The Washington Post

Stars come out for Omega Psi Phi centennial

Omega Psi Phi brothers, from left, Tom Joyner, Bill Cosby and Shaquille O’Neal. (Associated Press/Wire Image)

With temperatures hovering at 100 degrees this week, Washington is hardly the ideal convention destination. But thousands — including plenty of big names — will brave the heat and humidity for a once-in-a-lifetime event: the 100th anniversary of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Bill Cosby, Tom Joyner, Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Harvey are just a few of the brothers coming to the five-day celebration, which kicks off Wednesday. The fraternity boasts a long list of political, sports and business leaders — Michael Jordan, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan, Doug Wilder, Alonzo Mourning and Earl Graves, to name just a few — who might show up for part of the festivities depending on debt-ceiling debates and other distractions.

Founded at Howard University on Nov. 17, 1911, the fraternity grew to one of the best-known Greek organizations at historically black colleges and universities. It’s grown into 700 chapters around the world, and thousands of members — anyone from the past 100 years — were invited to join the party here in D.C.

Pledges for the Omega Psi Phi fraternity practice their step routine in the Fisk University gymnasium in Nashville in 1969. (Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

“It’s a huge deal,” said Michel Daley, owner of now-defunct Zanzibar nightclub and a proud Omega. “It’s a major milestone for the fraternity.”

And so the Ques (one of their nicknames) will be all over town: The official celebration is based at the convention center, but every enterprising bar owner has already printed up a purple-and-gold “Welcome Omegas” banner.

Anniversary highlights include Thursday’s show at Howard, where comedians will honor Cosby, Harvey and Rickey Smiley. Friday’s salute to sports and entertainment stars features O’Neal and Joyner at the convention center (they’ll host an afterparty at Ibiza benefiting Joyner’s Foundation, which supports black colleges and universities). The step show Friday at Howard will be a sentimental favorite; the big finish is Saturday’s founders’ banquet.


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