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. 

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