Saturday, March 21, 2020

"100 Ques in Annapolis:" Gamma Pi Leads Second District Meeting with State Legislators

You can best believe that when Omega men get together, something good is about the happen. When Omega men get together at the Maryland State Capitol, something important is about to happen. That was the case on Tuesday, March 10, when Brothers from the Super Chapter, from nearby Epsilon Sigma (Bowie State University) and other chapters in Corridor I assembled at the Capitol in Annapolis to bring Uplift to the community through civic participation.

Called “100 Ques in Annapolis,” the event was held in Annapolis at the State Legislature, where both the House of Delegates and the State Senate for Maryland meet each Spring to discuss and pass legislation impacting Marylanders.  In short, Annapolis is “The Capitol Hill’ of the State of Maryland – the center of power and influence in how the state is run, from the rugged mountains along the state’s western border to the in the crystal clear waters of the beaches and the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

This was no tourist adventure. This was about business. In a series of planned events based on a carefully crafted agenda, the men of Omega – more than 100 strong – arrived in Annapolis armed with information about pending bills, ready to ask questions and discuss various legislative proposals, all in the context of what was good for their communities.  For the Brothers of Gamma Pi, that meant especially looking out for the residents of Prince George’s County. Gamma Pi was charged with organizing this year’s event from a Corridor level. Corridor I is comprised of all of the chapters in Maryland.

The schedule for the day was packed from 9 a.m. until lunch that began at 12 noon, with some optional educational events available afterwards for those Brothers who wanted to stay into early afternoon after the business was complete. This included a visit to the Historic Ashbury United Methodist Church to see Bro. Bishop Edgar Amos Love’s Library and personal artifacts.
 “Looking back, I was fortunate and honored to have been supported by our 1st Vice District Representative, Bro. Roni Kent; Corridor I Representative, Bro. Amir Shareef; representatives from Chapters across the Corridor; and the Brothers who made time on that historic day to ensure that our event was a success.”

Omega Leaders pose with legislator
In addition to Brothers Kent and Shareef, other notable Second District Omega men in attendance were Delegates Bro. Nick Charles (Prince George’s County),  and  Bro. Nick Mosby (Baltimore City), Bro. James Hicks, Past District Representative;  Bro. Michael Lyles, Annapolis City Attorney; Bro. Brian K. Long, District Chief of Staff; and Bro. Kelvin Ampofo, District Keeper of Records and Seal, Second District Director of Public Relations Bro. Zanes Cypress and Gamma Pi’s own Basileus, Bro. Steven Walls.

Brothers identified four (4) legislative bills for which they prioritized support in Annapolis. These bills are being sponsored or supported by Delegates Bro. Charles and Bro. Mosby.  In true Omega fashion, each bill is aligned with each one of the Four Cardinal Principles of the Fraternity.  In short, they deal with the following:

Manhood - HB1114 - Child Custody and Visitation - Best Interest of the Child - Factors . This bill seeks to eliminate historical preferences/bias towards mothers when analyzing child custody/visitation issues.

Scholarship - SB0001 - Built to Learn Act of 2020 . This bill deals with budgeting money that will be used for public school construction.

Perseverance - HB1343 - Criminal Procedure Expungement Expansion. This bill seeks to expand expungement opportunities for certain offenses.

Uplift - HB0416- Medical Cannabis Business Development Fund. This bill seeks to obtain funding and opportunities for small minority and women businesses in the cannabis industry.

To muscle support for the bills, Brother employed the “fan-out” strategy, that is, they broke up into smaller groups that went out and visited their own local legislator’s offices to discuss the priority bills. Brothers were armed with leave-behind letters of support as part of that effort. The idea was to leave Annapolis with an impression and a message about the most important community-based priorities are from The World’s Greatest Fraternity.

“If we are to have an impact on decisions that are being made that can affect us or the ones we love, we must sacrifice time to inform our legislators regarding how we feel about various issues,” said Bro. Allison, in explaining the significance of the event. “Over the years, the Brothers in Maryland have done exceedingly well at ensuring that legislators know that we are here and that we vote; however, an area where we wanted to improve was in expressing our interest in support of or against actual legislation.  Through this kind of expression, we can achieve impact.” 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Gamma Pi Brings Black History to Life with its QUE Kidz Program

Bro. Ken Jones talks with students

With its monthly sessions, Gamma Pi’s Que Kidz program opens doors on the world for the young preteens who live in the underserved Prince George’s County community of Kentland. For Black History Month, the Brothers threw wide open the doors to the history of African Americans with an entertaining and educational program held at the Kentland Community Center on Saturday, February 22.

The group was small, but the lessons were big. Members of the chapter used the morning to share the biographies of historical Black Americans, lead the youth in history-based trivia games, screen short powerful YouTube mini-documentaries about the Black Experience in the United States and share their own personal stories of racial struggles in America. The youth were wide-eyed and seemed fascinated by the stories and bout the contributions of the African Americans who paved the way before them. Not all of the names of historical figures were household names.

Youth raises hand to ask a question
During the program, the youth were encouraged to relate their own personal stories and ask questions. They wanted to know what I was like during the Civil Rights struggle? How did segregation affect their families growing up? How did Barack Obama become the nation’s first Black president?  Why did African Americans drink out of different water foundations or ride in the back of buses? Some of the questions were sensitive personally, such as students asking why were they seemingly treated differently than other kids in class?  Or, what if someone makes a racially sensitive remark in their presence?

As the noon hour approached, the students were served lunch. That gave them a chance to discuss what they had learned and to continue asking questions. The Brothers of Gamma Pi had a goal with the program, and they accomplished it. They wanted the youth to leave the Kentland Center feeling a sense of pride and self-worth from their heritage. They did.

All in all, it was a productive morning of education and fun. For these youths, Black History Month leaped from the pages of the history book and into their hearts and minds. It became real.