Sunday, November 2, 2014

Our Golden History - A general Roots through 2014 history of The Golden Fold.

Our Golden History - A general Roots through 2014 history of The Golden Fold.

The Golden Fold is a Y.A.P. program  that serves under the mandate from Omega Psi Phi that each active chapter has a Black Male Leadership Program. The program has it’s roots in both the Pan Hellenic Greek-Lettered Fraternity traditions primarily found on America’s Historical Black College and Universities  and the African-Centered Rites of Passage tradition which developed from the African-Centered and Pro-Black institutions that developed in America in the early 1900s. Specifically the program is rooted in two organizations, the Gamma Xi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi and the UHURU African American Cultural Arts Collective.

(Photo of Askia Mentuhotep)
In the Spring of 1989 Askia Mentuhotep, also known as Anthony Sparrow, an Omega Psi Phi initiate through the Pi Gamma chapter of Norfolk State University, brought to the Gamma Xi graduate chapter an idea for a Rites of Passage process named “Uplift through Back-lift”.  Askia had become involved with numerous African-centered groups while matriculating at Norfolk State University, and believed that a return to the African and American-Indian traditions of youth Rites of Passage would be the only solution to the so called yet misnamed “Black-on-Black crime” and social decay which affected people of African descent in America. The chapter showed little support for the idea and basically ignored the submission and no movement was taken towards instituting the idea. During that same spring Seko Benjamin-Eric Varner unsuccessfully attempted to enter the fold of Omega through Gamma Epsilon on Hampton University’s campus. A year earlier, while Seko was in midst of attempting to enter the Omega fold, Seko met Askia at a Kwanzaa cultural program on Norfolk State University’s campus and he advised Seko to focus on aiding the community and the gates of Omega would open to him. In 1989 Askia, frustrated with the response of the members of Gamma Xi, took his idea to an African-Centered community group named Uhuruu African American Cultural Arts Group which was started by members of the community and included Seko’s parents who were members of Omega Psi Phi and Delta Sigma Theta.

Uhuruu embraced the idea, which was in line with numerous Rites of Passage groups nationwide, and in 1990 the M.T.U. (Manhood Through Uplift) Rites of Passage program opened it’s doors to provide mentorship to the community.  The program was named MTU which meant “Strong Man” in an African language and secretly referenced three of the four Cardinal principles of Omega Psi Phi. The secret reference to Omegas Principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift remained during MTU’s exsistence. The During it’s infancy the community based mentors of MTU were unaware of the connection to Omega Psi Phi as Greek Lettered Organizations were thought to be ineffective, cultural traitors,  and were groups for puppet members of the Black Bourgeois in the eyes of many in the African-Centered movement. In 1991 Seko was recruited by elders in the Uhuruu Cultural arts group to join the program which was serving 70 young boys each Saturday. Seko entered the Omega fold in 1994 and maintained activity in MTU until  2005 when Seko became the President of The Imani Foundation, a group that splintered from Uhuruu and became the sponsoring program for MTU. Askia remained active in MTU until 2001. While active, Seko and Askia based many of the male development activities of MTU after the Omega Process, traditional African Rites of Passage, and the membership process of The Brotherhood of 1-5-1 Inc., a non-greek lettered band and choir fraternity that Seko entered in 1989 at Hampton University which includes and was co-founded by numerous Omega men. During the program years MTU met in numerous locations including Norfolk State University. The members of the Pi Gamma chapter of Omega Psi Phi initially sponsored MTU allowing access to campus. After the members of Pi Gamma neglected on numerous occasions to complete necessary paperwork to allow MTU to operate on campus MTU found sanctuary with Malik Sigma Psi, an African Centered fraternity based upon the writings and philosophy of Malcolm X (El Haji Malkik Shabazz). After the active members of Malik Sigma Psi graduated from NSU the rites of Passage process found it’s home at the Hunton Y.M.C.A. in Norfolk Virginia.

In 2007 Askia worked with Norfolk State University to direct a grant named ‘TechnoScholars of Norfolk State University’ and he hired Seko as the programs’ assistant director. The program was a technology based mentorship program which operated until loosing it’s funding in 2009. During it’s activity numerous members of the Pi Gamma chapter operated as volunteers and mentors. Before the program ending Askia advised Seko to consider bring the fraternity into community involvement through mentoring to meet the Black Male Leadership mandate to continue the positive impact the men of Omega were having upon the community and to continue the work of MTU which was dying off. (Photo of Seko B.E. Varner)

In 2009 MTU ended as a functioning program. In 2010 Seko brought the concept of The Golden Fold to the Gamma Xi chapter of Omega Psi Phi. The idea at that time was based upon involvement with the Tau Lambda chapter to allow cultural and uplift programs to the campus of Old Dominion University. By allowing Tau Lambda to handle the logistics the program would provide mentoring the undergraduate members and prospects for membership as well as the community. This idea was based upon support the Tau Lambda chapter provided the Imani Foundation who brought numerous speakers and cultural acts to Old Dominion University during the 1998 – 2006 years. Unfortunately the newer members of Tau Lambda did not complete necessary paperwork on a three occasions to host the programming that Seko had arranged causing the Golden Fold idea to halt. 

