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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Omega Psi Phi International Undergraduate Representative CJai Payne

In an effort to shed light on the emerging young leaders assuming pivotal roles within Black fraternities and sororities on the national and international level in 2024, Watch The Yard is highlighting CJai Payne who serves as an International Undergraduate Representative on the Supreme Council of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

An initiate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Tau Kappa Chapter of the fraternity, Payne is is pursuing engineering while embodying a commitment to both academic and fraternal endeavors.

In our conversation, we explore Payne’s position, aspirations, and the significance of leadership within his fraternity.

What motivated you to take on a role at the national level of your fraternity?

I was motivated to take on this role at at the national level to impact life all across the fraternity and not just make an impact in my district. There is a lot of work that needs to be done across this world.

What specific initiatives is the undergraduate council helping head up this year and how do you think they will improve local community or the broader Black community?

This year, the undergraduate council is spearheading several impactful initiatives aimed at enhancing the local community and uplifting the broader Black community. Among these initiatives are community outreach programs focused on addressing systemic issues such as education and healthcare disparities in marginalized neighborhoods. Additionally, the council is actively promoting diversity and inclusion through advocacy for policy changes within the university and organizing events that celebrate Black culture and heritage. By establishing mentorship programs and fostering collaborations with Black-owned businesses, the council is paving the way for increased support and opportunities for Black students and entrepreneurs. Through these efforts, the undergraduate council is not only fostering a more inclusive campus environment but also contributing to tangible improvements in the lives of Black individuals both within and beyond the university community.

What made you want to pledge Omega Psi Phi?

A mentorship program we have here in Omaha Nebraska called Omega sQuires made me want to be the bruhs. The mentorship program is at my old high school Omaha North for freshman to senior African American young men striving to be excellent in the classroom as well as active in the community. This mentorship program is ran by our undergraduate chapter Tau Kappa.

What is it about your specific district that makes it so unique?

The specific thing that makes my district so unique is we do it for the kids! Doing it for the kids is more than a slogan, it is a lifestyle. We are always reaching out to impact the youth rather that be in the schools or outside of the schools to instruct them because they are our future.

How is your work on the national level providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?

On a national level, my work involves providing resources, guidance, and support to the undergraduate chapters I oversee. This support encompasses a range of areas, including organizational management, leadership development, and advocacy. By offering access to training workshops, educational materials, and networking opportunities, I aim to empower these chapters to excel in their endeavors and effectively address the needs of their communities. Additionally, I facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing among chapters, enabling them to learn from each other’s successes and challenges. Through ongoing communication and mentorship, I strive to ensure that each undergraduate chapter feels connected, supported, and equipped to make a positive impact in their respective regions.

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie between undergraduate and alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

Fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie between undergraduate and alumni members is essential for maintaining a strong and supportive community. One approach I take is to create opportunities for meaningful engagement and collaboration across generations. This could involve organizing joint events, such as networking mixers, volunteer projects, or mentorship programs, where both undergraduate and alumni members can connect and exchange experiences.

Additionally, I emphasize the importance of recognizing and celebrating the contributions of alumni while also valuing the perspectives and energy of undergraduate members. By establishing channels for communication, feedback, and mutual support, such as alumni advisory boards or online forums, I aim to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and respect where all members feel valued and connected. Through these strategies, I have found that fostering personal connections and shared experiences can strengthen the bonds between undergraduate and alumni members, fostering a sense of unity and solidarity within the community.

What advice would you give to aspiring undergrad leaders within Black fraternities and sororities who may aspire to take on roles of leadership on the national level?

For aspiring undergraduate leaders within Black fraternities and sororities who aspire to take on roles of leadership on the national level, I would offer several pieces of advice.

Firstly, prioritize personal growth and development by actively seeking out opportunities for leadership training, skill-building, and mentorship within your local chapter and broader community.

Secondly, demonstrate a strong commitment to the values and mission of your organization by actively engaging in service, advocacy, and community-building initiatives.

Thirdly, cultivate strong relationships with current national leaders and alumni members by demonstrating integrity, initiative, and a willingness to learn from their experiences.

Finally, be proactive in seeking out leadership opportunities at the national level, whether through formal elections, appointed positions, or participation in committees and task forces.

How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?

Mentorship has played a crucial role in shaping my journey and guiding me to where I am today. Through the guidance, support, and wisdom of mentors, I have been able to navigate challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and continuously grow as a leader and individual. Within my organization, there have been several individuals who have made a significant impact on my life as mentors, offering invaluable advice, encouragement, and perspective. Their guidance has not only helped me develop professionally but has also fostered personal growth and resilience. By providing mentorship, these individuals have empowered me to overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and strive for excellence in all endeavors, for which I am deeply grateful.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

Watch The Yard holds significant importance within Black greekdom as it serves as a vital platform for amplifying the voices, achievements, and contributions of Black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) and their members. By spotlighting the rich history, traditions, and accomplishments of BGLOs, Watch The Yard celebrates and preserves the legacy of these organizations while also showcasing their ongoing impact on communities and society at large.

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

I love being an Omega men because it is all I know.

Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?

Brotherhood, to me, encapsulates a deep and enduring bond of mutual support, respect, and camaraderie among individuals who share common values, goals, and experiences. It extends beyond mere friendship to embody a profound sense of connection, loyalty, and accountability. Brotherhood is about standing by one another through both triumphs and tribulations, offering unwavering support, encouragement, and empathy. It entails fostering an inclusive and nurturing environment where each member feels valued, accepted, and empowered to reach their fullest potential. Brotherhood is not just a title or affiliation; it is a commitment to upholding shared principles of integrity, service, and unity, and to actively contributing to the growth and well-being of the collective.

Our conversation with CJai Payne offers a glimpse into the multifaceted world of leadership within Black fraternities and sororities in 2024. Payne’s dedication to his role as an International Undergraduate Representative on the Supreme Council of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., coupled with his academic pursuits, underscores the depth of commitment among young leaders in shaping the future of Black greekdom. Payne’s journey serves as a testament to the enduring relevance and impact of leadership in fostering growth, unity, and progress.

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