Words by: Courtney Mitchell
40 enthusiastic lamplighters residing in Tallahassee, Quincy and Wakulla attended their third annual year trip for the 500 Miles of Freedom College & Civil Rights tour this past summer where they visited historical sites in Baton Rouge, La., New Orleans, La. and Mobile, Al.
The 500 Miles of Freedom College & Civil Rights tour is an annual trip for the Tallahassee Chapter of the Omega Lamplighters. The Omega Lamplighters is a youth leadership organization, modeled after the fraternity Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. for adolescent males between the ages of 12-18 in the Big Bend area. The trip is sponsored by the Tallahassee chapters of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. with assistance from Chi Omega Social Action Scholarship Foundation. The program was established in the capital city by Royle King, Simeon Nelson and the (two?) Tallahassee Chapters of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. This prestigious mentoring program was founded on principles including: leadership, academics, maturity and perseverance. These young men exemplify those principles through service to their community and a series of workshops and activities.
“The purpose of this trip is to expose and educate our members. We want our young men to see historical sites prevalent to our history and what we had to endure as a people. It’s one thing to hear about an event, totally different experience and understand when you stand where it happen and relive it for yourself,” Royle King, one of the program’s founders and executive director said.
Amongst the lamplighters and their chaperones visiting Baton Rouge, where 37 year old Alton Sterling was murdered on July 5, 2016, had the biggest impact on them all.
Shawn Holloway, lamplighters member, states why he enjoyed the impactful stop.
“This stop meant the most to me and I was glad to meet him. What I want people to take away is that we are a youth group, interested in our education, and that we pay attention to world news.”
The lamplighters visited Sterling’s son in Baton Rouge, where they partnered with the Baton Rouge Chapter of Omega Psi Phi & Omega Lamplighters chapters to host a luncheon for the chapter members. They made him an honorary member and have vowed to keep in touch until he graduates high school. The Lamplighters presented Sterling with several gifts such as letters and items from FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, an autographed football from FSU football team and an autographed jersey from FAMU’s football players.
“Not only are we trying to change lives in Tallahassee, but we want to raise up a nation of young men who are well rounded and understand the value in giving back and helping others,” said King.
The trip included stops at historical black colleges, civil rights sites and prior to their historical journey, a workshop on #BlackLivesMatter and police brutality was held to inform and educate the young men.