Tour across capitals not just a Summer trip
By Ronnie Mackey Jr.
Special to the Outlook
From the State Capital of Tennessee back home to the Sunshine State’s Capital, the Omega Lamplighters have successfully completed its fourth annual 500 Miles of Freedom College and Civil Rights Tour with over 40 area youth from Tallahassee, Quincy and Wakulla.
The Omega Lamplighter program has proved to provide fundamental training that will help these young men identify early on their life endeavors. Florida A&M University alumnus Royle King II is the founder and Executive Director for this organization and expects nothing but the best from his youthful scholars.
“To date, all of our graduation classes have been accepted to a college/university or the military. Many of them have never seen African-American doctors, lawyers, etc.” King said. “This program provides career paths and pairs them with mentors and that alone changes their life.”
The annual mission for the 500 Miles of Freedom College and Civil Rights Tour is to highlight the sacrifices that were made in order for us as a nation to have the freedoms of today. For some this is a once in a life time opportunity that ensures national exposure outside of the Tallahassee community.
This year’s trip was scheduled in the beginning of August and showcased stops in Nashville, Tennessee, Atlanta and Albany, Georgia. The students were able to witness the sights and sounds of being on the historical campuses of Tennessee State University, Fisk University, and Meharry Medical College. They also volunteered in a community garden in Nashville helping prepare for this fall’s harvest.
“We don’t just want our young men to see the sites in cities, we want them to make a difference as well.” said King.
While in Atlanta the Lamplighters visited Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse, and Spelman College while experiencing the Martin Luther King Jr Center downtown as well. The last stop was at the historic Albany State before coming back home to Tallahassee.
Lamplighters such as Brice Summerall Jr. originally grew up in Eustis, Florida before his family relocated to Tallahassee. Brice is a 7th grader at Cobb Middle School and programs like this have helped him look at Leon County as a “home away from home”.
“I come from a small town where these types of programs aren’t offered to the youth. It’s important for me because it offers me opportunities to help others and be helped by others through mentorship.” Summerall said.
While touring the many campuses on the trip Brice was excited about the opportunity of attending a Historically Black College and University in the future himself. “Touring the various HBCUs inspired me to stay focus in the classroom so that I may have the opportunity to attend an HBCU one day.” said Summerall.
During a time where every community could use more positive platforms for their youth, parents of the Lamplighters are overjoyed knowing that their children have genuine role models and security without them being present.
Vardyce Gaines is the Father of a Lamplighter and has always expressed the importance of giving back to his son. “This program has made him stand out as a leader and has also help build confidence in himself.” Gaines said. “It’s also important that he is learning responsibility and comradery at such an early age.
Over the years Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana have highlighted this iconic journey. The anticipation for next year’s trip in August is already building up and with the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas recently, the lone star state just might be the spotlight.
“With all that’s happening now, it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild Houston. This would not only be an opportunity for to them to learn of the cities rich history but go give back.” King said.
The Omega Lamplighters organization is a young men’s mentoring program birthed in Tallahassee Florida in 2008. The Omega Lamplighters are sponsored by the Chi Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and the Chi Omega Social Action Scholarship Foundation Inc. To find out more or get involved with the Omega Lamplighters visit http://www.omegalamplighters.org
Calculated Miles over 1,000
Over 40 young men and 12 adults
All male trip reinforcing the importance of men being present in the lives of young men
Nashville, TN – Tennessee St. Univ., MeHarry Medical College, Vanderbilt University, Fisk University, Slim & Husky’s Restaurant, and the Nashville Capitol
Atlanta, GA – Dr. Martin L. King Jr. – Memorial, Birth home, fire station, Burial site, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta Univ., The Center for Human and Civil Rights and the FAMU “Be Out Day” and a tour of the museum at the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., headquarters.
Albany, GA – Albany State University