Sunday, December 1, 2019

Gamma Pi's Achievement Week 2019 Shows Why Omega Psi Phi is UniQUE

The proud Gamma Pi Achievement Week 2019 award winners 
Gamma Pi's 2019 Achievement Week program had all the right touches and showed why we are The Super Chapter when it comes to Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. In a one week period from Saturday, November 9 through Sunday, November 17, the Achievement Week Committee sponsored two major community service projects, a well-attended community awards program, a packed dinner for Omega men only and a caravan of Brothers who attended the annual Rededication Service at Howard University, where our Fraternity was founded on November 17, 1911,

The week began with an outstanding community awards program on Saturday, November 9, at the Ernest Everette Just Middle School in Largo, MD., an appropriate venue given the special week. The Hon. Bro. Derrick Leon Davis, of the local Prince George's County Council, brought a challenging message as keynote speaker. His point: we are obligated to reach back, and especially to help our youth.

Award Winners
In addition to Brother Davis' remarks, the communitywide event was highlighted by the always-anticipated individual awards for chapter and community excellence. In the community, the award winners were The Hon. State Del. Jazz Lewis, Citizen of the Year; teacher Stevie Prather, Educator of the Year;  Metropolitan Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Dr. Maurice Watson, Religious Leader of the Year; and Miss Brianna F. Davis, Athlete of the Year. Within the chapter, Gamma Pi honored Bro. Kevin Greenwood, outgoing Social Action Chair and incoming Assistant Keeper of Records and Seal, as Omega Man of the Year; Bro. Sheku Alieu, for Super Service; and stalwart Brother Maurice Calhoun for the Founders Award for lifetime achievement.

Suits collected for drive
On Sunday, November 10, about 20 Brothers trekked to the PG House Men's Shelter for homeless men to deliver 200 suits and assorted accessories for the residents. Led by the Social Action committee, the in-person donation triggered emotions of joy and sincere appreciation from the staff. In this one activity, Gamma Pi demonstrated in clear terms just how Omega Psi Phi works. Brothers -- like-minded men of high ideals -- used their foundation of Friendship to provide a much-needed service to a forgotten part of the local community.

There was nothing especially elaborate about the project. It was just simple hard work and dedication and perseverance. Quite simply Brothers used their persuasive skills to encourage members of the chapter and the Fraternity as well as members of the greater community to dispose of too-big, too-small and outdated suits through giving to other local residents they did not know, rather than dumping them on the trash pile.  In two months time, the incredible number of wearable suits collected was achieved. It truly made a difference.

Brothers after Reading Across the District project
A few days later following the community awards program and the suit drive, the Gamma Pi Brothers participated in the Second District "Read Across the District Day" on Tuesday, November 12. The District called on all Omega Men throughout "2D" to gather at a local school and read to Fourth and Fifth graders.  Gamma Pi read to students at Gaywood Elementary School in Seabrook, where Bro. Damien Goins is Principal, and the Mary Harris Jones Elementary School in Adelphi, where Bro. Rev. Brian King teaches.

When Omega Men Get Together
In their "usual and customary fashion," Gamma Pi along with guest Brothers from around the DMV broke bread during the Annual Brothers Only dinner at the upscale Martin's at Camelot in Upper Marlboro. Approximately 120 Brothers attended the dinner, headlined by Grand Keeper of Records and Seal Bro. Mark Jackson as the guest speaker. While most of his message was about "in house" business, he implored Brothers to always make Friendship #1 and to find ways to get involved in the Fraternity.

Brothers enjoy fellowship after the Brothers Only dinner
As an Omega-only event, the Brothers Only Dinner allows Fraternity members to fraternize and fellowship in a way that only Omega men appreciate and understand.  After the formal program, Brothers spent the remainder of the evening sharing their Omega experiences through the years and swapping stories about their time in the Fraternity as well as when they were seeking to enter Omega's realm.

Finally, the weeklong celebration of Omega Psi Phi concluded with another Brothers Only event, which was the Annual Rededication program held at Howard University on November 17, where the Fraternity was founded on November 17, 1911.The Grand Basileus, Bro. Dr. David Marion, led the ceremony at a packed house in Howard's Cramton Auditorium.

