Purple Hazed

Pledge took beating, not oath, to become Omega Psi Phi.

Purple Hazed
Naomi Vaughan

It's 2 a.m. and an underground pledge meeting for the Omega Theta chapter of Omega Psi Phi is underway at a home in Houston's Third Ward. Two University of Houston students are being asked about poetry, the Greek alphabet and the history of the African-American fraternity that can boast basketball legend Michael Jordan, civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr. and comedian Bill Cosby as alumni.

The two pledges blow the quiz. A fraternity member rewards them with lashes across the torso, buttocks and calves with a two-by-six-inch wooden board wrapped in duct tape, an aluminum baseball bat and a TV antenna. One pledge, Jermel Kyle, struggles to remain conscious as he's repeatedly punched in the stomach. Next to him is Lee West III, a 21-year-old University of Houston junior who tries hard not to pass out.

According to West III, who's now 23 and a graduate student at the University of Texas at Dallas, this pummeling in February 2009 was the fourth violent hazing incident that occurred at private residences of Omega Psi Phi fraternity members and alumni. During the first meeting, West III says that a broomstick snapped in two across the backside of his fellow pledge.

After the fourth pummeling by Omega Psi Phi members, doctors diagnosed Lee West III with internal bleeding. The alleged assailants as well as the African-American fraternity, which will turn 100 years old in November, have denied West's claims.
Naomi Vaughan
After the fourth pummeling by Omega Psi Phi members, doctors diagnosed Lee West III with internal bleeding. The alleged assailants as well as the African-American fraternity, which will turn 100 years old in November, have denied West's claims.
When fraternity district representative Willie Hinchen heard about the alleged beatings, he halted all pledging activities, which originated from the off-campus Omega Mansion. Hinchen also instituted a follow-up investigation that lawyer Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, who is representing the West family, says is when a "cover-up" occurred.
Naomi Vaughan
When fraternity district representative Willie Hinchen heard about the alleged beatings, he halted all pledging activities, which originated from the off-campus Omega Mansion. Hinchen also instituted a follow-up investigation that lawyer Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, who is representing the West family, says is when a "cover-up" occurred.

Following the fourth and final episode, Byron Bass, West III's roommate at the time, says that Lee had to call him at 4 a.m. for help getting up the stairs of their apartment. "At 6 a.m., I went back into his room and he looked terrible," remembers Bass. "He appeared to be in shock and distraught. Later that day, I had to help him up with his trousers. He was practically crawling around the apartment."

In April 2010, Lee West III, his father, Lee West Jr., and West III's mother, Kathleen Truss (who has since died), sued the four alleged perpetrators, the off-campus Omega Theta chapter and the national fraternity, which is headquartered in Decatur, Georgia. The organization, which will turn 100 years old in November, has more than 700 chapters (including an offshoot at Texas Southern University) in nine countries.

In the past two decades, Omega Psi Phi has been hampered by multiple chapter suspensions, lawsuits and settlements. A high-profile case in 1997 awarded $375,000 to former University of Maryland student Joe Snell after he testified that Omega Psi Phi members had put a heater in front of his face in order to darken his skin because he wasn't "black enough."

Now, West III and his father, a 30-plus-year member of Omega Psi Phi, are seeking justice. Dad says that he didn't file criminal charges because he trusted that he and his fraternity brothers could settle the matter outside of the courts. Instead, West Jr. explains that he was "accused of harming the fraternity through some pre-planned actions." The matter was never investigated by law enforcement.

Terrell Jewett (whom fraternity members deemed too weak to invite back for a fourth meeting) and Kyle are the other two pledges who were present during the alleged late-night beatings. They each told Omega Psi Phi investigators that they were not hazed; Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, who is representing the West family, says she thinks that Jewett and Kyle were intimidated. Jewett and Kyle could not be tracked down for this story.

In a response submitted to the court in the civil suit, the Omega Psi Phi members accused by the Wests — Chike Mordi, Michael Jackson II, Victor Oyeniyi and Kenneth Stinson — denied "each and every allegation." The fraternity, which also denied any hazing took place, has said that any injury to West III, Jewett and Kyle would have been caused "by the negligence of a third party over whom Omega had no supervision or control." (Attempts at reaching the defendants and the fraternity were unsuccessful.)

As West Jr. waits for his family's day in court, he says that many of his old fraternity brothers have either given him a hard time or ignored him. He has struggled between looking after the fraternity that he loves and defending his son.


Lee West Jr., 52, sits on a living room couch inside his spacious home in a tidy subdivision of Grand Prairie. A Bible, a copy of Esquire and magazines about airplanes and flying are organized into various piles on the light-wood coffee table.

West Jr., a lanky and laid-back aerospace engineering tool designer, spends much of his time at home creating blueprints as a successful contract employee. Today, West Jr., who pledged Louisiana State University's Theta Kappa chapter of Omega Psi Phi in 1979, attributes his prosperous life to the lessons he learned as a member of the fraternity.

When Omega Psi Phi was founded at Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1911, the fraternal organization — a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a coalition of nine African-American fraternities and sororities — became the first of its kind at a historically black college. Today, members of the tradition-deep fraternity (nicknamed "Q Dogs," "Ques" and "Sons of Blood and Thunder") often sport the group's royal purple and old gold colors as well as an omega Greek letter that's branded onto their skin.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as more reports of violent hazing surfaced, many fraternity heads publicly banned any and all hazing. As a result, physical and mental intimidation were relegated to the underground, where they're more or less impossible to prevent.

