M.  She reviewed the first-year progress of that program. Parent Club president Joe Jenkins also formally thanked parents for their support, as well as encouraged the students.

The keynote remarks were given by two speakers this year in an attempt to try a different approach that would appeal best to the students. Two speakers were chosen from other Divine Nine organizations -- Keila Foster, Ph.D., from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and William Etti, Ph.D., from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. In a tag-team fashion, Drs. Foster and Etti inspired the students through getting them to consider how to craft and deliver the best of themselves to a changing world badly in need of new ideas and energy. Dr. Etti's message revolved around being prepared to meet "struggles and failures" and Dr. Foster gave them questions to consider to visualize their lives.

Trouble Could Not Have Come at a Worse Time
Project ENRICH began meeting virtually in April, which in many respects, came at the worst possible time for the program. April is always the month that the essays are presented. Students actually stand before a live audience and make their presentations and respond on the spot to questions about the subject matter. But in a twist of creative genius and Perseverance, Project ENRICH, led by Bro. Hines, looked to technology rather than cancel the essays given how hard students had worked to prepare. Subsequent monthly meetings including the closing program have been held on Zoom.

While the closing program is essentially a year-in-review event to recall progress and achievements, it is also designed as a farewell to Project ENRICH seniors, who are all heading off to college after four years in the program which they must start as ninth graders.

Nobody can predict the future when it comes to the pandemic, the economy or the racial strife tearing at our country. But for Project ENRICH, next year is guaranteed to get off to a great start giving where the program was able to leave things this year through pulling together in an unprecedented way. It could have been worse.

Bro. William Reese

Mrs. Rita Reese


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Moms's COVID-19 Fight Emphasizes Unity, Support and Brotherhood of Omega Psi Phi on Mother's Day

Bro. Terence Hare with offspring Sarah and Terance II

Two months ago, Gamma Pi Chapter Bro. Terence Hare was not really sure what his Mother’s Day 2020 would look like. Truth be told, he faced the fact that it might be a time of mourning for him and his family. After all, his 81-year-old mother, Maxine Hare, was laid up in a hospital intensive care unit in Charlotte with the coronavirus. Suddenly, the headlines about the most dangerous global pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918 hit home for Bro. Hare – these weren’t just nameless, faceless numbers talked about on the news. One of those people stricken by this deadly killer was “MOM.”

Well-wishing neighbors
Today, Bro. Hare is not mourning, but is rejoicing. Since Saturday night May 9, he has celebrated Mother’s Day about a thousand times, thankful that he was able to see his mother go through the worst of the disease and emerge healed just in time for Mother’s Day, when she was able to go home. So, while Mother’s Day was observed on May 10 this year, May 9 will always be a holiday for Bro. Hare and his family to mark that very special homecoming. No more tubes. No more ventilator. No more tests. No more hospital gowns, or beds. No more nurses and doctors trooping in and out all hours of the day and night monitoring her vital signs. No more sitting on ins and needles wondering how it would turn out.

“It was the best Mother’s Day ever,” Bro. Hare said, in hat has to be an understatement, as he looked into the television camera during an interview with Charlotte TV station WSOC Channel 9, which did a feature story on Mother Hare’s triumphant struggle with the disease. She and Bro. Hare's daughter are both members of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. 

During his mother’s two-month long hospital convalescence, Bro. Hare experienced firsthand, in a unique and special way, the tightly linked Bonds of Omega as he received support from his Line Brothers (2015) including one who lived in the Charlotte area (Perryn Stewart) and another who rode down with him on  nearly 500-mile drive from Bowie, MD to Charlotte (Sheku Alieu) to be by his side and help him care for his mother for two straight weeks.

Neighbors and family shown support 
In another ironic twist about this story, while Bro. Hare’s mother was recovering from the virus, Bro Stewart’s wife, Sarah, was also recuperating from coronavirus in self-isolation at home. Still, Bro. Stewart managed to bring dinner by a couple of times while caring for his wife, who has now recovered and is doing fine.

In many respects, Bro. Alieu actually found himself keeping tabs on everyone. In true Omega fashion, he was able to handle it all and be the Brother that both Terence Hare and Perryn Stewart needed at the time. Hey, it’s something about this Brotherhood of Omega…through thick and thin…

“Mother Hare was admitted on a Wednesday, but Terry kept it to himself until the doctor called him on Sunday night to tell him she was critical,” said Bro. Alieu. “Terry and I packed and left Sunday night within a couple of hours of the call. I stayed there about 2 weeks until she was no longer critical.”

Sadly, the coronavirus, also called COVID-19 by its laboratory label, has stricken more than 1.5 million Americans in just two short months. Nearly 90,000 Americans have died from the disease in the same time frame, and more than 307,000 (imagine three full NFL stadiums on  Sunday afternoon) have died across the globe. Thanks to God, a loving son, other family and friends, and the love of Omega Psi Phi shown through Brothers Alieu and Stewart, Maxine Hare is not in that sorrowful number. She is still with us, very much alive.