Achievement Week was also a time for Gamma Pi to transition in leadership. During the week, Brothers Steven A. Walls and Vice Basileus Richard Allison III and their leadership team entered office as the team of Bro. Tony Lee (Immediate Past Basileus) and Don Norwood (Vice Basileus) finished up three terms of service. The new leadership, elected in June, was sworn in on November 16.

For the Super Chapter, it was a memorable week and a great reminder about why Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is so special. Thanks to Brothers Jeff Adkisson and Cruiz Alexander for heading this year's Achievement Week activities.




Other photos courtesy of Bros. Teddy Taylor, Ken Jones and Tony Kelly 

SPECIAL VIDEO FEATURE BELOW: Bro. Derrick Leon Davis on Gamma Pi TV

Grand Keeper of Records and Seal Mark Jackson at Brothers Only

Fraternity members welcome Grand Basileus Bro. Dr. David Marion to Howard

Brothers after completing "Reading Across America" at Gaywood 

The sold-out crowd at Brothers Only dinner

Gamma Pi men pose after delivering 200 suits

Brothers assemble to deliver the suits to homeless men

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Gamma Pi Marches Into the Lives of Young Men Housed at Regional Juvenile Facility

Brothers organize in the parking lot before entering facility
One by one, they strode along the concrete sidewalk up a small incline and into the building through one of an array of electronically secured glass doors. Each one walked with a different cadence, a different length in their step, a different gait, a slightly different path yet along the same route. Symbolizing the fortitude of Omega, one determined Brother, apparently fresh off a leg surgery, dragged one leg on the ground with his injured leg propped up on a scooter. The Brothers of Gamma Pi Chapter marched in by two's and three's and at different paces, but they were united in their focus on the young souls waiting inside the Cheltenhan Youth Detention Center.

A Sense of Urgency

On this scorching hot Saturday, June 29, with morning temperatures in the 80s, the average person would have viewed entering the facility only as a relief from the heat. But the more than 50 Brothers of Gamma Pi welcomed entry into the center as a chance -- an opportunity -- to change the lives of young men housed there.

The annual visit to Cheltenham is never routine. Brothers never follow the exact same script. And this year, Brothers used the visit to share their own stories of struggle within the legal system and how they recovered. The lesson for the young men was, "These may be your circumstances today, but tomorrow can be brighter."

Cheltenham Youth Detention Center
Behind the Walls

Once they cleared extremely tight security, the Brothers entered a large gymnasium and took seats on four rows of chairs facing the bleachers that jutted out from the wall. Just about every Omega man wore the Purple and Gold. Shortly after Brothers took their seats, about 30 young men wearing baby blue shirts and khakis were escorted in by the black-clad security guards and other staffers, where they sat in the bleachers. If somebody had walked in from the streets, they would have assumed the guys in Purple and Gold and the guys in Blue and Beige were about to square off. Quite the contrary. Yes, it was a fight that was about to take place. But the Brothers were only helping the young men to fight past their current situation and see bright futures.

Everybody Has a Story

After Bro. Keeper of Records & Seal Otis Fowler warmed up the audience with a run-through of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc, history, the information flow took a hard turn toward real "in-your-face" reality.

One by one, Brothers shared some real and raw stories. Just like you would expect from accomplished men of Omega Psi Phi. They did not hold back.

One Brother talked about how his association with the wrong crowd a decade ago ended up with is incarceration for two years on charges for a white collar crime.

Another Brother talked about how when he was the age of the young Cheltenham residents, he too bounced around in juvenile detention for a series of crimes that had his mother saying she had given up on him. He talked about the intense pain of hearing that.

Another Omega man shared how his love -- his obsession with money -- led to his downfall at an early age. Today he is a Chief Information Officer.

Another Brother shared how his exploits as a young teenager kept him off course for so long that he did not begin college until age 25.

A Brother from a nearby chapter came by to give the young men some "current" information. He had just been released from a 51-day jail stay just a month ago after pleading guilty to a white collar crime. With incarceration fresh in his mind, he pleaded with the young men to spend every waking hour working and planning their exit and looking to the future. His message was to visit the library often. Make plans. Talk to people on the outside. Find a mentor. Make good use of the time and begin to visualize "beyond here."

