Omega Psi Phi Fraternity 2019 International Achievement Week Dinner and Awards Ceremony

December 4, 2019
Speech

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity 2019 International Achievement Week Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Birmingham, Alabama

Sunday, November 17, 2019

To my brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Phi Chapter, in conjunction with its undergraduate chapters at Miles College (Eta Epsilon) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (Kappa Delta), ladies and gentlemen -- I want to thank you for inviting me to this very auspicious event this evening -- your 2019 International Achievement Week Dinner and Awards Ceremony.

I also want to recognize Brother Andre’ Marvray, Basileus Alpha Phi Chapter, and I thank him for inviting me to address you this evening.

This annual celebration is truly awe inspiring as we recognize those Omega men and other community leaders who have rendered exemplary service and made significant contributions in the Birmingham metropolitan area during the previous year. I want to congratulate the Omega Men of Alpha Phi Chapter, Eta Epsilon Chapter, and Kappa Delta Chapter, and the awardees here tonight, for a job well done in 2019. Brothers, give yourselves a hand!

This evening, we celebrate and support our dear fraternity’s Scholarship Foundation and its associated programs, which directly benefit talented high school students with scholarships. Fraternities like ours provide a platform for the display of human connection and compassion. This fraternity and this signature event, represent the very embodiment of  care and respect for our fellow man, and for building  enduring relationships and meaningful friendships.

In the rendering of exemplary service, and in their significant contributions to our community, your  chapters and our esteemed award winners this evening, exemplify our fraternity’s motto.

And as we celebrate and recognize the past year’s achievements, this evening, I want to speak to you about a vanishing state of being that is getting harder and harder to achieve in today’s society. That state of being is a quality that many take for granted, some arrogantly besmirch, while others crave it, in silence and loneliness. That state of being, which is getting harder and harder to find and experience, but which is so necessary and fundamental to being able to bring forth the humanity that lies within each and every one of us, is none other, than the state of being, called friendship. Omega Psi Phi is the only Black Greek organization whose name is derived from an actual Greek phrase. Indeed, the founders of our great fraternity: Love, Cooper, Coleman and Just, showed maturity and great wisdom beyond their years -when they selected the name and motto for our dear fraternity. From the initials of the Greek phrase meaning, “friendship is essential to the soul“, the name Omega Psi Phi was derived. That phrase - Friendship Is Essential To The Soul - was selected as the motto. The very essence of our fraternity then, is friendship. The founders knew, that there could be no real fraternity, without friendship. And their wisdom, is our guide for today, dear brothers, as we make our way through the very strange times that we live in today. Today is a time when so called leaders, instead of being truthful with the people, are spinning reality on its head. They are dealing in lies, which they call “alternative facts”. Lies have become so common place it causes one to wonder: does the truth still matter?

We are living in confusing times, where up is down, and down is up. Where the truth is a lie, and people have accepted as fact the lies and deceit that come from the mouths of leaders in politics, in the media, and even among some religious figures. Today we live in a very shallow society where many lead a narcissistic, self-obsessed way of life that seems to so dominate in this modern era. Twitter and tweets have replaced conversation, and Facebook has replaced face to face communication.  Instead of neighborhood games like hide and seek, kickball, dodgeball and basketball, everybody is playing video games, including adults.

Today, we spend more time looking into an electronic screen, than we do looking into the eyes of another person.

We live in a society where social media is king. The social media are platforms of communication, where we can indulge in the anonymity and selfishness of self. On social media, we can be as arrogant, as hateful, as vindictive, and as cruel, as pleasures our lower self. We can say whatever we want to say regardless of how much it hurts, or how untruthful it is. Selfishness and untruth are contagious, and lies spread like a wildfire. Confusion sets in. 

