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Many of you know that famous Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes was a member of Omega Psi Phi, but you probably never knew how much he loved the Omega pledge process. We have found a quote from the writer on what the Omega Psi Phi process was like back in the day.

In the winter of 1925 after traveling the world, working as a personal assistant to Carter G. Woodson, and successfully publishing his highly acclaimed book, “The Weary Blues”, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester County, Pennsylvania. There he joined Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.’s Beta Chapter.

In The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Volume 13, Hughes opens up about how much he loved hazing at his school.

“Hazing was terrific. Incoming freshmen were given the paddling of their lives practically every night from the opening of classes until the holidays. They were called dogs, made to roll pencils with their noses, to clean the sophmores’ rooms, to ‘assume the angle’ for paddling, and to write insulting letters to their girl friends. At Thanksgiving, just before the annual big game, in the dead of night, all freshmen were seized and their heads shaved bald.”

He also opens up about the Omega pledge process:

“Fraternity initiations occasionally sent agonized howls into the darkness around the countryside, whole woods and fields being available for the ordeal of brotherhood. The manhood rites of an African tribe could hardly have required more strength of the aspirants. When I was initiated, because I was a poet with my first book published and my name in the papers, each of my brothers to be was inclined to think every other brother would let me off easy. The result-each and every brother laid on with such a heavy hand, applying so many licks to be sure the poet would be well initiated, that I could scarcely walk for a week.
“A New Negro, huh?” Wham!
“The boy poet, heh?” Wham!”

After Hughes earned a B.A. degree from Lincoln University in 1929, he moved back to New York where he lived primarily until his death. He is one of the most cited poets of his time.

Click on the arrows below to see quotes from Bro. Hughes that still ring true today.

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  1. alpha1906

    August 20, 2015 at 10:57 am

    You’re using the word “terrific” in the wrong context. From that passage, Hughes is not talking about how much he loved hazing. He’s using the definition of terrific to mean: of great size, amount, or intensity. Reading Hughes experience, you can’t draw even remotely that he enjoyed hazing.

    • Occasio Gee

      September 6, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Frater Ross don’t educate them now. You’re going to make them dangerous.

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Deltas

Did You Know That Malcolm X’s Wife Dr. Betty Shabazz Was A Member Of Delta Sigma Theta?

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Did you know that Malcolm X’s wife Dr. Betty Shabazz was a member of Delta Sigma Theta?

It is true! Dr. Betty Shabazz, widow of slain Civil Rights activist Malcolm X, was a member of the New York Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Dr. Shabazz, whose original name was Betty Dean Sanders was born May 28, 1934, to Ollie Mae Sanders and Shelman Sandlin. She grew up in an abusive home but at the age of 11 she was taken in by Lorenzo Mallory, a prominent businessman and his wife Helen. Helen Malloy was a founding member of the Housewives League of Detroit, a group of African-American women who organized campaigns to support black-owned businesses and boycott stores that refused to hire black employees as well as a member of the National Council of Negro Women and the NAACP.

While her foster parents were very active in the Black community, they tried to shelter Betty from racism and did not talk about it at home. In an interview Betty once reflected on the avoidance of addressing racial inequalities in her household, “Race relations were not discussed and it was hoped that by denying the existence of race problems, the problems would go away. Anyone who openly discussed race relations was quickly viewed as a ‘troublemaker.'”

After finishing high school Betty left Detroit to move to Alabama to study education at the historically black college, Tuskegee Institute, which now goes by Tuskegee University. As she was about to get on the train to head south for school, her foster mother mumbled something to Betty that she didn’t understand. She was trying to warn Betty about the racism that awaited her down south. “The minute I got off that stage, I knew what she was trying to say. She was trying to tell me in ten words or less about racism,” Betty said later in an interview.

Betty had a very hard time dealing with Jim Crow racism in Alabama so much so that she changed her major from education to nursing and then moved to New York through a Tuskegee-affiliated program at the Brooklyn State College School of Nursing against her parents’ will.

In her second year of nursing school, Betty came in contact with the Nation of Islam because a friend invited her to a dinner party held by them. Although she wasn’t interested at first, she loved the food that they served at the party and was invited again by the same friend who told her that this time, a handsome minister would be talking and that “all the sisters want him.” Betty attended the second event and the minister who her friend had told her about happened to be none other than Malcolm X.

“I really had a lot of pent-up anxiety about my experience in the South,” Shabazz told an interviewer in 1990, “and Malcolm reassured me that it was understandable how I felt.”

Malcolm took an interest in Betty, she joined the Nation of Islam and changed her name to Betty X. The two soon started dating but in a way that was acceptable by the Nation of Islam’s teachings. The Nation teaches against one-on-one dates so members would meet up in large groups and go on group dates to visit New York’s museums and libraries and Malcolm would always ask Betty to attend.

On January 14, 1958, the same day that she received her nursing license, the two got married in Lansing, Michigan.

