As we celebrate the sixth decade of the founding of Kappa Omicron Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., it becomes equally important that we honor and remember its genesis. To remember and honor is to recognize that history itself is “memoria futuri”. In simple terms, we acknowledge there is no future without memory. Our memory begins in the year of our Lord 1948. Like all momentous events in human evolution, it begins with an idea, a dream, and the ability to make ideas real and dreams come true.
At a meeting in the home of Brother Harry Denny, Jr. in early 1948, it was decided that there was a need for a new Omega Chapter in New York City. Brothers Bertrand Green, Clarence Lee, Augustus Jenkins, Harry Denny, Jr., Theodore Neely, S.H. Craig, Leonard E. Dickerson, Luther A. Thomas III and Lloyd T. Barnes, all men of attainment, same ideas of fellowship, scholarship, and manhood undertook the task of building a new Omega chapter in the largest city in America.
This was not easy. Their efforts were opposed by older and stronger chapters. They were even confronted by a national rule that prevented more than one chapter in a city. New York was already home of one of the largest and oldest chapters in the country. Epsilon Chapter, founded in New York April 18, 1919 was an Omega legend, and many of its best and brightest sons were members. The founders of Kappa Omicron were themselves members of Epsilon. Yet, despite the obstacles, these honorable men persevered. Many of them, former soldiers, new civil servants, and businessmen, brought an Omega spirit to their task. They convinced the national office to grant them a charter for the Bronx and negotiated an honorable departure from Epsilon. They also took with them the “Omega Showboat” which they had organized and made a “New York Happening”. On September 25, 1948, a night the U.S. Weather Service described as bright with the stars clearly visible, a dream came true. Kappa Omicron became the one hundredth star in the Omega constellation.
The first meeting of Kappa Omicron was held as well on that fateful September 25th date. Brother Mifflin T. Gibbs, 2nd district Representative traveled on this day to 601 East 167th Street, Bronx, New York and presented to the Brothers their coveted charter and gave a lecture on the duties and responsibilities of each officer and member. He renewed their allegiance by administering once again the sacred oath of Omega. Brother William Treynham called the meeting to order and suggested that brother Theodore Neeley act as temporary chairman for the purpose of chapter organization. This was approved. Brother Claude McAdams offered a prayer for their deliberations. He was later asked to record the minutes. After a brief discussion about organization, they decided to elect officers. Ripp Day- Basileus, Harry Denny, Jr. – Keeper of Records and Seal, Bertrand W. Green – Keeper of Finance, Clarence Lee – Chapter Editor, Harry Jefferson – Chaplain, Augustus Jenkins – Keeper of Peace, and Theodore Neeley – Vice Basileus were elected unanimously. Their election, a significant and historical event, began one of the most glorious and richest histories in Omega.
These men and the charter members immediately began the task of making Kappa Omicron the brightest light in the Omega galaxy. They organized to meet every mandated program of the Fraternity. Involving themselves in the community, they worked with the NAACP, National Urban League, YMCA, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. They organized charitable fundraisers, presented college scholarships and promoted, through the National Achievement Week Program, the good works of community leaders. They even had time in 1948 to name Ms. Lena Horne an Omega Sweetheart.
In 1949, the Chapter scored one of its greatest triumphs when at the prestigious Hotel Pierre, New York City; it honored Dr. Ralph Bunche, the Noble Peace Prize winner of 1948 as its Citizen of the Year. The dais included two of the founders, Bishop Edgar A. Love and Frank Coleman. Also present were the Supreme Council and National Executive Secretary, the Honorable H. Carl Moultrie. This event established with particular clarity the strength and viability of the new chapter. It caused notice.
In the fifties the chapter concentrated on social action. The brother, like most African Americans, began to focus on the inequalities of American life. They enthusiastically supported the NAACP with life memberships, by organizing voter registration drives, sending funds to freedom riders and increasing the amount of scholarships given. The Kappa Omicron Talent Hunt became a national event. Winners in the chapter’s talent hunt became District and National champions.
