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Zeta Tau Chapter and Zeta Tau Foundation Celebrate Gerald Freeny, First African American President of the Tournament of Roses: Its Inaugural “Finding Friends Honors” Award Reception
By By George D. Taylor, EdD
Published September 27, 2018

President of the Tournament of Roses, Gerald Freeny Courtesy Photo

Thursday evening September 6, 2018, Gerald Freeny, Pasadena/Altadena resident and president of the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), graduate of California State University, Los Angeles, and member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., was recognized for his unprecedented and historic achievement – becoming the first African American to ascend to the respected position of president of the Tournament of Roses.

Freeny was recognize by the Zeta Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and Zeta Tau Foundation at the University Club of Pasadena. Freeny received strong support from various factions of the community including ETCO Homes corporation represented by Patrice Quishenberry, vice president for sales and Carrie McNary, sales executive and Ernest E. Just Youth and Community Services, Inc.

Interim president of NOBLE, Cheryl Moody, reached by phone said, “We here at NOBLE are so very proud of our chapter president Gerald Freeny for being the first African American president of the Tournament of Roses.” She said, “This is a great accomplishment and we know he worked hard to get to where he is today! Well-deserved and we are so very proud of Gerald! We look forward to seeing him at the parade on that special float!!”

Opening the reception, Larry Hammond, coordinator of the event greeted the guests on behalf of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Zeta Tau Chapter – affectionately known as the “Rose Bowl Ques.” He introduced Dr. George D. Taylor, president, Zeta Tau Foundation who made introductory remarks about the work of the foundation.

Hammond talked about the fraternity’s motto: “Friendship is Essential to the Soul” and “how understanding the meaning and essence of that aphorism has been a lifelong journey of exploration and examination. The evolution of that journey,” he said, “has manifest itself into the Finding Friends Honors brainchild.”

Present for the reception in honor of the first recipient of the Finding Friends Honors was, of course, Gerald Freeny, first African American president of the Tournament of Roses. Two other individuals receiving the award were: Danny Bakewell, Sr., senior executive publisher of the L.A. Sentinel and member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and Joe Hopkins, Esq., executive publisher of the Pasadena San Gabriel Journal and Zeta Tau Chapter 2008 Citizen of the Year.

These men were instrumental in Mr. Freeny’s ascension to the position of president of the Tournament of Roses. Both were recognized for their role in this epical moment in American history.

Standing in for his father, Danny Bakewell, Jr., shared with the audience his memories of the protest that happened in 1993 that brought about the systemic changes making it possible for Mr. Freeny to become President of the Tournament of Roses. Bakewell, Jr., said he was much younger when all the action leading up to this moment took place. But he watched with great amazement at the protest that led to the changes in the structure of the administration of the Tournament of Roses. “I remember following my father and the other folks around town,” he said.

Bakewell, Jr., went on to tell the story of what happened that faithful day in 1993 when the community stood up and said change must come to Pasadena and more particularly, the Tournament of Roses. “There were several older women around town,” he said including Ms. Ruby McKnight, who were “ready to go to jail or do whatever it took to make their point,” on national TV.

Two other individuals receiving the award were: Danny Bakewell, Sr., senior executive publisher of the L.A. Sentinel and member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and Joe Hopkins, Esq., executive publisher of the Pasadena San Gabriel Journal and Zeta Tau Chapter 2008 Citizen of the Year. Danny Bakewell, Jr. stood in for his father in receiving the award. Courtesy Photo

Joe Hopkins, Esq., thanked the Fraternity and the Foundation for the recognition award. He wondered aloud in addressing the group just when “we might see another African American” President of the Tournament of Roses.

The Finding Friends Honors Award celebration is only the beginning of writing and “righting” the history of the presence of African Americans in the history of Pasadena, California and The West.

To that point, Hammond said, seven years ago the Zeta Tau Chapter embarked on a quest to document the history of the Zeta Tau Chapter over the last 60 years. “Our research,” he said, “led us to the fact that the history of the Chapter was lastingly intertwined with the history of African Americans in the Pasadena area.” Gerald Freeny’s story “being recognized today is one of many in the evolution of African American History in the Pasadena Community and detailed in the book, Finding Friends: A Seminal History of the Illustrious Zeta Tau Chapter, soon to be released.”

The “Finding Friends” idea references the fact that many men in the fraternity migrated to the West from other parts of the country and found their way in their new lives through affiliating with new friends. Through the fraternity and other avenues, new lives were forged through these new relationships and a thriving community was born.

Finding Friends Honors exemplifies the community coming together – working across all lines for the advancement and the betterment of the community as a whole. In presenting the awards to Freeny, Bakewell, Sr., and Hopkins, Hammond said that, “Friends Become Our Chosen Family.” And, “today we welcome into our family and honor those that chose to take a stand and made a difference!”

Before presenting the award to Freeny, Brother Hammond expressed how difficult it must be to attain the illustrious position of Tournament of Roses President because “we actually saw the first African American President of the United States before we got to see the first African American President of the Tournament of Roses.”

In accepting the first Finding Friends Honors Award from Zeta Tau Chapter, Mr. Freeny expressed his deep appreciation to the Fraternity and to the Foundation for the Recognition. He also thanked the members of the Executive Committee of the Tournament of Roses for being open to bringing about the change that was sought by the community. “Without the help and cooperation of the executive board of the Tournament of Roses, none of this would be possible today,” he said to a warm and receptive audience.

Brother Hammond introduced Finding Friends Honors committee: Brothers Thaddeus J. Culpepper, Esq., Disraeli Ellison, Ed B. Massey, Larry Quishenberry, Harold Reese, George D. Taylor, EdD and William C. “Bee” Thomas. The ambiance of the University Club of Pasadena was welcoming. Guests were treated with complimentary dinner tray passed appetizers, dinner stationary appetizers, a hosted bar and valet parking.

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