In the early years of their marriage, Malcolm followed the Nation’s strict marriage structure of a husband controlling and leading and the wife submitting, but things soon changed:

“We would have little family talks,” Betty once stated. They began at first with Malcolm telling me what he expected of a wife. But the first time I told him what I expected of him as a husband it came as a shock. After dinner one night he said, “Boy, Betty, something you said hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I’ve been going along having our little workshops with me doing all the talking and you doing all the listening.” He concluded our marriage should be a mutual exchange.”

Shabazz had six children with Malcolm and in 1964 the couple decided to leave the Nation of Islam, convert to Sunni Islam and change their last names from X to Shabazz.

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm was assassinated while standing at the podium giving a speech by a group of men with sawed-off shotguns and pistols who were members of the Nation of Islam. He was hit 16 times and died from the wounds. Betty was in the crowd watching the speech with her daughters.

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Betty Shabazz at her husband Malolm X’s funeral —Hartsdale, New York, March 4, 1965 — Photo Credit AP

Shabazz had a tough time after the assassination. She was raising six children by herself, was dealing with anger and sadness and finances were tight.

In 1969, she enrolled at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) to finish the degree in education that she left behind when she decided to become a nurse. She was able to finish her undergrad studies in one year and went on to get a masters in health administration. In 1972, she enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to do an Ed.D. in higher education administration and curriculum development.

Shabazz joined Delta Sigma Theta in April 1974 while getting her doctorate at the the University of Massachusetts Amherst which she received in 1975.

She went on to teach health sciences with a concentration in nursing at Medgar Evers College in New York where in 1984 she was given the title, Director of Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs, a position she held until her death.

In 1997, Betty’s grandson Malcolm set a fire in her apartment that resulted in her suffering burns on over 80 percent of her body and she died three weeks later at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. The grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter and arson.

Shabazz was buried next to her husband at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York and the funeral was attended by over 2,000 people.

She was active in the New York Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., until her death and now has memorials dedicated to her across the United States.

Share this article with your network and let them know about this interesting fact about Delta Sigma Theta.

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Share this article with your network and let them know about this interesting fact about Delta Sigma Theta.

We have searched the internet and gathered some pictures and video of Betty from over the years. Click on the arrows below to see them.

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Alphas

Tuskegee Airman Who Chartered a Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha in the 1940s Shares His Story

In the 1940s, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity sought to further address the educational, economic, political, and social needs of black Americans. News of the fraternity’s exploits quickly spread, and the organization chartered over two hundred chapters across the nation. Word of the fraternity’s impact reached a group of men in Lansing, Michigan, where twelve black men attending Michigan State College (now Michigan State University), organized a social club called “Gentleman of State.”

William Horton Thompson was one of those men.

I met with William Thompson in 2014 at his apartment on Detroit’s east side, where he told me “Gentleman of State” was the precursor to the first black fraternity at Michigan State. We had a lengthy conversation about his experience as an Alpha in the 1940s. I was impressed by how crisply the 96-year-old remembered facts about his line brothers, details from the chartering ceremony, and other defining moments from the era. Listening to the history of how Alpha came to be at the school I attended sixty years later, was an amazing experience.

In December 1946, the men formed a committee to investigate the following fraternities: Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi. After mulling over the aims and ideals of each fraternity, the men held a vote to decide which fraternity to charter. They held two rounds of voting. On the first ballot, Alpha received six votes, Kappa two votes and Omega one vote. When the men voted a second time, Alpha received seven votes. It was decided: the men of “Gentleman of State” were to become members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

After confirming that Alpha Phi Alpha would be the fraternity they would pursue, the men needed to first be initiated into the Sphinx Club. The Sphinx Club, the pledge club of Alpha Phi Alpha, was a stage for potential members to learn about the history, traditions, and ideals of the fraternity. In June 1947, nine of those men were initiated into the Sphinx Club, with the help of brothers an hour away at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor — the Epsilon chapter.

Thompson told me about his time in the Sphinx Club: driving back and forth from Lansing to Ann Arbor, receiving “impressions” from the brothers with a paddle, and volunteering for an hour a week at the Lincoln Community Center in Lansing. The first meeting of the Michigan State College Sphinx Club was held on campus at the start of the fall term in October 1947. Permanent officers of the pledge club were elected and a committee was formed to create a constitution.

In the December of 1947, Epsilon chapter initiated nine brothers from Michigan State College and four brothers from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. “I crossed December 7th, 1947,” Thompson said. “I crossed at Epsilon because there were no black Greek organizations at Michigan State at the time. We were taken in by Epsilon chapter and formed a chapter at State.”

The newly minted brothers then were able to petition the fraternity to finally establish a charter at the college. On May 1, 1948, the Gamma Tau chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was officially chartered at Michigan State College — the very first organization for black students.

“Can you tell me anything about this picture?” I asked.

“Oh yes, May 1st, 1948,” Thompson recalled, after taking a sip of his beer. “We were recognized by the college. It was a lot of college officials there. It was a big thing, we were all in tuxedos…see? This is me, and Bill Haithco, Herb Burnett, Cal Sharpe, Fred Johnson. I can’t think of our faculty advisor’s name.”

