You know all those guys walking around in purple hats and T-shirts for the past few days? Those were the Omegas—-members of the Howard University-based Omega Psi Phi fraternity, which was having its centennial bash in the city this weekend. On Saturday morning, their agenda included a rally near the former residence of Carter G. Woodson, the man known as the “father of black history”—-and, according to the fraternity’s website, an Omega himself.
The house, where Woodson lived from 1922 until 1950, then became the home of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History until the early 1970s, after which it stood vacant and deteriorating. The National Park Service bought the property and the two addresses directly north in 2005 and stabilized it before embarking on the long process of actually turning it into something usable.
That, however, will require several million dollars. Yesterday, the third district representative to the Omega Psi Phi Supreme Council (very hierarchical, these brothers) proudly presented a $5,000 check towards the building’s rehabilitation. With power players like Harry Thomas Jr. defender Fred Cooke Jr. looking on, many words were said about the need for Congress to put a line item in the budget to take care of the rest—-which, in light of the current goings on in Congress, seemed like a tragically doomed request.
Could the District step in with that kind of money? Perhaps, at some point. It might be easier for the city to find funding for such projects if the other big vacant property owner on the block, Shiloh Baptist Church, paid the property taxes they still owe on the five empty and boarded up buildings that they still own directly south of the Carter G. Woodson home—-or just sold them. Could the Omegas get their influential network to work on that?