A feature of this era is the “selfie” – where I take pictures of myself so that I can get on social media and show myself to the world, without the messiness of engaging in dialogue with another human being. If I have dialogue, then I expose my flaws. But on social media, I can be as great, as rich and successful, and as happy go lucky, as I wished that I were. Many of us are living a life of alternative facts. We are living in times where it’s all about me and my wants. My needs come first -- before even people I’m close to. It’s a warped and distorted time, where real and fake news battle to create separation and bad blood between social classes, between races, between genders, between political parties and religions, and between people. Polarization and divisiveness are dangerously highlighted and elevated. It’s hard not to question whether the truth really matters anymore.

In these trying times, the Black community is being especially tested. In some respects, it’s being tested like it hasn’t been since Jim Crow was the law of the land, where we were by law treated as second class citizens. Brothers and sisters, the reality is that those who are spinning the lies that have us so confused, are the same folks who want to take us back to the time when, in their opinion, America was great. Those were times that, if we are not careful as a people, we could end up back in. 

It has gotten to the point where too few of us are willing to get up off of our butts and go register to vote. And too many of us who are registered, are too sorry to get up off our butts to go vote! And what is really odd is that too many of us who do vote, vote against our own interests! Despite the fact that Trump rose in popularity on a racist trope that President Obama was an illegitimate President because he was born in Kenya, still 8% of Black voters voted for Trump! And what’s even more outlandish is the fact that 13% of Black male voters - voted for Trump! Yes brothers and sisters, we are living in strange and confusing times, where people believe in lies, and the truth is hard to come by. But for those of us who are clear headed and sober in our thinking, the truth is very concerning. To us, the truth still matters!

The truth is, that we need to start making friends again. In a “me” society that we all know, deep down inside, is headed in the wrong direction, we must stop, take an honest look at ourselves, and ask - How many friends do I have? Even more important than that, we should ask ourselves the question: How many people, have I been a friend to?

Today, not many are willing to pay the cost to be a friend. The costs of friendship for a Man of Omega are: patience, love, affection, time, and even your life. 

Too many of us, men especially, believe that we are rugged individuals who are self-made. We believe that all of our achievements - we did on our own with no one’s help. Some of us believe that we stood up by ourselves, and because I did it, you can do it too, so don’t ask me for nothing. I got mine, and you gotta get yours, so don’t expect me to do nothing for you, and don’t ask me for nothing. Those folks who who think that way, there is no way that they can be a true friend to anyone. If you can’t part with any of your money or your time, you certainly are incapable of giving your life, for the greater good. 

In my 65 years on planet earth, I’ve come around to the philosophy that we are all standing on the shoulders of someone else, and we didn’t get to where we are all by ourselves. In fact, we stand on the shoulders of giants – we are all a product of those who came before us and the family and community that raised us, and those who extended the hand of friendship to us when we needed a hand up. We stand on the shoulders of people who died so that we could be where we are today. We owe something to those giants who came before us and made it possible for us to be who we are today. We owe to them, our return to what is just, what is righteous, and what is true. We owe them a return to true friendship, which is what enabled them to be the strong shoulders upon which we all stand.

So what does it mean to be a friend in the era of Trump? In the era of celebration of the individual, a celebration of me, me, me?

Tonight’s theme -- “Omega -- Now is The Time For Serious Thinking and Impact” is very meaningful for the times in which we live. 

Courage is an essential quality of Manhood. Its time for men of courage to stand up and speak truth to power. Not in a loud and boisterous way. But in a calm, compassionate and serious manner. 

Speaking truth not just to those in high positions, but also to those deluded by lies, and who think they are better or more worthy than you. It takes some effort to learn what the truth is. You’ve got to dig through lies to uncover the truth. That requires study. Study is Scholarship, is it not?

Sometimes, it looks like the truth doesn’t matter anymore, and that the battle for truth is impossible. When one feels that evil is winning over good, and lies sound better than the truth, it is then that we must Persevere. Perseverance is what Men of scholarship and truth need to exemplify today. And last but not least: what do people who have given in, given out, or given up, need from those of great Manhood who live lives of Scholarship and Perseverance? What do they need?

