The ORDER OF THE FEATHER FRATERNITY, INC. (OOTF) is an outgrowth of the Order of the Pines, founded by the “Originator,” Big Brother Daniel T. Taylor The Order of the Pines was deactivated in 1941 due to young men’s enrollment in the Armed Forces during WWII The OOTF was founded in The Year of Our Lord, 1946
The Founders of the OOTF are:
Big Brother Rev. Walter Bowen
Big Brother Rev. Dudley DeCosta Cobham
Big Brother Herbert Von King
Big Brother Lloyd Buchanan
Big Brother George Duvivier
The Order of the Bonnet was founded in 1948 by Bros. Von King and Cobham.
In 1947, Big Brother Wilbert Ernest Burgie founded the Minisink Cadet Corps
In 1949, Bro. Burgie was appointed Advisor to the OOTF.
Bro. Burgie introduced Indian law and many authentic Indian rituals, which are still practiced by the Feather today.
Bro. Burgie organized the Feather Chorus, a 50+ voice chorus that produced two LPs, in 1956 and 1961.
By the late 1950s, the OOTF had routine pledge clubs of over 200 young men!
The largest line of 72 Feathermen crossed the Burning Sands in 1959, led by their President Sterling Ray Taylor
1960'2 The Split
In the early 1960's, Camp Minisink, the Minisink Cadets, the Order of the Feather and all other Minisink Programs received great notoriety for their high quality, standard of excellence and contributions to the youth and families of the Harlem community.
In 1960, the Order of the Bonnet was formalized through the efforts Bro. Keith Rhoden, Bro. Robert Agnew and others. These Brothers helped develop a constitution and the current inducteeprocess. The reorganization of the Bonnet paved the way for the Feather’s increasing self sufficiency, while preparing them for the significant changes ahead.
In 1965, the Minisink family divided into two separate community organizations. Both organizations, Minisink Town House & Camp and The City Mission Cadet Corps, were under the auspices of New York City Mission Society. Due to the split, Brothers were faced with the difficult choice of moving with Minisink to the new Minisink Town House, at 646 Lenox Avenue (now Malcolm X Boulevard), or staying with the Cadet Corps and its new Executive Director-Bro. Wilbert E. Burgie.
Just before the split in 1964, Burgie with the help of several Brothers, founded Pen & Scroll Military Fraternity to further develop comradeship and fraternalism among the officers of the Cadet Corps, which included the prestigious Minisink Warriors Drum and Bugle Corps. Most of the then active Brotherhood stayed with Burgie, helping him organize the new fraternity while participating in the Cadet and Warrior Programs.
The Feather had the fortitude to weather this division and sharp decline in membership. Through the efforts of Harold Finley, who served as President from 1965-67, Michael Hatchette, Hank Allred, Scottie Holmes, Penoye Rainey and other dedicated Brothers, the Order of the Feather survived and flourished. Thanks to the organizational skills of Bro. Roahl Aarons, the Feather Advisor, the Brotherhood continued to be a strong and viable fraternity.
As Black consciousness increased in the 1960's, the Feather reflected this change. Many Feathermen and other members of the Minisink family, participated in the historic march on Washington, in 1963, and other peaceful demonstrations. Others joined the in the fight for civil and human rights of people of African descent in this country, as members of the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam.
Influenced by Roalh Aarons and others, a greater awareness of African culture, community service and non-conventional outreach for new members became the organization's objective.
At this time, the Feather also became increasingly independent. Structure and strong fraternity based leadership empowered the Brotherhood, transforming us from a Minisink program into our own entity.
Financial growth was an important step in the independence of the Feather. The Feather gave many successful fund raisers. Dances that would attract in excess of two thousand youths, were given monthly. The Brotherhood also sponsored bus rides to theme parks, state parks and to Camp Minisink, routinely taking over twenty bus loads of community people on one day trips out of the city. These ventures enabled the Feather to help sponsor deserving Brothers to private Black prep schools. We also gave many camp scholarships to community children.
Under the leadership of Bro. Ted Simpkins, the first Brother to serve as Executive Director of Minisink, and the recently reorganized Order of the Bonnet, Minisink continued its paradigm of service through youth development. In the 1970’s, the Feather cultivated the leadership skills of dozens of young men who served as officers, committee chairmen and committee members. Among the Brothers who made a significant impact were Rodney A. Beckford, Leslie J. Gray, Keith D. Rivers and William A. Allen II, all of whom held the office of President.
Throughout the 1970's the Feather thrived, crossing lines and making a difference through community service. By the late 70's, the TAP-OUT ceremony evolved to incorporate African rituals along with the traditions of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Bro. Chuck Davis, internationally
acclaimed African dance company director and founder of Dance Africa, played an instrumental role in the infusion of our African culture.
Honorary membership into the Order was not a regular occurrence. Only five Brothers have this honor. One of the few honorary memberships was bestowed upon Bro. Stevland Morris, better known as Stevie Wonder, in 1977.
