The Divine Nine (D9) is home to many phenomenal historic organizations who are rooted in service to the Black community. One of the most notable of the National Panhellenic Council is Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. These wholesome men in purple and gold lead lives dedicated to their key pillars of “manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift” while promoting the motto of “Friendship is essential to the soul.”
Birthed on the campus of Howard University of November 17, 1911, Omega Psi Phi is the first D9 fraternity to be established at an HBCU. The fraternity was founded by three undergraduate students—Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman— and academic advisor Dr. Ernest Everett Just. Today, the "Ques," as they are affectionately referred to, continue to carry the vision of their founders both through collegiate and graduate chapters, domestically and internationally. The chances are that you know someone who is a part of this fraternity or have seen the substantial work that they have done for the community.
In honor of their 111th Founders' Day this week, here are some historical figures and celebrities who are members of the illustrious fraternity who have positively contributed to Black history and culture.
Rev. Jesse Jackson
A religious leader, activist and politician, Rev. Jesse Jackson was a pivotal figure during the civil rights movement. Continuing in his commitment to public service and social good, Jackson ran a strong campaign for president of the United States. Although he did not win, he has continued to be a driving force for equity and unity.
Dr. Charles Drew
Dr. Charles Drew is one of the most monumental figures in modern science. Born in 1904, he was a surgeon that defied the stereotypes and boundaries placed upon him as a Black man. Gaining respect for his prodigious talents, his creation of blood plasma storage system and the Unites States' first blood bank has tremendously changed the course of the field and saved countless lives.
One of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan changed the game for how sports figures could transcend their arenas and go beyond what was typically expected of them. With the successful launch of the Jordan brand, the basketball icon and entrepreneur is the blueprint for many athletes when it comes to taking the lead and establishing their own business brands. In 2016, Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Carter G. Woodson
Nicknamed the "Father of Black History Month," Carter G. Woodson was a historian, publisher, writer and educator. Born in 1875, his work helped to further define the study of Black diasporic history. In 1926, he founded "Negro History Week," which later turned into what we now observe as Black History Month. Woodson also established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
Attorney Ben Crump is a social justice warrior who strives to fight for social equity in our communities. Coming to prominence for his work in the case of Trayvon Martin, he has been dubbed the "Black American Attorney General" for his efforts to right wrongful death lawsuits. Crump was recently the subject of a Netflix documentary,—which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year—about his life and career.
After enrolling into Syracuse University in 1935, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh broke color lines and became the first Black student athlete at the academic institution. Although he excelled at both basketball and football, he was the subject of discrimination while at the school and was, for a time, banned from playing on account of his race. A Tuskeegee Airman, Sidat-Singh passed away during a training mission and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The great bandleader Count Basie led the Count Basie Orchestra for five decades. He innovated many of the tenets that now define jazz music today, and is renown for his dynamic and soulful musical compositions. His style experimentally merged blues with jazz which made way for future genres of music to build from.
Jalen Hurts is a rising star in the NFL. He's definitely one to watch. He recently led the Philadelphia Eagles to great heights this season in an effort that fans of the team haven't seen in years.
Brigadier General Charles Young
Born to enslaved parents, Brigadier Col. Charles Young was an activist, educator, diplomat and soldier. He served dilligently while at West Point Academy and was the third Black American to graduate from the prestigious U.S. military institution. In 1903, he became the the first African-American national park superintendent and presided over the maintenance of Sequoia National Park. He also became the first Black military diplomat as well as the first Black man to achieve the rank of Colonel in the U.S. army. Young recently received his flowers this year with the posthumous bestowment of the status ranking of Brigadier General.
A writer, activist and documentarian, Byron Hurt has created some of the most culturally relevant documentaries of our time, including Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Soul Food Junkies and Hazing. His bodies of work have added to larger conversations within the Black community.