CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – Members of the first Black fraternity on University of Virginia grounds honored its Founders’ Day on Friday by paying homage to the enslaved people who built the university.
Omega Psi Phi brothers and others made their way from The Lawn at UVA to the newly-constructed Memorial to Enslaved Laborers in a silent march. There, song and prayer filled the cold November air as the fraternity celebrated Founders’ Day 110 years after its founding, and nearly five decades since a chapter was formed at the University of Virginia.
“The founders of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity were leading men in the community, they were bridge builders,” said Gary Flowers, who was initiated into the Lambda Zeta chapter at UVA in 1983. “So, we follow in their light tonight.”
While at the memorial, organizers asked everyone to touch the wall and read the names out loud. It was a tribute for those there, which many hope won’t end with those who gathered Friday.
“Because of these enslaved people, [UVA students] are able to attend this beautiful university and get a world-class education,” said Dee Dee French Boone. Her sister, Bertha, is the co-chair of the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at UVA.
The event was themed “From Building Bridges to Bridge Builders”, and Flowers says that should shape future goals.
“There is still a gap between the University of Virginia and the Black community in Charlottesville,” he said. “Those bridges should be built in the honor of those that came before us.”
He wants bridges built — but also tangible action.
“We have to beg the question: when will the descendants be paid for the work their ancestors did?”
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