And a Brother who recently retired as a high-ranking police officer closed it out by offering a written strategy for the youth to begin rebuilding their lives, challenging each one to ask of themselves, "What are you going to do about it and when are you going to start?"

The entire two-hour encounter was powerful and uplifting for Gamma Pi and the few guest Brothers who joined us, as several of the young men asked questions and gathered around the Brothers at the end of the presentations to seek more wisdom and encouragement. On the way out, many Brothers were heard repeating the oft-used phrase, "If we can just change one life." They way things went Saturday, it could very weell be several lives that were redirected by the brothers' outpouring.

Thanks to Bro.Tiresias McCall, a professional counselor, for organizing a great and challenging visit. It was a truly great and moving day for Gamma Pi Chapter and for Omega Psi Phi. This is what this Fraternity is all about. This is what Gamma Pi -- The Super Chapter -- is all about.  We could feel the applause of the Founders watching over us.

Due to restrictions, no photographic or video equipment is permitted inside the center


Sunday, April 28, 2019

At Second District Conference, Gamma Pi's Community Work and Effectiveness Is Lauded and Highlighted

Basileus Bro. Tony Lee (2nd left) and other chapter members at Founders' Banquet

DOVER, Del.-- Hundreds of hours of volunteer time spent planning and executing programs for youth, families and seniors in Prince George's County just about every weekend in the 2017-18 Fraternity Year translated into several awards for The Super Chapter at the 71st Second District Conference here the weekend of April 25-28.

Bro. Don Norwood with Omega Man of the Year award
Gamma Pi Winners 
Recognition for Gamma Pi at the 2019 conference was highlighted by Vice Basileus Bro. Don Norwood's selection as the Omega Man of the Year for the Second District. It is the first time that a member of the chapter has been named the winner of the prestigious award district-wide.

Immediate Past Grand Keeper of Records and Seal Bro. Kenneth Rodgers, who is also the 32nd and former three-time Second District Representative and former Gamma Pi three-time Basileus, was named Founders' Award winner for the district.

Gamma Pi's Citizen  of the Year winner, new Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, was named Second District Citizen of the Year. And, Gamma Pi was one of three chapters that placed in the Social Action Chapter of the Year competition, winning 2nd place.

Bro. Kenneth Rodgers  with District Founders' Award
If being recognized by your peers is the highest form of achievement, then the Brothers of Gamma Pi have every right to feel good about their efforts as fellow Omega men in the 5-state Second District bestowed three individual awards and one group award on the chapter at the conference.

For Gamma Pi, it was a time to reflect on all the chapter's hard work and sacrifice, noted by hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours working with children, youth, families and seniors to improve the lives of the Prince George's County community. It was also a time to demonstrate humility in the context of what Omega stands for, grateful for being recognized by other Omega men who are also doing great work in the Second District.

The District Conference: Getting Down to Business
The awards were announced Saturday, April 27, at the Founders' Banquet gala held at the Dover Downs Casino and Hotel. For those unfamiliar with how the Fraternity does its business, Omega Psi Phi is about far more than "hops," social events and the chants that many people mistake as the only activities of the 107-year-old Fraternity.

Not only do individual chapters conduct monthly business meetings, but once a year, the Brothers in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania gather to host a four-day business conference to elect officers, set priorities and plan service events and other operational activities. It's also done this way in other districts.

 As part of the District Conference occasion, chapters and individuals who do outstanding work are cited. So are members of the greater community that Omega Psi Phi serves as part of its Social Action agenda, which accounts for the selection of Gamma Pi's Citizen of the Year awardee.

Gamma Pi is very active in the Second District, led by Bro. Adrian Wilcox, who this weekend was elected as the Second District Keeper of Finance. It is one of the most significant leadership roles in all of District operations. Bro. Wilcox is a professional insurance broker with his own agency.