Line Bros. Hare, Alieu, Stewart and Tyrone Smith
[You can reach out to Bro. Hare via email]

Sunday, May 3, 2020

In True Super Chapter Fashion, Gamma Pi Answers the Call on COVID-19 for Prince George's County

Styling the "PPE," America's new health gear in the midst of COVID-19, Brothers prepare as families roll in 
“We’ve made a commitment to be of service to this community and we will honor that pledge through thick and thin. When duty calls, our boots are on the ground ready to go.”
                                                                                             Bro. Steven Walls, Basileus

Since the State of Maryland went into a shelter-in-place posture in March in response to the dangerous COVID-19 crisis, the Brothers of Gamma Pi Chapter have been anything but sheltered when it comes to Social Action. While being careful to follow government-mandated guidelines on social distancing and wearing proper protective equipment, the chapter has been on the move throughout the county helping to provide relief for the residents of the community through a variety of Social Action projects. Dressed smartly in their Royal Purple and Old Gold “PPE,” members of The Super Chapter braved the threats of the lurking virus “to be of service.”  

Like clockwork, Brothers had the process planned to a "T"
On April 2, several Brothers directed traffic at four county schools – Wise High, Suitland High School and Surrattsville High and Benjamin Stoddert Middle School – while the students and their families picked up free Chromebooks provided by the Prince George’s County Public Schools.

About one dozen Gamma Pi members served simultaneously at the four schools, helping to keep a safe and orderly flow of traffic in and out of the school property. Brothers also helped with the laptop distribution in between regulating the traffic flow.

Bringing Fresh Homemade Sandwiches to the Homeless; Groceries to Hungry Families

On Saturday, April 8, the Brothers of The Super Chapter strode into the PG Homeless Shelter to deliver sandwiches to the residents. The food was prepared in advance at the home of one Brother whose wife and daughters stayed up into the wee hours of the night to prepare the sandwiches, wearing protective gear in their home kitchen. For the residents and staff in the homeless shelter, the Brothers of Gamma Pi were the light shining brightly through the storm. In the middle of this frightening pandemic, somebody thought enough of them to take the risk to prepare and bring them fresh food. 

Brothers discuss distribution strategy
The Brothers also completed two major free food distribution projects for the community in April and one in early May when the virus was raging in the midst of a stay-at-home order. On two consecutive Saturdays, April 18 and 25, Gamma Pi, partnering with its Friendship Charities Foundation, Inc., 501 (c ) 3, led the distribution of more than 1,700 grocery bags full of free food to needy families who represented three area schools in the chapter’s adopted community – Suitland Elementary, Drew Freeman Middle School and Suitland High School.

Omega Style Strategic Planning

At these events, the chapter organized the planning and the process, overseeing every aspect of distribution of the food from unloading the truck to unpacking the boxes to putting the packages into the hands of families as they drove through the Suitland High School parking lot. Once in the parking lot, bags were quickly deposited into their open trunks by the Brothers.

On Saturday, May 2, Gamma Pi kept the pace going in the local community but at a different location. This time, it was Largo High School in Largo, Md. During the morning and midday, Brothers oversaw the delivery of hundreds of boxes of food for residents in need. Again, it was Gamma Pi leading the way in helping to connect much-needed free foods to families in need, many who suddenly experienced "the bottom falling out" when the shutdown occurred for public heath reasons.

Checking out the horizon for more vehicles
The work at Largo actually began the day before when a contingent of Gamma Pi men loaded and unloaded a truck that was used to transport the food from refrigerated storage to Largo High located along Largo Road. 

Offering Manpower to Local Government

Basileus Bro. Steven Walls initiated the food drive projects while in conversations with local officials over a period of weeks. Obviously, this was not on the chapter's agenda for this year as COVID-19 appeared out of nowhere and caught fire fast. “We’ve made a commitment to be of service to this community and we will honor that pledge through thick and thin. When duty calls, our boots are on the ground ready to go.”

Keeping the machine running
All the work the Brothers put in during a difficult and uncertain time has solidified Gamma Pi’s reputation as a reliable, committed and courageous Social Action pacesetter in the Mighty Second District of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. To the public, this is amazing, but to the Brothers of Gamma Pi, this is everyday Omega Psi Phi. We observe...then we serve...

Thanks to the Social Action team headed by Bro. Ikey Staton, Jr. and Co-Chair Bro. Tony Kelly for doing an excellent job organizing the team into action for The Super Chapter. Other Gamma Pi members who have been singled out for their leading roles are Brothers Mabili Akinyele, Tiresias McCall (distribution manager), Donovan Benton, and Ed Ryans, who is an official with the county schools.

Some of the volunteers identified by Vice Basileus Rick Allison have included members of Galilee & St. Paul’s Churches, the Ayana J. McAllister Legacy Foundation, Fort Washington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, The Chi Beta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Prince George’s County Public Schools, Mettle Works and Pits.  Logistical support was provided by the Athletic Republic.

(Thanks to Brothers Raphael Terrell, Tony Kelly & Marcus Whitfield of the Public Relations Committee and Brother Tyrone Smith for photos and video clips)


Also, click here to see how Gamma Pi is helping college-bound students in its Project ENRICH program stay on track with the program despite the pandemic, using the wonders of technology