THE 1980's--THE DORMANT PERIOD
At the start of the eighties, due to irreconcilable differences with the administration of Minisink Town House, the Order of the Bonnet saw fit to leave Minisink, not to return for some time, but the Feather remained. In 1980, the TAP-OUT ceremony was held outside of Camp Minisink at the Boy Scout's Camp, Alpine.
In 1981 and 1982, the Order of the Feather's tradition of youth leadership and empowerment continued with Brothers Lloyd Brown and Willie Cooper bearing the burden of the presidency and Brother Courtney A. Bennett as Dean. Despite their solid efforts, the Feather ceased activities in 1982, having completed its last Pledge Club before the dormant period with Bro. Richard H. Walker being the only Plainsmen to complete the process. He would later be honored for his fortitude in 1991 by being the first Brother TAPPED-OUT following the Dormant period.
Although no lines were crossed during the period of 1983-1990 the spirit Feather did not die. In the mid-1980’s, Nathan Simmons (a Featherman), Raymond Johnson, Quenton Hunt, Caesar Jarrett and Kelly Waters tried to keep fraternalism alive at Camp Minisink. They created the BROTHERS OF THE ROCK and the “TASK FORCE”. Although these endeavors were met with limited support by the administration of Minisink, they were evidence of the inextinguishable fire that seared the “brand” of brotherhood into the fiber of Camp Minisink during the days of the Order of the Pines.
For the Protection of the fraternity, the Order of the Bonnet incorporated; stating its on-going affiliation with the Order of the Feather in its incorporation papers. The Order of the Bonnet remained active during this decade due mostly to the determination of Bro. Michael A. Hatchette, who kept the Brotherhood alive through consistent communications and well planned social gatherings for Brothers.
THE 1990's--THE REBIRTH
When the Minisink administration changed in 1989, Bro. Uriel Charles urged a contingent of Brothers to go back home to Minisink to begin reorganizing the Fraternity. Bro. Michael Hatchette, Bro. Rodney Beckford, Bro. Louis Ray, Bro. Harold S. Finley, Bro. Llewellynn Seaborn, Bro. Courtney A. Bennett and others, led a two year drive to re-establish the Order of the Feather.
(This contingent of senior Brothers would then form what is now The Senior Council.)
Efforts to find interested and worthy young men to take on the challenge of pledging proved to be a difficult task. Due to Bro. Courtney A. Bennett's and Bro. Nathan Simmons' affiliation with the Boys Choir of Harlem, the Brotherhood was able to attract choir members to pledge on the first return
line. Brothers Bennett and Simmons, along with Bro. Ronald Brown, were the Deans of the first line to cross the Burning Sands since 1981.
This “Rebirth Line" produced six Brothers:
Bro. Russell Haynes-President Bro. Mose Tucker Bro. Marcus Copeland Bro. Doeyan Toby
Bro. Tracey L. Sydnor Bro. Austin Conyers.
During the dormant period, there were many young men who were interested in becoming members of the Feather. However, due to the hiatus, many of these young men were now older than the official pledging age (14-18). Aware of this, and with prompting by Bro. Bennett, the Feather extended the pledging age. For the first time, the Order pledged men to the Feather; creating the first Wakachanza Pledge Club in 1992.
The 1992 Pledge Club had 21 Brothers in all, 7 of which were Wakachanza Plainsmen, they were:
Bro. Raymond S. Johnson-President Bro. Korey Blackwell Bro. Craig Freeman Bro. Earl Caesar Jarrett
Bro. Andre Deverger Bro. Darrell A. Mayers Bro. Gregory P. Parker
This decade also saw the fraternity get back to basics. As President of the Bonnet, Brother Leslie Gray set an important example by recording all pertinent organizational communication. His insistence that other fraternal leaders do the same, reminded us of the importance of documentation and chain of command.
THE FOUNDING OF THE PHOENIX SORORITY OF MINISINK
In 1994, the Feather, now re-established, was thriving. Brother Courtney Bennett, then Program Director of the Town House, and Miss Sharmin Gray, a dedicated Minisinker for many years, recognized the serious unmet needs of the teenage girls in and around the Minisink program. Mindful of the Feather's success with teenage boys, and with the urging of Ms. Nyra Constant, Ms. Julienne Williams and Ms. Sharifah Davis, Bro. Bennett sought out Brothers Raymond S. Johnson, Quenton E. Hunt and Richard H. Walker to help organize a sister sorority. Following a suggestion by Ms. Julienne Williams, they named it the Phoenix Sorority of Minisink, whose logo is that of the fire bird.
These founding Brothers, affectionately referred to as Torches, recruited over 30 teenage girls and eight young adult women to become the first Ember's Club of the Phoenix Sorority of Minisink. The eight igniting Embers were: Zabrina Adams, Opparie Kinard, Karima Pace, Helen Simmons, Mignon Taylor, Julienne Williams, Sophia Heslope and Nyra Constant.
