With the stated theme of “A New Social Justice Landscape”, the 2018 edition of Omega Day at the Capitol was the setting for a major announcement; a statewide voter registration initiative to “Change the Game” in Georgia. The voter registration drive, focused on Blacks, comes as Georgia is poised to become the first Deep South state to have a majority non-white population. Brother H. Benjamin Williams, Government Affairs Committee Chairman for Omega Psi Phi in the State of Georgia, presided over the meeting.
The Brotherhood received briefings from two Omega men who serve in the Georgia Legislature. State Representative Brother Calvin Smyre who, if he decides to run for re-election, stands to become the longest serving legislator in Georgia history, said that hate crime legislation is being filed this session, and that state lawmakers will also be looking at the Confederate monument issue. State Representative Brother Winfred Dukes challenged the Fraternity to “galvanize, mobilize, and energize the Black community” on issues like underfunded schools and inadequate health insurance coverage. Two guests, Georgia Secretary of State candidate Dee Dawkins Haigler, who is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, and WNBA executive Amber Pannell of the Atlanta Dream were also introduced.
Among the sixty Omega men in attendance were Brother S. Earl Wilson, Co-Chair of the Fraternity’s Fatherhood Initiative, Seventh District Marshal Brother Dominic Thurston, and the Fraternity’s twelfth and sixteenth Georgia State Representatives; Brothers Ron Taylor and Craig Jackson. Current State Representative Brother Marvin Broadwater, Sr. set the tone for the day, emphasizing that if we use what we’re about to learn it will positively impact the quality of life of 3-point-6 Million Blacks in the state of Georgia.
The message from the guest speaker, New Georgia Project Executive Director Nse Ufot was that an intensive voter registration effort could produce enough new voters to “swing” Georgia out of the conservative column. According to Ms. Ufot, there are a million eligible but unregistered minority voters in Georgia. The New Georgia Project says it has registered 240-thousand of them in the past four years, and is determined to reach the rest by the end of this decade. The partnership with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity is expected to provide a big boost to that effort because of the Fraternity’s 56 chapters all over the state. The New Georgia Project uses census data and voter files to identify zip codes with high numbers of eligible but unregistered voters. Omega Psi Phi can put “boots on the ground” in those communities.
In addition to getting them registered, Brother Chairman Williams and Ms. Ufot are also working on strategies to deliver those new voters to the polls in November. Atlanta, as the largest city in Georgia, is a natural early target; and with Eta Omega Chapter already having an active Government Relations Committee, what Brother Williams described as a “Ready Team”, the first joint actions are likely to occur in the Metro. Brother State Representative Broadwater has directed the Regional Representatives across the state to make establishing “Ready Teams” in every chapter a top priority.
Referring to this effort as “#2018 Change the Game”, Brother Chairman Williams offered a six point plan to “operationalize”:
- Identify the “Ready Teams” in every chapter.
- Reach Out to other groups to build a coalition
- Expand our influence among legislators and local contacts
- Visit your local Board of Elections. Let them know who you are.
- Send a clear, succinct, coherent message. Ms Ufot and the New Georgia Project leadership have a wealth of experience in this area.
- Schedule Forums—Let the candidates and the voters know that Omegas are stakeholders in their community.
Unlike most of the previous Omega Days at the Capitol, there was no group photo in the rotunda this year, primarily due to scheduling The traditional reading of the General Assembly’s proclamation honoring Omega Psi Phi took place, but by the time it did, the legislators were so far behind schedule that the Brothers were no longer in the Visitor’s Gallery.