On February 18, 1922, Omega Psi Phi became the first historically Black Greek-Letter fraternal organization to be chartered at Syracuse University. On the weekend of April 22-24, 2022, brothers representing five decades reconvened in Syracuse to celebrate the Kappa chapter’s 100 years of brotherhood, scholarship and service to Syracuse University and the surrounding community.
“The opportunity to celebrate your chapter’s centennial is a monumental occasion,” says David L. Jackson ’17, who chaired the weekend’s events with Ronald Harvey ’12. “The fraternity provided me a lot of opportunities and support in terms of academics and great friendships, so helping to organize this celebration was a way to pay homage to the brothers who made it possible for me to be part of the legacy.”
Jackson says the legacy of the Kappa chapter includes extensive community service. He points to a backpack drive that supports students at Van Duyn Elementary School and canned food drives for multiple community centers. “Our legacy is not just that we’ve turned 100 years old, but that as a campus organization, we’ve worked to make an impact on the Syracuse community over those decades.”
Despite concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 120 Kappa chapter Ques descended on Syracuse from all over the United States, including Jackson from Miami, Harvey from Dallas, Zaire Franklin ’17 from Indianapolis, Michael Blackshear ’91 from Atlanta, and Vincent Cohen Jr. ’92, L’95, from Washington, DC, the latter two members of Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees.
The Centennial weekend kicked off on Friday evening with a welcome reception and after party.
On Saturday, the focus turned more introspective, beginning with a chapter rededication ceremony that morning, led by Omega Psi Phi Grand Basileus Andrew Ray, a tremendous honor to have his presence and participation.
“During that ceremony, the brothers retook the oath that affirmed them to the principles and ideals of Omega,” says Benjamin Jeffers ’74, current graduate advisor to the Kappa chapter. “To see one hundred and twenty-plus brothers return to the place where their Omega experience began was a great and truly unique experience.”
Following the ceremony, the brothers held a leadership workshop for undergraduate men, Black Men Build, held at the Hall of Languages. “We have some notable members within our ranks, so this was our attempt to share our experiences and knowledge, to talk about what manhood means today,” says Jackson.
The day culminated with the Centennial Banquet held at the Syracuse Marriott that evening. For Jackson, who served as chapter basileus while an undergrad, one of the highlights was the viewing of a video created for the event to capture the chapter’s history. “I had an opportunity to speak to brothers who joined a fraternity in the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, up to 2000,” he says. “Hearing voices of individuals that paved the way and about what the chapter was like during their time on campus was something that resonated deeply in my heart because they are the reason those that followed are here.”
In conjunction with the Centennial weekend, Kappa alumnus Joseph Edwards ’83 brought his nationally acclaimed one-man show, Fly, to Syracuse, with four performances at the Redhouse between April 20 and 23. “This was a way to showcase some of the talents of the individuals within our chapter and our fraternity,” says Harvey.
According to Edwards, the Centennial weekend was an occasion to reflect on the chapter’s 100-year legacy. “We have been a force fighting for social justice and inclusion all these years,” he says. “We didn’t have the phrase ‘safe space,’ but Omega Psi Phi has been creating a safe space for Black and Latino students on our campus for 100 years, while at the same time being scholars and serving our community.”
The weekend left a lasting imprint on all those who attended. “I’m still riding the wave,” says Jackson, a month after the event.
For Warren Dixon ’24, the Kappa chapter’s most recent initiate, the weekend was a profound illustration of what makes the fraternity so special. “The greatest moment during this beautiful weekend was when brothers from multiple eras stood on the quad and shared songs, pictures and marches,” he says. “I am overjoyed I was able to attend this event, and more importantly, to be one of the newest pieces of Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi.”