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27 comments
Josurf92
Josurf92

@mark sweeping issues under the rug is not somethig frats teach. fraternities teach you to settle issues for yourself like a man opposed to hiding behind lawyers. you clearly are a GDI and you have no right to weigh in on fraternal matters, get out of here you GDI queeefff

Rachel
Rachel

What kind of settlement was he expecting?

Red_Eye_Girl_4434
Red_Eye_Girl_4434

@ITMom,.......Тhis is сrаzу...Мy friеnd`s sistеr mакеs 78/hr оn thе intеrnеt. Shе hаs bееn unеmрlоуеd fоr 11 mоnths but lаst mоnth hеr incоmе wаs 7985$ јust wоrкing оn thе РС fоr а fеw hоurs. Gо tо this wеb sitе .......http://alturl.com/64u9o

Sinibaldi
Sinibaldi

Avec toi.

Dans un jardin blanccomme le sable de la jeunesseje vois solitairela main de la vie et le souffle du soleil.

Francesco Sinibaldi

S Malone11
S Malone11

After what was done to his son; Mr. West still financially supports this so-called organization? What kind of message is that sending his son!

mark
mark

"Dad says that he didn't file criminal charges because he trusted that he and his fraternity brothers could settle the matter outside of the courts."

Wait a minute, either it was criminal activity or it wasn't. If it was, you have a duty to report it as such. Or is sweeping things under the rug something frats teach?

mark
mark

Oh, I believe you. It sounds more like dom/sub fantasies.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

I never understood the reason for the hazing. When I read this article it sounds like some type of plantation beating. The mere things that we suffered during that era are practices we have in place today. The paddling, whipping, slash across the arm, and beating, all just to belong. Furthermore during the town auction when slaves were being sold, they were branded when sold so that if they ran way, old masa could easily get him back. How can you be in a dilemma about someone beating your son. The funny part is that its a Greek-Hellenistic order; no African association what so ever other than when Alexander the Great destroyed Mesopotamia.......lead the greeks into Africa...need I say more. But they celebrate it with beating and brandings.

Shiarus the Dis-barredian
Shiarus the Dis-barredian

Fraternity? Hazing? Gang jump-ins and snitching? What's the difference? Suck it up, negro before ya get capped in the fraternihood. And bringing daddy in? Oh, boy, that's no good....oops, did I say boy? Off campus fraternity inviting ya'll back 4 or more times for more beatings. And you kept going back. Get the money without working like the rest of ya brethren, 'ceptin ya'll kin git mo' from the 'ternity than from thee walefaire, right? Do what they do and knock ya self up some ready bee-atch and get on with her career. Never wanted to work anyway, did ya, bra'. Should joined Obama's phraternity. Really...It's not even shocking.

OnDaDownLow
OnDaDownLow

Keep it on da down low muh niggaz!

All frat boys are closeted fags.

revmood
revmood

"As West Jr. waits for his family's day in court, he says that many of his old fraternity brothers have either given him a hard time or ignored him. He has struggled between looking after the fraternity that he loves and defending his son."

The father sounds like an idiot if he even hesitates to choose between the two- jeez...

"Old recycled news, in the late 70's black fraternities at East Texas State University in Commerce would brand members with fraternity letters using a red hot coat hanger."

Some chapters, and not just Omegas, STILL do this.

UtelMe
UtelMe

I never understood the stupidity of the pledge process in many college fraternities and sororities. Given the kinds of mistakes that often happen during the process, the process needs to be fixed once and for all. This type of stuff keeps happening year after year...when will it end?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I would say this case would be the exception, but sadly it isnt. Much of "Frat Life", no matter the stripes, is mostly about one party humilliating the other, and most of it has homo-erotic/S&M overtones..Really sad to say, but its true...

pencil
pencil

Old recycled news, in the late 70's black fraternities at East Texas State University in Commerce would brand members with fraternity letters using a red hot coat hanger.

Vinny
Vinny

Why don't these dudes just drop all this "initiation" pretense and just fuck each other like they're dying to do?

Rachel
Rachel

I had the same question. You're still financially supporting an organization that turned its back on you?

Ivy_vine_13
Ivy_vine_13

You can take the thug out of the ghetto but you can't take the ghetto out of the thug. Why does this surprise anyone?

Kbcomega
Kbcomega

What part of West Virginia are you from? You seem well versed on the language Mr. Coal Miner Trailer Trash. I bet some long hung brotha is pleasing your wife (your 1st cousin), while you're typing nonsense. Go get her boy, you got work in the am, coal mine is waiting!

Kbcomega
Kbcomega

It takes a faggot to know one! I hate frat boys and I hate guys that bash them too!

Kbcomega
Kbcomega

How would you know? Why do faggots always associate everything else with their faggotry? Frats have absolutely nothing in common with you sissy boy. Take a nap! Butt boy!

Kbcomega
Kbcomega

No it's your new master Obamas fault! White slave!

Sidewalkastro
Sidewalkastro

That is true, I went there at that time. It made bulging scars on their arms.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Hazing has nothing to do with repressed homo-erotic fantasies.

If you haven't been through it, you can't possibly understand what it is about or why anybody would do it.

Sidewalkastro
Sidewalkastro

White or Black, these frat guys are no better than gang bangers, just better educated.

ItchyJack
ItchyJack

What? Cause you wanted a family - or needed to belong so bad that you would allow some asshole beat you up? Or were the parties just that bangin'? Please enlighten us 'Brother been through it'.

bobbyv
bobbyv

I'm with Vinny...the spanking, the humiliation, the degradation. I've always thought a lot of hazing has a very S&M vibe.

 
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