Looking around this room tonight, and being a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., I feel optimistic and full of hope for the future, because Omega Men are the change agent we need – you are leading the way, making a positive difference in our communities. We are living out our dear fraternity’s motto, that Friendship Is Essential To The Soul.

Whether it’s raising money for college scholarships, helping the homeless find shelter, defending a young man in legal trouble or helping stock a food bank that feeds the hungry – these are all important Omega pursuits. Such actions exemplify what all of us expect, when we consider, what it takes to be a friend.

But I also encourage all of you (all of us) to extend the hand of friendship not just to people who may look and think like us, but to all our brothers and sisters of whatever color, creed, or other distinctive quality. 

In this Trump era dominated by selfishness and self centered-ness, it is often difficult to break through barriers to true friendship. Today, not many are willing to pay the cost to be a friend. 

I think friendship means more than having a beer with your buddy while watching the game. It means more than playing a round of golf or watching the game together while having a beer. 

It means taking your friend’s child to school when your friend is sick, or has a doctor’s appointment. It means cutting your neighbor’s grass when you know they have no one else to depend on. It means loaning or even giving a friend the money necessary to pay his mortgage when he has been laid off and is struggling to make ends meet.

And it means getting involved in your community. It’s easy to just think about our own survival, or to only be concerned about our own narrow self-interest. We have to focus on something other than acquiring personal wealth or personal accolades. If all of our leaders of fraternities, churches, professions, schools and YES…politics, only thought about themselves and not the greater good, we would be creating the blueprint for the demise of our republic.

But it’s the real man who puts his hand in the earth and makes a true difference in his community. Is there gun violence in your community? Don’t just close your curtains and put on your headphones – volunteer your time in our schools or join the young people as they March For Our Lives.

Are there homeless people in your community? Don’t just drive by and look at them in the rearview mirror – get out and extend a hand, volunteer at a local food pantry or serve the homeless at a homeless shelter.

You don’t like the current occupant of the White House? Like President Obama said: Put on your sneakers and grab a clipboard and start canvassing and knocking on doors.

There is so much pain in our community – and there are an equal number of ways we can get involved and help make that pain subside……make a difference…..be a change maker.

It means being a man – a true friend with purpose – someone who  deepens his own soul by being the greatest friend the world has ever seen. A friend of mine has a saying that she lives by – “be a fountain, not a drain.”

That says it all doesn’t it? Be someone who feeds your friend’s soul not someone who drains the souls of others. 

While keeping in mind the purpose for the creation of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. by founders Just, Love, Cooper and Coleman, I encourage you to use tonight’s event as a springboard to contribute even more selflessly to the advancement and development of our young people. Recommit to being part of a strong and effective force of men dedicated to our fraternity’s cardinal principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. Let us work together as we move toward March 1, 2020 when the census count begins. Let us make sure that all of our people know how important it is that every person gets counted in the census, because federal money flowing to our community, and the number of people we can elect to represent us, depend on an accurate census count. If we are not counted, we lose resources and representation, so let us join the effort and work hard to make sure we get a full and accurate count for the census.

In the words of famed teacher and poet, brother Sterling Brown, “One thing they cannot prohibit—The Strong Men.” Be strong my brothers and keep up the good work in the name of our fraternity, on behalf of your chapter, for the benefit of the community the state, our nation, and the world.

As we take time to mark this annual celebration and recognize those Omega Men and other community leaders who have rendered exemplary service and made significant contributions for the greater good of the community, I trust that each of you – every single brother (and sister) here this evening, on a daily basis, pays the cost of being a friend, showing patience, love and affection for your brothers, and for your fellow man, giving your time, and being willing to give your life, for the greater good, thus giving life to the motto of our dear fraternity, which is, that Friendship Is Essential To The Soul.

Thank you.

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