One hundred years of fraternal feelings
Michael Barnes, Out & About
It gave me chills. The men, from their 20s to their 70s, stood in a circle. As they sang a fraternal hymn, their deep voices rose up the cylindrical atrium, resounding through the galleries and hallways like a messenger from history.
The men had gathered at the Carver Museum and Cultural Center to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Omega Psi Phi, the first African American national fraternal organization founded at a historically black college. On Nov. 17, 1911, three Howard University students and their faculty adviser launched a group that eventually was to include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Hooks, Gov. Douglas Wilder, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal.
Jimmy Earl, associate director of the Frank Erwin Center, explained the fraternity's structure and history, as did Greg Warren, a Dell Inc. marketer who serves as the local graduate chapter's president. I met some members who had studied at the University of Texas and others who graduated from far-flung schools (Omega Psi Phi counts more than 700 chapters).
The Carver Museum offers a historical exhibit, including photographs, pennants and other mementos, dedicated to the fraternity's 100th anniversary.
The Preservation Awards luncheon, given by the Heritage Society of Austin, is one annual meal I'd hate to miss. This year's was graced by the triple presence of Lifetime Achievement winner Wayne Bell — heard on the awards video, seen briefly on the dais and enjoyed at a leisurely pace around architect Emily Little's table at the center of the Driskill Hotel upper lobby.
Nobody deserves the lifetime award more than Bell, who moves with his partner, Eric Willem, to the Pacific Northwest very soon. Also honored was the Dismukes family for preserving Peter Pan Mini-Golf and Save Austin's Cemeteries for its public service. Four renovation and adaptive projects took merit awards: the mid-century American National Bank Building on West Sixth Street, the Craftsman-style McCulloch House on Harthan Street, the Victorian Alberto Garcia House on Newning Avenue and the petite McDonald-Cain House on East Cesar Chavez.
Some late holiday thanks: Peter Bay makes the Austin Symphony Orchestra sound better with each successive concert, especially when a soloist like Austinite Anton Nel plays. I also am indebted to musical theater directors like Kaitlyn Hopkins and Dave Steakley,Hopkins for a short duration at Texas State University, Steakley for 20 years at Zach Theatre. I just viewed the W Austin salute to Steakley's two decades in a DVD put together by videographerSeabrook Jones — so many vivid memories of top-notch shows. Then I caught a matinee of Hopkins' "Oklahoma!" in San Marcos, a near-flawless job with a cast that won't be soon forgotten.