The local alumni chapters of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Alpha Omega and Gamma Omicron Omega, came together on Sept. 18 to raise money for a cause and celebrate the organizations 58th anniversary, which came the following day. (Photo by Lukey Lenz)

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

Local chapters of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, the youngest of the Black Greek Letter Organizations comprising the “Divine Nine,” celebrated its 58th anniversary in a special way this past weekend.

The event, named “Founder’s Day Party with a Purpose,” was held at RYMKS Bar and Grille, one of Baltimore’s newest Black-owned businesses, in Little Italy on Sept. 18. 

Iota Phi Theta’s local alumni chapters of Alpha Omega and Gamma Omicron Omega partnered to host the four-hour celebration that not only shed light on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, but brought together more than 150 members of the fraternity for a night of food, music and fellowship.

“We always celebrated Founder’s Day on Sept. 19, but at the same time we wanted to do something different to make it a purposeful celebration because that is what our founders pretty much envisioned for us,” said Marcus Sonny-Smith, the president (also referred to as “polaris”) of the local Alpha Omega graduate chapter.

“This is an organization that enjoys partying, but our partying is done after we put in our community service.”

Similarly, the Rev. Brian Murray, president of the local Gamma Omicron Omega chapter, said community service is in the DNA of the organization.

“Part of the connective tissue of what Black greek life is about is service to the community, so if we’re going to party, we can get together and make a donation to a sound cause,” said Murray, who also serves as the pastor of New Covenant Community United Church of Christ in South Baltimore.

Founded on the campus of Morgan State University on Sept. 19, 1963, Iota Phi Theta prides itself largely on community service, especially over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Lonnie Spruill Jr. is the only of the 12 founding members still alive.

Recently, the organization’s two Baltimore graduate chapters have served less fortunate individuals with vaccination clinics, food drives, clothing drives, backpack drives and scholarships.

To begin the celebratory affair, Sonny-Smith and Murray delivered remarks honoring the fraternity’s founders, thanked everyone who attended while supporting the event’s cause and acknowledged the efforts of St. Jude, one of the nation’s leading pediatric cancer research centers.

Participants and guests who attended the founder’s day event gave at least $10 at the door for a wrist band that served as a means of admission. All proceeds collected went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a partner of Iota Phi Theta since 2015. Hence the theme, “party with a purpose.”

“The efforts of the Iota fraternity is amazing. helping support a great cause,” Viplav Patel, a volunteer with St. Jude, said.

“Be it scholarships, be it fundraising for St. Jude, their efforts in supporting the community in any way, shape or form… it’s a great organization to help fundraise and help the local community out. It’s unbelievable.”

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