From the south end of the quad, they approached slowly, stomping like fearless soldiers in their purple and gold, their glory shining as bright as the sun. The brothers.
The crowd oohed and ahhed at their choreographed dramatics. Their arms flailed as they barked their fraternal passion. They kicked and sprang in the air in their gold, spray-painted combat boots, like the Jesse White Tumblers, jumping rhythmically in ritual and celebration of their Greek fraternal heritage.
These were the men of Omega Psi Phi, also known as Ques (pronounced Q’s). Back then, as a freshman at the University of Illinois in Champaign, I knew I wanted to be one of them.
I vowed to pledge. Not Sigma, not Alpha, not Kappa. Que.
I wanted to be a Que — to join what was, in my mind, the greatest brotherhood of all black Greek fraternities. I vowed to someday don the colors. Not the crimson and crème. The purple and gold.
I even planned to brand my chest — maybe even a bicep — with the Omega symbol. Que for life.
“Que, Psi Phi-i-i-i!” I sometimes practiced, turning up the bass in my voice as I stomped about.
It wasn’t the Ques’ barking and bravado that appealed to me as much as the sense of brotherhood exhibited by this fraternity of which Carter G. Woodson, Benjamin Hooks, Bill Cosby and other notable black men are members.
And my desire to be a Que certainly had nothing to do with my witnessing how, whenever the deejay played the song “Atomic Dog,” the Ques raucously and unapologetically confiscated the dance floor and all the ladies’ attention. Absolutely nothing to do with that (wink-wink).
Truth is, my desire to be a Que had most to do with seeing a group of strong black men — most of them bearing my deep, dark complexion, some bald, and all of them proud and mighty, fearless brothers, willing to stand for all, and all for one. They were, for me, a symbol of manhood, of brotherhood.
Except I never got the chance to pledge. I was ineligible after landing on academic probation after my first semester in college. Then I dropped out. Life happened.
Que dreams quashed.
And yet, my desire to be a man of Omega Psi Phi never evaporated.
Every once in a while, I run into a former college friend who happens to be a Que. I sometimes admit my tinge of sorrow for having missed my chance — not the parties and fun, but the opportunity to be a part of this brotherhood. They tell me it’s not too late.
And I do still love the purple and gold.
Except lately I have taken inventory of my brothers, of brotherhood: There is my blood brother, Jeff, who would give his life for me. There are other true brothers, not related by blood. Men I claim as brothers, though we look nothing alike. Brothers black and also brothers white.
Life has taught me that true brotherhood knows no color. That true brotherhood is bonded in acceptance, love and sacrifice and in our goodwill toward one another.
That we are made brothers, not by the color of our skin, or even by the colors we wear in common. That we are made brothers, sealed by our friendship and shared experience, sometimes even our struggles, along this journey called life.
And I can’t imagine any brotherhood stronger than that.