Other Gamma Pi members who serve in appointed positions for the district are Bro. Gordon Everett, Sr. (committee chair); Bro. Teddy Taylor; Bro. Lawrence Dukes, Bro. Norwood and Bro. James Alexander.
Bro. J. Kendall Smalls with Gamma Pi awardees and stand-ins

The Super Chapter Behind the Scenes 
In addition to the awards, Gamma Pi played a behind-the-scenes role in the proceedings. Brother Brian "BK" Long, the Immediate Past three-term Basileus and now Chief of Staff for the Second District, orchestrated many of the logistics and kept 33rd Second District Representative Bro. J. Kendall Smalls and other District and Fraternity leaders updated and connected, including a major visit and address to the conference by the Fraternity's Grand Basileus, Bro, Dr. David T. Marion. Also, Gamma Pi was asked to develop a video slide show to showcase all the scrapbook submissions which was played during the gala.

Young Bros on the move with Gamma Pi
Led by Basileus Bro. Tony Lee, about 30 chapter members traveled here for the weekend meetings. As always when Omega men get together, time to fellowship and socialize was mixed in with the official business. It's the Omega way. For example, Omega men who were initiated at colleges and universities within the Second District often find the district conference a time to re-connect with their fellow chapter Brothers scattered in the region. But the business clearly came first.

Individual chapters of the Fraternity give out their local version of these awards every year during the Achievement Week period, which is the official observance of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Founders' Day, November 17, 1911. For district-level awards, each chapter's local winners are judged to determine who is the overall district winner for these categories.

This year's 71st Second District Conference was hosted by Psi Iota chapter in Dover. It was a smooth-operating, well-organized conference that many Brothers complimented. Next year, the 72nd Second District Conference will be hosted by the Iota Phi Chapter of Pittsburgh during the weekend of April 30-May 3, 2020. Travel plans are already underway for next year.


Below: Video Clip of Omega Man of the Year Award

Preparing for a session

Brothers pose with West Point Ques

Discussing the Proceedings

Bro. Basileus displays Social Action and Citizen of the Year awards

Gamma Pi's First Basileus Bro. Tim McIntosh

                                              Candid Shots from the Weekend Activities

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Gamma Pi's Project ENRICH Teaches Students to Speak Up, Speak Out Confidently

Student listens to feedback from Project ENRICH staff
They approached the front of the room one by one. Once positioned, they introduced themselves and identified their topics. And then it was time to start talking. Each one had a different cadence, a different decibel level and a different presentation style. But one thing that is common to each of the students who presented their essays at Saturday’s Project ENRICH session, is that they all had the opportunity to research and talk about an important part of Black history.

Each year, the April essays are nail-biting time for the students who must overcome the jitters to stand tall and deliver a coherent talk in a room full of their peers and parents. But it’s also one of Project ENRICH’s top learning activities. It goes to the core of one of the program’s key goals, to help students learn vital verbal communication skills as they prepare for college and life afterwards.

The students are assigned topics according to their class standing. For example, the freshmen were asked to research and write essays about the early 20th century Camp Logan Riots. What precipitated the riots and were the actions justified? The sophomores were given the task of orating on A. Phillip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The juniors spoke about The Great Migration of the 20th century that saw millions of African Americans “head north” to escape the clutches of Jim Crow in the deep south and latch on to better job opportunities. Finally, the seniors discussed the two types of African American leaders who dominated at the turn of the 20th century – the Assimilators and the Liberators. Which one should Black people have followed?

Persuading the audience
Project ENRICH Director Bro. Willie Hines views the essays as a training exercise for public speaking, as well as a venue to develop critical thinking skills. The students seem to understand and appreciate. After each presentation, students are given a critique by a panel of Project ENRICH staff, which included Gamma Pi members Hines, Lawrence Branch, Pete Ford, Marc Ellington, Jason Crump and James Riley.

Mastering the topic
“This subject was picked because we wanted you to understand what Camp Logan was all about,” director Hines said this morning. “These men left a military base and went into Houston and engaged police and whites…we want you to apply critical thinking skills to these topics.”

The subjects selected for also help the students learn about little-known or unknown Black history, as well as hone leadership skills, debate techniques and interpersonal communications skills. Project ENRICH is always reminding the students to practice and be ready to give their “30-second elevator speech.”

Project ENRICH awards prizes in every grade group. Winners will be announced next month.