Although the Society has not collected demographic information in the past, there are records of African American male members being initiated in the early 1970s. The first circle to be established at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) was when the Morris Brown College Circle was chartered in 1976. Omicron Delta Kappa is currently located on the campuses of six HBUC institutions: Dillard University, Morehouse College, Florida A&M University, North Carolina Central University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Kentucky State University.
The Society first issued its Diversity Statement more than a decade ago and expanded its Equal Opportunity Statement in 2015 to make it clear that the Society’s programs and activities, membership selection, and membership practices shall be free of bias. Our organization has had a volunteer leadership group, focused on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusivity since that same year.
The Society has had a tradition on speaking of matters of national concern. In April 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, our Society’s delegates approved and issued the following resolution:
Be It Hereby Resolved that the 1968 Convention of Omicron Delta Kappa Society, meeting in Atlanta, Georgia on April 5, 1968, express its profound grief and distress at the tragic death of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and that in response to this feeling, the National Convention recognize Doctor King’s unparalleled contribution to the peace and freedom of his people, of his country, and of his world.
Doctor King’s outstanding and ceaseless efforts on behalf of human dignity and justice are representative of the devotion to high ideals that are basic to the Omicron Delta Kappa tradition.
In 2017, in response to the violence experience by peaceful protestors during the demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., Omicron Delta Kappa posted a statement on the Society’s website regarding the hatred, racism, and violence witnessed. In 2020, in response to numerous incidences of violence experienced by Black individuals, the Society more broadly shared its statement on Reaffirming Our Values and Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity by posting it on the website, sharing it on social media, and distributing it directly to members in an email.
Initiation Ritual Changes
In recent years, changes have been made in the Society’s initiation ritual to clarify our Society’s identity and our commitment to equity and inclusivity. Beginning in 1957, language about the Society’s origins, which included individual references to George Washington and Robert E. Lee as leaders, was added to the history section of our initiation ceremony. These individual references were not in the original membership ceremony, and neither man was involved in our organization since they were deceased long before the Society’s founding in 1914. In January 2018, the Society Board of Directors voted to remove these individual references to Washington and Lee from the initiation ritual while keeping the acknowledgement that the organization was founded on the campus of Washington and Lee University.
The first African American national officers of Omicron Delta Kappa were Andristine Robinson and Audrey Chisholm.
Andristine Robinson (St. Mary’s College of Maryland, 1999) was the 2006-12 National Vice President for Extension, a 2016-19 member of the Foundation Board of Trustees, and a 2019-20 member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Society and Educational Foundation Board of Trustees. Robinson was also the long-time advisor to the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Circle. She also chaired or has been a member of numerous Society and Foundation committees and task forces through her long association with O∆K. Robinson was named a trustee emerita in 2020, and the Society’s Champion Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity is named in her honor. This award is to be presented annually to an individual, circle, institution, or program that has demonstrated or fostered a welcoming and inclusive environment that promotes diversity and inclusion within O∆K circles or nationally
Audrey Chisholm (Florida State University, 2002) was elected National Student Vice President in 2006. After completing her undergraduate degree, Audrey remained active in the Society while attending law school at Florida A&M University.
Willie Banks (University of Georgia, 2002) will become the first African American to hold the highest volunteer role in the Society when he begins his term as Board Chair on July 1, 2021.
During the summer of 2020, the Omicron Delta Kappa Society and Educational Foundation Board of Trustees approved several structural changes in response to the survey recommendations and other feedback received throughout the earlier part of that year. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Committee was made a governing committee (meaning that it is now identified as part of the National Bylaws and tied to the Board of Trustees). All of the other governing committees of the Board (Executive, Development, Governance and Trusteeship, Finance, and Mission) have also been formally charged with considering how each committee’s work reflects the Society’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity. The position of National Diversity Officer was established. Moneque Walker-Pickett (University of Miami, 1994) has agreed to serve in this role.
Awards and Honors
In addition to establishing the Andristine M. Robinson Champion Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in 2020, the Society also established the O∆K Community Commitment Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. This award honors those individual members who do the following:
- Consistently promote an inclusive campus and/or community
- Demonstrate an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity
- Appreciate that diversity is integral to healthy and productive communities
To date, two African American individuals have received Omicron Delta Kappa’s highest individual honor – the Laurel Crowned Circle Award. Michael Lomax (Dillard University, 2000), the current president of UNCF (United Negro College Fund), received this award in 2006. Lomax served on the Society Board of Directors from 2000-02. Raymond M. Burse (Centre College, 1972), former president of Kentucky State University, was presented with this honor in 2016.