The 1960’s represented a generational change for the chapter. New members began to enter and replaced many of the early members. They brought with them a new perspective and commitment to social action and uplift. In 1961 they honored at the aforementioned Hotel Pierre the Honorable Dr. Robert Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the first African American cabinet member. Brother Weaver shared the dais with the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, Justice William Hastie, Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Dr. Ralph Bunche. Also in the sixties George Meares became First Vice Grand Basileus and Jeff L. Greenup, Grand Counselor. Brother Meares, a former Second District Representative, eventually became Grand Basileus. The chapter gave honor to other great men and women of distinction. Brother Clifford Alexander, the first African American Secretary of the Army; Honorable Constance Baker Motley, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit; brother Wiley A. Brantley, Civil Rights Attorney; and Brother Grant Reynolds, Grand Basileus received awards from the chapter.
The seventies was a decade of increased involvement and commitment. The Brothers socially involved, continued their work with the NAACP and other organizations. They made voter registration part of the chapter’s social action plan. Brothers set up voter information tables across New York. Donating money, manpower and man hours, and brothers reaffirmed their commitment to manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift. They honored the heroes of the day, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Commissioner of Human Rights, city of New York (Congressperson, Washington D.C.); Percy Sutton, Borough President of Manhattan; Brother Edwin Horne, DDS; Mother Hale; Dr. Samuel See Kountz, MD, international surgeon and expert on kidney transplantation; and Brother Fred Samuel, New York City councilman. Equally as important, the chapter moved from the fraternity house at 553 West 147th Street to its present location at 528 West 150th Street. Its opening was celebrated with a two day festival and open house.
In 1975, the chapter listed as its accomplishments: “original sponsor NAACP Law Day Program, sponsored drug addiction workshop, sponsored medical services for addicted babies at Hale House, collected 1,000 names of Medallion Cab Drivers who refused service to the African American community and organized a book drive for the Lanonne Moore Day Care and After Care Center”. The decade ended with a gala celebration. For the chapter’s 30th anniversary, Brothers honored Basil Patterson, Deputy mayor of the City of New York and Congressman Charles Rangel. The chapter donated $1,300.00 to the Schomburg Center for The Study and History of Black Culture. The chapter holds the distinction of being one of the earliest donors to this worthy institution. This gift with many others helped to create the first nationally renowned center for the study of African life and African American culture in the Americas and the world.
The eighties and nineties became the next generational change for Kappa Omicron. Legacy began to take hold. The sons of the members began to join the chapter. Armed with the history of their father’s achievements in the chapter, these sons of Omega with new members started to move into leadership position. Following a path set by the founders and their fathers, they brought a new era for Omega. Serving at the district and international level, these men maintained the standards set by their forbearers. In 1994, the Omega House became the Harry Denny, Jr. Fraternity House, a recognition that on September 25th, 1948 at 601 East 167th Street, Bronx, New York (the home of Brother Denny) Omega history was made. By the grace of the Supreme Basileus, that history continues to this day.
As we entered the new millennium of the twenty first century, the fraternity is faced with challenges that confront not only our organization but society as a whole. The condition of the African American male (both black and Hispanic) continues to be a cause for major concern. Our young males are no longer sufficiently represented in institutions of higher learning. The gender divide and growing absence of the nuclear family represent major threats to continued viability. Within the fraternity and the chapter we are challenged with developing leadership capable of protecting and advancing the achievements made by previous generations. Thus we have attempted to transform ourselves y identifying and selecting the best of our talented and educated young men. We have actively participated in mentoring our youth in programs such as the Eagle Academy, a charter school program located in the South Bronx where our chapter originated. Our Talent Hunt program, through years of effort by our late Brother Camille Taylor, continues as a shining example of our commitment to advancing talented community youth. Fundraising for scholarships that will assist our youth in meeting the financial burdens of college life remain a priority. Kappa Omicron Chapter is ready, willing, and quite capable of meeting these challenges.
In celebrating this, our history, we also remember to honor our brothers who have entered Omega Chapter. During the past decade Kappa Omicron has lost giants such as Brothers Rudy Powell, Robert McDaniel, Sr., Camille Taylor, Nereus Jackson, William Claiborne, Robert Early, Jr., Alfred Smith, Sr., John Johnson, and Joe Jackson to name a few. Their contribution and history is the true definition of “memoria future”. To forget their lives and the pain their loss has caused us is not to understand “without memory there is no future”. As we live, we must record their good deeds and the joys their friendship brought to our souls.
Six decades is momentous. Join us in body and spirit for the next six decades of service.