Black Fraternity Omega Psi Phi Celebrates 100 Years of Service to the Los Angeles Community

Black Fraternity Omega Psi Phi Celebrates 100 Years of Service to the Los Angeles Community

A staple in the community for a full century, the Los Angeles-based Lambda Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity brought its members together May 19-21 to celebrate its rich history of scholarship, brotherhood, and service in a fun-filled evening commemorating the organization. A collection of undergraduate, graduate, and alumni members representing more than 60 years of chapter membership traveled from all over the country to participate in this monumental weekend, hosted by the Lambda Scholar Foundation Inc.

The theme of the centennial celebration was “Many Walks of Life – The Common Bond of Friendship.” Held at the famed Town & Gown at the University of Southern California campus, the event drew nearly 300 guests for an evening comprised of an outdoor reception, dinner, a gala program, a chapter photo, dancing, and a special step show. The event was hosted by television and radio commentator Morris Will O’Kelly with a special appearance and keynote address from Ricky L. Lewis, the fraternity’s 42nd Grand Basileus (international president).

In his opening speech, emcee Mo’Kelly shared, “You can’t tell the story of the western expansion of our great fraternity into a truly national, and eventually international, organization, and not also tell the story of [the] Lambda chapter.”

In his keynote address, Grand Basileus Lewis shared his gratitude. “We thank you for what you’ve done ever since 1923. We thank you for the common bond of friendship,” he said, continuing, “We especially thank Lambda chapter for all the work you’ve done and for what you’ll continue to do to uphold the four cardinal principles.”

Along with Grand Basileus Lewis, 15 of the fraternity’s current and former officers attended the gala, including newly elected thirty-fifth 12th District Representative William Earl Edwards Jr., who was recently installed at the fraternity’s district meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Honorable dignitaries present were Ryan Thomas, 2nd Vice Grand Basileus; in addition to now sitting leadership which includes Edward Young, First Vice District Representative; Maurice Mason II, 2nd Vice District Representative; Nick Thompson, 12th District Keeper of the Seal; Raphael Irving, 12th District Keeper of Finance; Charles Clemons, 12th District Chaplain; Damon Martin, 12th District Counselor; Kwame Dow, Immediate Past and thirty-fourth 12th District Representative; Kelvin K. Ampofo, Immediate Past 2nd District Representative; Fred Alexander, thirty-first 12th District Representative; Sedrick Spencer, thirtieth 12th District Representative; Reverend Dr. Jewett L. Walker, Jr., twentieth 12th District Representative; Tony Collins, Grand Marshal for the 1996 69th Grand Conclave in Los Angeles; and Gerard Catala (’98 Beta Chapter), Rhode Island NAACP President.

Also in attendance at the Lambda chapter’s celebratory gala was Omega Psi Phi’s Franklin Henderson, who was initiated in 1950 at Beta Sigma Chapter, Southern University. Guests celebrated and applauded the spry elder whose membership in the fraternity spans 70 years.

Omega Psi Phi was founded in 1911 on the campus of Howard University and is the nation’s third-oldest historically black fraternity. The fraternity is geographically divided into 12 districts with over 750 chapters collectively. It has initiated more than 200,000 members.

In 2011, the international body of Omega Psi Phi held its Centennial Celebration to its founding in 1911. Since then, the international organization has brought in notable members across the arts: Langston Hughes, Rickey Smiley, William (Count) Basie, and Steve Harvey; athletes Steve McNair and Michael Jordan; businessmen Earl Graves, Nathaniel Bronner, and Byron E. Lewis; civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Hooks, and Roy Wilkins; and many others representing perseverance in every field of human endeavor.

Chartered on May 3, 1923, at USC, Lambda is the first and only West Coast single-letter, undergraduate chapter in the fraternity’s 12th District and the first to celebrate 100 years along the Pacific. To date, nearly 400 Omega men have come through the chapter and continue to build the chapter’s illustrious moniker “Pearl of the West Coast,” also called “Slammin’ Lambda.” The local chapter itself includes distinguished names and barrier-breaking members including architect Paul Revere Williams, FAIA; Judge Thomas L. Griffith, Jr.; star athletes William McKinley Peterz, Sebron “Ed” Tucker (Stanford Hall of Fame), Brice Union Taylor (USC Athletic Hall of Fame and Southern University coach in the first game that later became the Bayou Classic), record holder Wilalyn Q. Stovall and Stevan Simmons (All-American); civil rights litigator Erskine Stevenson Ragland and Centennial co-chair Al Sargent (co-creator of the original USC Black Graduation), among other notable men in their respective professions. Notably, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Griffith’s granddaughter Christina Hill, was also in attendance, representing in honor of her family.

Emmy award-winning actor Courtney B. Vance, who once narrated a PBS special on Hollywood architect Paul Williams, a notable member of Lambda Chapter, delivered a congratulatory video message to all the Lambda men in honor of the 100-year celebration.

Lambda’s Centennial weekend activities included a reception at Pips on La Brea Restaurant & Lounge on Friday night and the black-tie Centennial Celebration on Saturday, culminating in a private fraternity cookout on Sunday. Gala guests received a curated photo book on the chapter’s history, while Lambda members also received a custom lapel pin. As part of a fundraiser, a collectible Centennial brick was produced to commemorate this moment in the chapter’s history.

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