Knowing that men may not be the best mentors for young women, the Torches collaborated with senior Sisters of Tapawingo, the Minisink Honor Society. Gail Badger, Sharmin Gray, Theodora Mason, Sheryl Ann Parson, Gail McCants, Denise Burrus, Christine Barnes and Juanita Epps were given the Feather's blessing, via the Senior Council and the Torches, to pick up the mantle and serve
Phoenix as the Founding Mothers of the sorority. In the summer of 1994, over 40 Charter Line Sisters, Founding Mothers, Founding Sisters and Honorary members became the first active body of the PHOENIX!
As Plainsmen, Feathermen and Bonnetmen we are charged with the responsibility of respecting, protecting and supporting OUR Sisters of the Phoenix and all of their individual and organizational endeavors.
Phoenix: Forever May Your Sisterhood Endure!!! PREPARING FOR THE 21st CENTURY
Using the concept of "Sankofa" the Order of the Feather took a look at its rich past to insure the existence of a bright and productive future. The first meeting of a Council of Elders was held during TAP-OUT weekend of 1995. The elders present answered many questions about our purpose, history, traditions and future direction. All Brothers in attendance left with a feeling of renewed love and commitment for both Orders.
To take advantage of the abundant leadership of the Brotherhood and provide a training ground for leadership skills development, the Senior Council voted to create a two tier chapter system; establishing the Giwinki Chapter, for Brothers age 14-18 and the Wakachanza Chapter for Brothers age 19-26. Of course, The Order of the Bonnet still remains as the Senior fraternity for Feathermen who are 27 years of age and older.
THE BROOKLYN CHAPTER
In 1995, eight young men from the Crown Heights Service Center, located at 1630 Dean Street in Brooklyn, accepted the challenge of pledging; with the specific goal of expanding our fraternity by becoming the first line of a new chapter. Though faced with the additional rigors of traveling to Minisink Town House for pledge meetings, four strong young men persevered. In the Fall of 1995, the Senior Council voted to charter The Brooklyn Chapter of Giwinki Feathermen at the Crown Heights Service Center. The driving force to establish the Brooklyn Chapter was Bro. Jesse Hamilton, who is credited as its Founder. Brother Hamilton also received assistance from Bro. Cedric Barksdale, Frank Jones, Michael Hatchette, Courtney Bennett, Leslie Gray, and Ronald Campbell-Dean of Plainsmen.
The Charter Brothers of the Brooklyn Chapter of Giwinki Feathermen are:
Kyla Benson Masvin Turner Aaron Martin Kenyon Pickering
As a sign of support and appreciation for the opening of the new Brooklyn Chapter, Fr. Robert C. Seay said a mass in their honor. The mass was held at Our Lady of Charity R.C. Church, in Brooklyn. At the mass, a special proclamation from the City Council was presented by Councilwoman Annette Robinson. Certificates of recognition were also given from the offices of Congressman Major Owens, State Assemblyman Albert Vann, State Assemblywoman Velmonette Montgomery, and Councilwoman Annette Robinson.
Both Mrs. Gwendolyn Harmon-Executive Director and Ms. Wendy Wright-Office Manager of Crown Heights Service Center, were valuable assets during the charter year.
Throughout the 1990’s many Brothers made significant contributions. Following the lead of Brother Hatchette, the Order of the Feather Since its rebirth, the Feather has brought over 200 new Brothers into our illustrious Order and reclaimed many others into the perpetual bonds of brotherhood. Many of these new Brothers continue to make significant contributions to the Order including Bro. Stephen Harris, Bro. Jomel E. Nelson and Bro. Talif R. Showers, all past presidents.
In 1997, the Feather experienced another important change. All men, regardless of age, who sought induction and initiation, were entered into the ranks of the Order of the Feather, eliminating the Warrior Bonnetman classification. This allowed for all Brothers to enjoy equal rights and privileges as members of this great Order.
Features on syndicated public television networks, WNYC AND WNET, and a full page article in the October 9, 1994 issue of the New York Daily News, have helped to spread the word of this unique program of pride, service and brotherhood. Through the vision, talent and leadership of Bro. Jamal Joseph, the fraternity produced Burning Sands a 20-minute documentary about the Order of he Feather.
Brothers, all over the world, are making an impact in many different capacities. Whether they are straight "A" students in high schools and colleges or chemical engineers in California, doctors & lawyers in New York, guarding the president (s) in Washington, running restaurants in Harlem, owning & operating radio stations in Chicago, writing & directing episodes of "New York Under Cover", CEOs of leading community based organizations, singing with and directing the Boys Choir of Harlem, leaders Greek and Masonic fraternities or cowboys in the Midwest---Yup---cowboys; Feathermen are making their contributions to the uplifting of our society.
The Order of the Feather's attendance at the Million Man March, held on October 16, 1995, moved us to affirm our commitment to serve our communities through the further development of fraternal and leadership programs for men of the African Diaspora.
We are very proud of our Brothers and our legacy as a Harlem centered empowerment organization. And, in this, the Order of the Feather's second semi-centennial, we are happy to say that the Feather lives on--continuing to "Follow the Gleam" into 2000 and beyond the next millennium.