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Throughout my years, I was never one who was attracted to organized social groups. However, I was always one who promoted, and participated in community service or other humanitarian efforts. I eventually began to organize my own community service efforts because I found that to be my passion. Many years ago, while working on the planning stage of a community event, someone at work posed a simple question to me - "Why are you trying to re-invent the wheel?" I gave a puzzled look. I was then instructed to type in a website, www.pbs1914.org, and let him know my thoughts after browsing the website. I admit that I was so impressed, dumbfounded, and full of curiosity that it led me to research these organizations more. What I discovered was that there were a particular group of ladies and gentlemen of the Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities out serving the community, leading community efforts, and setting personal examples of excellence. They were members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity. These nine historically Black Greek letter organizations that collectively comprise the National Pan-Hellenic Council, are also referred to as "The Divine Nine." Each of these fraternities and sororities are rich in history and prestige. These organizations boast many members who have contributed greatly to history, arts, science, sports, medicine, education, politics and much more.
This spotlight on excellence will focus on the Phi Beta Sigma, Incorporated, its sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta, Incorporated, and a few members in the state of Maryland.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated was founded January 9, 1914 at the prestigious Howard University in Washington, DC. According to the official website, the "Founders, Honorable A. Langston Taylor, Honorable Leonard F. Morse, and Honorable Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service".
Today, the fraternity boasts over 150,000 educated men whose dedicated service promote its organization‘s four main programs: Bigger and Better Business, Education, Social Action, and Sigma Beta Clubs.
An international organization, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., include prestigious members who have made historical firsts in their fields. Bemjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Kwame Nkrumah, both from Mu Chapter at Lincoln University, were the first presidents of Nigeria, and the Republic of Ghana, respectively.
With many prestigious members across the globe, this feature spotlight on excellence will shine light on Captain Orlando Lilly.
Orlando Lilly was raised in a small community in Albemarle, North Carolina. Orlando is a United States Navy veteran, and received his Master of Science in Management from the Johns Hopkins University. Today, Orlando Lilly is a police captain in the third largest police department in Maryland. A 26 year veteran on the police force, he has held several high profile positions within the police department, and is currently the commander for Baltimore County Police Department's Youth Community Services Section. Orlando has always been an outspoken leader, and has a passion, and zeal for his profession. He is a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy session 268. While being a mentor to both new, and veteran officers, he is also the former president, and current sitting board member of the Blue Guardians, Inc., an organization that represent the interests of minority officers within the police department. He is also an Adjunct-Professor at the University of Baltimore in the Forensic Science Department where he teaches Math Application in Law Enforcement as well as The Community College of Baltimore County where he teaches Ethics and Diversity in the Criminal Justice Department. In addition to being active, and proactive in the law enforcement field, Orlando is active in the community. He is an Associate Minster at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore.
He currently resides in Ellicott City, MD with his wife Angelica, their two children Samuel, and Naomi, who recently graduated from Duke University, and their dog Amber.
Some other noted Phi Sigma Beta Fraternity, Inc. members include: Dr. George Washington Carver, James Weldon Johnson, Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Congressman John Lewis, Brigadier General Guthrie L. Turner Jr., Willie Adams, M.D., Morris Overstreet, Robert H. Terrell, Dr. Huey P. Newton, L.C. Greenwood, Joey Porter, and Jerry Rice.
Founded in 1920 at Howard University, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, has a history of firsts. It is the first of the Divine Nine to have a centralized national headquarters. In 1948, it became the first Black Greek organization in Africa when it chartered a chapter in Monrovia, Liberia. It is the first to form auxiliary groups, and first sorority to be constitutionally bound to a brother fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated. According to its official website, "Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was founded on the simple belief that sorority elitism and socializing should not overshadow the real mission for progressive organizations - to address societal mores, ills, prejudices, poverty, and health concerns of the day.“ The sisters of Zeta Phi Beta Incorporated, in their signature royal blue and pure white, solidifies their purpose of service, charity, scholarship, civil and cultural endeavors, sisterhood and finer womanhood. They can often be seen in the community participating in after school youth programs, elder care initiative partnerships, homeless initiatives, and much more.
Nysah Warren is a native of Maryland, and a graduate of Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications. Today, Nysah is an Account Executive working on integrated communications, and marketing campaigns at Taylor, "an agency of creative thinkers that specializes in brand building through conversation." Through her career she has worked on multiple prominent brands including DIAGEO (Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Captain Morgan, Seagrams), The Mercedes Benz Stadium, and Comcast developing and executing multi-faceted marketing campaigns in areas including lifestyle, entertainment, food & beverage, and sports. Nysah is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2020, Nysah co-founded Hold The PRess, a grass roots initiative calling for action, accountability, and transparency in the Public Relations industry for Black people. Nysah's passion makes her poised to join other famous Zetas who are noted firsts for their accomplishments in their fields. Elizabeth Koontz, the first African-American president of the National Education Association, and director of the United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau. Lillian E. Fishburne, the first The first African-American female to hold the rank of Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. Nysah says she joined Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. because they were the most "down to earth" women and didn't make her feel like she needed to put on a persona other than her true self. Nysah was also raised around many Zetas, including her mother, who she credits for setting an amazing example for her. Nysah has benefited greatly through her network of Zetas. She also credits a Zeta for helping her attain her first big internship and subsequently kicked started her career. "A Zeta also opened her home to me to give me a place to stay when I needed it. I can't replace that for anything." Some other noted members include: Comedienne Sheryl Underwood, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, singer Sarah Vaughan, former congresswoman Julia Carson, and singer Dionne Warwick.
Spotlight on Excellence features community members who are making strides in the community, and in the fields of education, business, the arts, science, sports, history, and politics. Although we cannot feature all the men and women who exemplify excellence in their fields, we appreciate the feedback from our readers. Please let us know who are making their mark in your community, or profession.