Monday, November 25, 2013

Grand Basileus Helps Gamma Pi Bring 40th Anniversary Celebration to a Close with Dynamic Achievement Week Program

A keepsake program for the ages
If you had been living on Mars and did not know anything about Omega Psi Phi or Achievement Week, you would have thought there was some sort of State Dinner being held at the Prince George's Ballroom in Landover Saturday night, November 23. People were entering with their best formal fashions: tuxedos, fancy bowties, and cummerbunds; stylish footwear and silk dresses were the order of the day for the ladies. Fresh hairdos were all over the place. Some local barbers and beauticians likely made their profits in the past few days.

What gave it all away Saturday night were those unmistakably special and unique colors--Royal Purple and Old Gold.  You knew then the Ques were in the house. And this was Gamma Pi's house -- and it was the culmination of the chapter's yearlong 40th anniversary celebration in conjunction with Founders' Day and the annual Achievement Week observance.

A sold out crowd -- including a long list of dignitaries -- packed the Ballroom venue to celebrate "40 Years of Purple Reign," Gamma Pi's stellar record of 40 years of Omega Friendship and community service involvement in Prince George's County. Now the third-largest graduate chapter of the 700 chapters in the entire Fraternity, Gamma Pi used the occasion to look back on its meager beginning and look ahead to a promising future built on its accomplishments and growth.

For those unfamiliar with the story,. it was recounted in person at Saturday night's program through an interconnecting thread of Gamma Pi Brothers representing almost every era of the chapter, from the Founding members who conceived the vision  to the brand new leadership team just installed last week. Gamma Pi was born  in the early 1970's simply as the result of a small knot of "Ques", many from North Carolina, wanting to remain active with the Fraternity and maintain their cherished friendship bond while serving their community a little closer to their homes in Prince George's County. It was that simple. It was really no more complicated than that. And those seeds sown over four decades led directly to the historic event that took place Saturday night.

Strong at the Mike: The 39th Grand Basileus

Grand Basileus Dr. Ray Lights up the Audience
Symbolic of its status, Gamma Pi featured a sitting Grand Basileus as a keynote speaker for the first time ever. Brother Dr. Andrew Ray flew in from New York to deliver a rousing , stirring speech that had everybody buzzing afterwards. As they say,"he brought down the house." The 39th Grand Basileus gave the Fraternity and other members of the audience something to think about, challenging everyone,especially the Brothers, to look inward and not to forget where they came from, not to forget who they saw on the way up,and not to ignore those in need just because they are from a different social demographic.

Dr. Ray's message was loud and clear and appropriate in  a historical context -- you never know when you will see certain people in your life again in the future or what your relationship might be with them later. How will you treat them when you first encounter them? Brother Dr. Ray told an interesting story of how a recent surgery he had to have was performed by a doctor who had been a student of his years ago. Brother Dr. Ray recalled how the doctor and former student looked down at him on the gurney and assured him calmly,"Don't worry Dr. Ray...I got you." Dr. Ray then asked the audience rhetorically, to laughter: "What if I had treated that boy bad?" He drew a standing ovation and really brought the house down with his remarks. Brother Dr. Ray left the audience and Gamma Pi with three bywords for success in providing community Uplift:-- Hindsight, Insight and Foresight. Dr. Ray's message was powerful and uplifting. It carried the night.

Immediate Past Basileus Gordon Everett, Sr. - Omega Man of the Year,
 with Emcee, Vice-Basileus Bro. Tony Lee, Program Chair Bro. William Smith,
newly installed Basileus Bro. Brian Long and the Grand Basileus.
While Dr. Ray's message was the highlight, it was the showmanship-like hosting of emcee Brother Tony Lee that had the more than 250 guests rolling in the aisles and spilling their drinks. His one-man "Omega style" stand-up routine and his "friendly jabs" at members of the dais and the audience was as good if not better than any on-air TV talk show hosts. He was, as they say, "the life of the party." He brought a lot of levity to the evening. Longtime Achievement Week Chairman Brother William Smith, preparing to retire from those duties, spent months leading a team of Gamma Pi Brothers in planning the special event despite persistent health challenges.

Star Power at the Gamma Pi Anniversary

The dignitaries were lined up: U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, Prince George's County Executive Brother Rushern Baker (who entered the Fraternity at Howard University, Alpha Chapter), State Senator Brother Ulysses Currie, Brother Dr. Mickey Burnim, President of Bowie State University, Omega Psi Phi Second District First Vice Representative Milton Harrison, Maryland Administrative Judge Brother Richard Moore, and state delegate an Attorney General candidate Aisha Braveboy, were among local officials in attendance for the memorable occasion. The Rev. Dr. Grainger Browning of Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, also an Omega man, was there as well to support his wife, Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Browning, who received the Religious Leader of the Year Award (see below).

Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Browning, one of the community award winners 
In keeping with past Achievement Week programs, Gamma Pi also presented its customary and Fraternity awards: Citizen of the Year (Carolyn Mills-Matthews), Student Athlete of the Year (Asa Marie Cook),  Educator of the Year (Bro. Damien Goins),  and these awards for the Fraternity, Founders' Award (Bro. Ambassador Teddy Taylor), Omega Man of the Year (Bro. Gordon Everett, Immediate Past Basileus) and Superior Service (Bro. James Alexander). Brother Edward High II also made scholarship presentations as the new Scholarship Chairman. The event also included the introduction of Gamma Pi and Omega Psi Phi's newest members, the "Apollo 13," who were initiated November 15.

The Year in Review

U.S. Rep.Donna Edwards Brings Greeting
For Gamma Pi, the year has flown by. It kicked off with a 40th Anniversary Reunion on March 5, marking the date that Gamma Pi was chartered. More than 200 Brothers celebrated that occasion with a series of remarks and recollections from the Founders as well as Brothers from various decades. Later in March, Gamma Pi held its annual Mardi Gras Dinner & Dance Gala but this year it was linked to the Anniversary and it was where the theme, "40 Years of Purple Reign," was introduced. June brought on a new event with a special Anniversary outdoor dinner held at Darnall's Chance house. True to Omega spirit, Brothers braved a torrential downpour and lighting to persevere in what turned out to be a very successful event under eventually calm skies. And Saturday night's program was also a new twist in honor of the anniversary.  Traditionally, the Super Chapter holds a free community-wide program in observance of Achievement Week. This year, the decision was made to go forward with a formal Achievement Week dinner and dance program to serve as a crescendo at the end of the Anniversary Year. Gamma Pi's Past Basilei Council organized this year's anniversary events, co-chaired by Brothers Kenny Rodgers (Immediate Past District Representative) and Brother Ambassador Taylor. Long live Gamma Pi!

The top and bottom photos are provided by Brother Jamal Parker, who is the Second District photographer. The other photos are from Gamma Pi Brother Don Cook. More photos and videos will be coming.

Want to see more available photos? Go to Facebook and to Gamma Pi's special web page
Want to see the archived live video telecast? Go to Gamma Pi's Ustream TV Channel

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