The picture of the brothers in tuxedos was taken at the formal banquet for the chartering ceremony, held in the extravagant East Room of Lansing’s major hotel, the Hotel Olds.

Thompson, who was born in Lansing, boasts a proud legacy at the university. His father, William O. Thompson, was the first black student to graduate from the college in 1904. His son, William Thompson, Jr., pledged Alpha at Michigan State University in 1982.

“My father, W. O. Thompson, was the first black to graduate from MSU. That was before it was any black fraternities, in 1904,” Thompson said. “He went down to Tuskegee, Alabama, where he graduated and worked under Booker T. Washington for a while. Then he came back to Lansing. The racism in Alabama was so bad, he couldn’t handle it. He came back to Lansing and started medical school.”

Before entering college, Thompson first served as a Tuskegee Airman, one of the legendary black aviators who fought against the Nazis in World War II. “When I was in the service, I was in flight training. I was a Tuskegee Airman,” the private first class told me proudly. “I was in the first class that flew, I was in primary class. We were a part of history.”

After completing his service, Thompson chose Michigan State because of its proximity to his family.

“I chose MSU because when I got out the service, my mother and stepfather lived in Lansing,” Thompson told me. “It was just a matter of home base, you know?”

But through Alpha, Thompson gained another family. Because there were only a handful of black students at Michigan State College at the time, the brothers of Gamma Tau were extremely close. “There were only about forty or fifty black students at the college at the time,” Thompson said.

The chapter would frequently participate in the annual Fraternity Soap Box Derby, where the brothers would come together to construct a race car against the white fraternities. Of course, the “Alpha Jet” was painted gold.

The brothers wanted to find housing for the chapter, but kept running into the pervasive issues of housing discrimination and racism. Securing housing was a huge problem for blacks in East Lansing, where the campus is located, because blacks were not allowed to rent homes near the college. So black students were forced to commute to class from Lansing.

Thompson told me about the brothers’ experience living in a house more than three miles from campus on 318 Elm Street.

“Herb Burnett, the guy holding our charter in the photo, is…he, uh..was kinda our resident manager. He had a job where he had a car, and he could drive between Lansing and Detroit,” the 96-year-old recalled. “It wasn’t cars everywhere.”

But the distance was not a disadvantage, as the brothers achieved the second highest grade point average of all the fraternities on campus. The chapter eventually purchased that house.

“A couple of years later, we bought that house. All us guys were out of school by then, we were struggling. Young families and all that. But the fraternity was just starting a program, the goal of the program was to buy a fraternity house wherever there was a chapter of Alpha. We were the first ones to get in on this program.”

He beamed. “We bought that house on 318 Elm St.”

In 2015, brothers that attended and pledged Alpha at Michigan State University throughout the years, gathered to meet William Thompson at the Historic Alpha House in Detroit. We held a cupping ceremony, a long-standing chapter tradition in which we circle up by order of crossing year, pass around a large ceremonial cup, and explain what this brotherhood has meant to us, to the group.

I held the cup for William Thompson, as he explained who he was and what the brotherhood meant to him.

“The brotherhood is dear to me due to the fact that we were so close. Especially up there at Michigan State, because there weren’t that many blacks in the area. I’m not going to hog all the time, I’m just glad to be here with you brothers,” Thompson told us.

“I’m an Alpha man.”

William Thompson died on December 24, 2016. He was active with the Gamma Lambda chapter in Detroit from 1951, until the time of his death. The legacy he and his line brothers started in 1948 still lives on today.

I’m just proud to have been able to have met him.

About the Author: Philip Lewis is a front page editor at HuffPost. He was initiated into the Zeta Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc at Michigan State University in 2011. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

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History

Iota Phi Theta Founder Webster Lewis Was a Famous Jazz/ Disco Keyboardist

The brothers of Iota Phi Theta know it, but many outside of their great fraternity don’t know that one of the fraternity’s founders just so happens to be the amazing jazz and disco keyboardist, Webster Lewis.

Lewis was born in Baltimore in 1943 and attended Morgan State University where he became one of the founders of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. in 1963.

Top Row: Elias Dorsey, Charles Brown, Webster Lewis

He attended the New England Conservatory of Music for his masters and went on to a have a very notable music career.

He started in jazz where he worked with George Russell, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, Stanton Davis, and the Piano Choir and in 1976, he signed with Epic Records where he produced a string of successful disco hits including “On the Town/Saturday Night Steppin’ Out/Do it With Style” in 1977 and “Give Me Some Emotion” in the 80s, both of which hit the music charts.

Lewis made a name for himself as a session musician and studio arranger, for greats including Barry White, Herbie Hancock, and others.

In the 80s he moved into doing soundtrack work for film and TV, including the movies The Hearse (1980), Body and Soul (1981) and My Tutor (1983).

In 2002, he passed away as a result of diabetes but his memory lives on through his hits and musical contributions as well as his phenomenal work to establish Iota Phi Theta.

Listen to some of his well-known hits below.

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