On May 21, the Uplift Foundation of the Lambda Omega Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc, held its first Wreath Laying Ceremony at the West Point Cemetery near downtown Norfolk. The Lambda Omega Chapter is the oldest Omega Psi Phi Alumni Chapter in the United States.
According to Ted Price, the Military Affairs Committee Chair of the fraternity, the ceremony was held as part of the Memorial Day Tribute to Black veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American, World War I and World War II wars who are buried at the historic site.
Speakers during the event included Norfolk Fourth Ward Councilman John “JP” Paige, representing the City of Norfolk; Ronald Moore, the Basileus of the Omega Lambda Chapter; Jerome Bynum, President of the Uplift Foundation; and Rev. James Edwards, III, of the Lambda Omega Chapter.
According to Councilman Paige, the ceremony was an opportunity “to be in the presence of Our Ancestors.”
“This is an opportunity to give respect and recognize the sacrifices of our Ancestors who paved the way for current and future generations,” he said.
“The struggles we endured then are not yet over. But they contributed to our ability to continue fighting for total freedom.”
Paige also noted that they the Westpoint Cemetery was one of the first publicly funded cemeteries for Black Americans. Civil War veteran and Norfolk’s first African-American City Councilperson James E. Fuller lobbied the City Council to provide an adequate burial ground for African-Americans during reconstruction.
He also noted the presence of a red brick wall which was erected to separate West Point from the surrounding Elmwood Ceremony during the Jim Crow era still stands.