Greetings Brothers!

“…There will be no slow motion or still lifes of Roy Wilkins strolling through Watts in a red, black, and green liberation jumpsuit that he has been saving for just the proper occasion…”

These are the lyrics of famed musician, poet, and author, Gil Scott-Heron who wrote and released “The Revolution will not be Televised,” a poem/proclamation first recited over African conga rhythms in 1971 and later recorded by his full band. The song enjoyed five weeks on the Billboard charts and remains a reminder that art truly does imitate life.

In the two to three years preceding the release of “The Revolution will not be Televised,” Scott-Heron had spent two years as an undergraduate at Lincoln University, home of Beta Chapter, and decided to take time away from school to write music, poetry, and books. Between 1968 and 1972, Scott-Heron wrote “The Revolution will not be Televised” (1971) and, for the purposes of this week’s Monday Pearl, a book titled “The Nigger Factory” (1972). These two artistic expressions reflected the changing times, particularly as they related to evolving notions of black leadership, black education, and strategies for achieving community self-determination. I found it interesting that Omega appears in both of Scott-Heron’s cultural statements. First, Roy Wilkins, then head of the NAACP, was an Omega man representing what Scott-Heron believed was the “old guard” whose policies and approaches to achieving freedom and equality were outdated and ineffective. Second, in his novel “The Nigger Factory,” Scott-Heron writes a fictional depiction of student unrest and protest on many college campuses at the time. In his novel, Scott-Heron dramatizes the events leading up to a student-lead protest and boycott of fictional Sutton University (Sutton, VA). In the novel, Scott-Heron again references Omega, this time by name.

Scott-Heron describes the organizers of the Sutton “revolution” as members of Omega Psi Phi who organized themselves as MJUMBE to initiate change at Sutton. MJUMBE is Swahili for messenger but as an acronym stood for Members of Justice United for Meaningful Black Education. In describing the various characters in the novel, Scott-Heron seems to highlight their shared notions of leadership, friendship, courage, and faith and trust in one another. It is striking to read. It begs the questions – are these the characteristics Scott-Heron attributed to Omega as a conscientious and observant member of the Lincoln student body? Or did he personally come into uncommon proximity to the mysteries of Omega during his college years? I suppose the answer to the second question, which might also answer the first question, is known by the Brothers of Beta Chapter.

What we do know is that in 1971, Scott-Heron declared that the revolution will not be led by the likes of Omega man, Roy Wilkins. But, in 1972, he saw the revolution advanced by a younger generation of Omega men, who presumably possess the same fundamental characteristics necessary for meaningful change. Perhaps Scott-Heron attended the Black Identity Conference hosted by the Brothers of Beta Chapter in the spring/summer of 1968 (see attached).

As stated earlier, art does imitate life. Student unrest at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from the mid-1960s to early 1970s is well-documented. Many of you reading this were students yourselves when in March of 1968 students at Howard University seized the Modecai Wyatt Johnson Administration building in protest of, among other things, the University’s disciplinary policies and a curriculum that the students believed lacked any substantial emphasis on African-American history and culture. This latter emphasis was shared not only by students at Howard, but by students at many of the nation’s HBCUs at the time. A cultural awakening was underway, led by the students’ sense of self-awareness and race-pride, as well as their realization and/or belief that the predominant educational model of the 1940s and 1950s was limited in its ability to produce freedom and equality for black people.

This desire on the part of HBCU students to have a more active say in their college education and how they as a result of their education relate to the nation and world as a black community had been evolving for some time. Several years before the 1968 Howard protests, in 1963, James Baldwin met on Howard’s campus with the head of the student group, Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), led by Stokely Carmichael. “NAG sponsored a series of programs called Project Awareness, which was designed to explore the full complexity and richness of black life and to engage the controversies surrounding the black freedom movement.” NAG invited Baldwin to hear them out and to enlist his support. Baldwin was so impressed by the students that at the end of the meeting he committed that “if you promise your elder brother that you will never, ever accept any of the many derogatory, degrading, and reductive definitions that this society has ready for you, then I, Jimmy Baldwin, promise you I shall never betray you.” The student protests of the late 1960’s and early 1970s were a logical, if not a cultural, evolution. Writers like Baldwin, and other artists, actors, athletes, and musicians alike joined the movement.

As a community and as a country, we were at an inflection point, and Omega was very much at the center of it all. Roy Wilkins and Scott-Heron’s MJUMBE were not the only examples. Many of the college campuses that experienced student unrest were led by notable Omega men who had made college education a reality for many black students, particularly in the south. Brother James Nabrit, Jr. was president at Howard in 1968. Brother M. Maceo Nance, Jr. was president of South Carolina State University during the 1968 “Orangeburg Massacre.” And, Brother John Potts, Sr., 22nd Grand Basileus, was president of Voorhees College in Denmark, SC when in 1969, the Governor of South Carolina dispatched National Guard troops against Potts’ wishes to quell student unrest on that campus.

Are we at another inflection point? I think history will record we are indeed. To whom will today’s “old guard” pass the torch, and will they lead us to higher highs?

Read More – Beta_Summer1968Oracle

Make it a great week Brothers. Be noble!

3rd District History and Archives Committee
The Monday Pearl is provided by the Third District History and Archives Committee and is a weekly sharing of fraternity content, commentary, and research of historical value we hope Brothers will enjoy and from which Brothers will draw inspiration. Previous “Pearls” can be found at The Committee encourages your feedback. Should you have reactions, comments, information, anecdotes, documents, and the like, related to any of the content we share, we’d very much like to hear from you. Please send all communication to