In the spring of 2011 A group called the ‘Man-Up’ collective, begun by Linda Goss, recruited Seko to manage an idea for a mentoring group under the same name. Seko accepted the invitation as long as he could involve the members of Gamma Xi in the activity. In the late spring of 2011 Seko represented the Idea of the Golden Fold to Gamma Xi and was advised to bring a fully functioning program back to the chapter before full consideration. The other caveat was that Seko had to become the lead Omega to fulfill the Y.A.P. Black Male Leadership position and program. During the development stage of the program the members of Man-Up lost momentum leaving the program squarely in the interest of Gamma Xi.  In the fall of 2011 Seko presented and received the support of Gamma Xi to conduct the Y.A.P. program under the formerly used name The Golden Fold. The program was designed to be a ‘Brothers and Others’ program which would allow mentor involvement from community men as well as Omega Men. The program would be open to all males in the 6th – 12th grades in the Hampton Roads area. The program would be designed to attract Boys of African descent, but would be open for the admission of any boy that met the criteria of being a 6th – 12th grader. The Golden Fold then began meetings in the C.A.T. (Creative Arts Theater) of Virginia Beach until the theater lost its lease.  One of the more notable community mentors was Kinji Ridley. (Photo Kinji Ridley)

The group met briefly in Brandon Middle School in Virginia Beach and included accepting girls in the 6th -12 grades in the program under the support of Brandon’s assistant Principal Omega Man Robert Ambrose. Ambrose lobbied to have the Golden Fold become a formally involved program of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, yet was unsuccessful due to the program’s infancy and lack of resources. During the meetings at Brandon Middle School a sole young lady became active with the program for approximately eight months. The location moved numerous times during the 2011 – 2012 Golden year until Kinji Ridley, an Omega prospect, connected the program to Tide Water Community College’s Black male Brotherhood named S.A.A.B. (Student African American Brotherhood) which was a campus group supported by members of Phi Beta Sigma.  The program had served primarily Black boys and a few Latino boys, but accepted it’s first Caucasian boy in October 2011. (Photo Robert Ambrose)

In 2012 Seko closed the organization known as the Imani Foundation due to a lack of community involvement and with his new focus on developing The Golden Fold. The program has continued to be a partnership involving SAAB and GAMMA Xi and was adopted by the Gamma Xi Foundation in 2012 which began to oversee the program. Kinji Ridley, who became a member of Omega Psi Phi and became the director of The Golden Fold during the 2012-2013 Golden year while Seko Varner became the program’s assistant director. During the 2013-2014 planning session a decision to disallow female members in the mentorship program was reached as well as a decision for Seko Varner to return to operating as the program’s director for the 2013-2014 Golden year. Seko added a new Omega Man, Richard Green, as the program’s assistant director in the 2013-2014 and 2014 – 2015 program’s year. (Photo Richard Green)

During the 2013-2014 Golden Year the membership form S.A.A.B. ended it’s activity with TGF during a regime change. S.A.A.B. decided to focus on mentoring the Tidewater Community College Students rather that the youth in The Golden Fold to address the rapid reduction in it’s membership following a graduation of many of it’s member in June 2013. S.A.A.B. completed paperwork to allow The Golden Fold to continue meeting on TCC’s campus, yet TGF faced several dates when upon arrival the room designated for the TGF meetings was found unavailable or locked. Seko and Richard successfully groomed the organization for a move to a new location. During this year an Omega named Mike Grimes became active in the program and quickly emerged as the Lead mentor for the program, leading the program’s community based mentors Mr. James Morton and Dr. Brandon Martin. 
 After a successful 2013-2014 Golden Year the program welcomed Omega Frederick Foard to join the group’s mentoring program, and he added an elder-wisdom which brightened the plans for the 2014-2015 years plans. The program’s steering committee decided to move it’s activities to the Boys & Girls club in Virginia Beach, Virginia. A decision to make all participants of The Golden Fold to become members of the Boys & Girl’s club at a cost of $20 per youth annually will provide the Boys & Girls club’s meeting rooms and also use of their transportation without cost. 
Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Inc. began a Fatherhood Initiative in 2010 as a mandatory program in all chapters. 
Our Fraternity is in partnership with President Obama’s White House Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative Program.  Omega Psi Phi Fraternity is charged by the President to lead the Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative in the following four areas: 
- 1. Raise the Awareness in our Community on the importance of responsible Fatherhood and Mentoring.

- 2. Partnership with local organizations such as the Unity Christian Fellowship (UCF) Youth Development Organization and other like-minded organizations.
- 3. Give voice to Fathers on the Municipal, state level, and judicial levels.  To work with elected official to support the Youth Promise Neighborhood Act and Jobs Act.
- 4. Celebrate Fathers who are doing the right things by their children.  Salute Dads who are in their children’s lives. Encourage Men to meet the Father’s absence to serve a vital role in the lives of our children as Mentors & Coaches to nurture, guide, & counsel and communicate with our children to win the future.

In 2014 The Golden Fold began a Fatherhood mentoring wing of the program and began providing services to impact the noticeable lack of Father-involvement in the lives of the boys served by The Golden Fold and the lowered number of involved Fathers involved in the lives of youth in Hampton Roads. (Photo of guest Clever Speaks with Justin Hampton, owner of Y.A.P. Radio)

One of the most prominent programs of the Fatherhood wing of The Golden Fold is an online-radio interview show called Daddyman Radio which is staffed by Seko Varner and Justin Hampton, an Omega who entered the fraternity through the Pi Gamma Chapter of Norfolk State University,  who owns the Y.A.P. online radio station. During the live episodes, which are also available on Youtube for public viewing (, Varner and Hampton interview fathers on the pivotal and challenging moments of their fatherhood experience to provide an online mentoring and role-modeling platform for Fathers who are seeing examples of best practices in addressing the challenges of parenthood.
Seko B.E. Varner, 2014

The Golden Fold Mentor Movement serves 6th - 12th grade youth by providing seminar based Big-Brother-type activities in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Contact: thegoldenfold @ yahoo (dot) com or call 757-932-0177. The Golden Fold is a "Brothers and Others" Community Improvement activity of the Gamma Xi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi and the Gamma Xi Uplift Foundation.

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