ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In the middle of what is often considered a food desert in St. Petersburg, a group of men dressed in purple and gold handed out enough food to feed 500 families.
“We know as members of this fraternity that there are all kinds of wonderful things African American men are doing in communities throughout this country and world, but it's good to be here in brotherhood doing it,” Andre Young said.
Young is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, a historically Black Greek letter organization (BGLO) founded more than 100 years ago.
“We were founded in 1911 on the campus of Howard University. It's a historically African American National Panhellenic Council Organization. We have chapters throughout the United States and Internationally, and our commitment to our communities is to lift as we climb,” Young said.
The Florida Statewide Organization of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is holding its 45th annual workshop in St. Petersburg over the weekend and wanted to include the community.
“We're here in this area because it's basically a food desert,” Young said. “We wanted to plant a seed in the community, not just come and support the hotels and the banquet facilities, but to actually do something for the people of St. Pete. So, we chose this area. It's a historically black community. We're on the grounds of a historically black church and partnering with them, they've been out here helping us this morning to get the food out to the community.”
What’s unique about Omega Psi Phi, also known as “Ques,” is they are part of the Divine Nine, a collection of historically Black fraternities and sororities formed during the Jim Crow era of segregation.
“They were founded because back in the early 1900s when we were first really beginning to enter college and university in large numbers, and we needed one another's help to succeed. Not just on majority campuses, but even on minority campuses. You needed people to help you study, you needed someone you could borrow resources from because you may have come from a poor family or a small town where everybody basically collected money to even get you to campus, and so when you got there, you needed a network there to help you get through,” Young said.
“We're still doing that today on campuses all across this campus. And we also have graduate chapters as well. Unlike the Panhellenic Council, which is historically white fraternities, you can join African American fraternities while in undergrad or as a professional. We also have graduate chapters because our communities need so much help.”
Florida State Representative Kevin Woodall emphasized the influence and impact black fraternities and sororities have on uplifting the African American community.
“The only way that you can get in this organization is you have to be college-trained and college-educated,” Woodall said. “A lot of kids coming up don't get to see black males that are professionals that are educated. They don't see them in large groups such as ourselves. That's why we always try to come back to the community and touch lives.”
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