The 2nd Annual L.A.M.P. Mentor Program Capstone Experience Excursion took 10 rising seniors, one graduating senior and six Mentors to Washington, DC for a week of college and museum visits, cultural activities and dinners with successful African American men from June 11-17, 2023. The group arrived at 7:00 am Sunday, June 11 and proceeded to the cultural center and restaurant at Busboys & Poets on 14th Street. Although everyone was tired from the red-eye flight from LAX, we all perked up when the shrimp & grits and other delectable dishes arrived for breakfast.

After breakfast, the group checked into the two VRBO properties that would their homes for the week. Sunday evening, L.A.M.P. Mentees and Mentors met with Interns from Archon William Keyes, IV’s Institute for Responsible Citizenship at Lafayette Park for a “Mall Walk” around the monuments on the DC Mall and pizza dinner at Union Station. It was an exhausting experience as the Walk was more than 5 miles and it was a great time to connect the L.A.M.P. Mentees with their slightly older counterparts at the Institute.

Monday, we visited Howard University and American University for college tours. Mentor Ferris Harvey is an alum of Howard University. He provided numerous insights about the campus and the academic and social life at an HBCU. At American University, the Mentees met and had a talk with Roger Fairfax, the African American Dean of the American University Washington College of Law. Dean Fairfax fielded questions and provided perspectives on his career as attorney for the Department of Justice, a law school professor, and a law school dean. Dean Fairfax is a native of Washington DC and talked about the joy and satisfaction of returning to his hometown for his professional career. Between the visit to Howard University and American University, the Mentees and Mentors had lunch at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, where several meetings had been held in preparation for the 1963 March on Washington. That evening, the Mentees had dinner with Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a professor at George Washington Law School, and Thomas Matthew, director of the Johns Hopkins Cardiothoracic Surgery Program at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Tuesday, the Mentees had a guided tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture that started before the museum opened and, includes lunch at the fabulous cafeteria. Our guide was Dr. Renee Anderson, the former Head of Collections at the museum. We learned new things about the slave trade, the resiliency of African American during Reconstruction and Jim Crow, and how we were connected to some the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

After the museum, the Mentees and Mentors met with Ambassador Samuel Hines at the Embassy of Guyana. For many of us, it was our first visit to an Embassy. We learned that once we entered the Embassy, we re no longer in the United States of America. Rather, we were on the sovereign soil of the country of Gayana.

That evening, we had another dinner with successful and distinguished African American men. The guests were Steven Holmes, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and Joe Davidson, a former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. Both guests offered insights to their successful careers and regaled us with great stories of their adventures as journalist who reported on major world and national events. Steven Holmes even told us some tales about Mentor Holmes’ youth and their competition as brothers who are two years apart in age.

Wednesday, the Mentees and Mentors had a tour of the White House. Prior to the tour, the Mentees had an opportunity to meet and talk with Steve K. Benjamin, the former Mayor of Charleston, SC and the top ranking African American in the White House. Raquel Fossett, Director of the White House Internship Program, was the guide for the tour. She also talked about the White House Internship Program, and specifically talked to three Mentees who expressed interest in serving as a White House Intern. The experience was exhilarating.

Wednesday afternoon and evening the group had a tour of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. After the college tour, the Mentees visited the National Park at Ft. William McHenry. The fort was the site where Francis Scott Key penned the words to the Star Spangle Banner during the War of 1812. Mr. Holmes led a discussion of the origins and verses of the Star Spangle Banner, played several versions of the anthem by African American musicians – Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, and his and many Mentees favorite, Marvin Gaye. Mr. Holmes talked about the various reactions to those versions as examples of how Black creativity is often not readily accepted at first, yet is often accepted over time. After the visit to Ft. McHenry, the Mentors took us to a local seafood restaurant – Nick’s Seafood – on the Patapsco River portion of the Baltimore Harbor. Some of the Mentees tried Maryland crabs for the first time.

Thursday, the group had a guided tour of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). Stephanie Stebich, the Director of SAAM, greeted us at the entrance of the museum and thanked us for visiting. The Smithsonian American Arts Museum is the oldest museum in the United States. It shares a building with the National Portrait Gallery where there is a portrait of each of the Presidents of the United States and many of the First Ladies. Robert Davidson, who is an Archon in Gamma Zeta Boule and a major supporter of the L.A.M.P. Mentor Program was recently elected Chair of the Board of Commissioners of SAAM. After the visit to SAAM, and a gourmet lunch at Chic-fill-A, the group visited Black Lives Matter Plaza, where they had a discussion of the significance of the events that occurred there in 2020. From BLM Plaza, we visited the MLK Memorial. Mentees read the quotes that are engraved on the wall of the Memorial and took some time to contemplate the impact and meaning of Martin Luther King’s life.

Friday the group visited George Mason University in Fairfax, VA where we learned the history of George Mason and the fact that GMU has the largest population of students of color among the public universities in Virginia. The trip culminated with a tour of Fed Ex Field. The tour was set up through the office of Jason Wright, the first African American president of a NFL franchise, the Washington Commanders. The Mentees toured the locker room, and the field. It was interesting to see how massive a production maintaining a pro football stadium with all the various activities that take place there, e.g., games, concerts, meetings, etc.

After the tour, we sojourned to Top Golf for dinner and fun. All the participants got to show off their golfing skills. While the Mentees competed against each other and the Mentors for Top Dog at Top Golf, no one prevailed as the winner and everyone had a great time.

Saturday, we were back on the plane to Los Angeles with loads of experiences, increased knowledge and stronger relationships among the Mentees and Mentors.

We wish to thank staff of Bus Boy & Poets, William Keys and the Mentees at the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, Howard University, American University, Dean Roger Fairfax, Washington College of Law, the owners and staff of Ben’s Chili Bowl, Spencer Overton, Thomas Matthew, Dr. Renee Anderson and the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Ambassador Samuel Hines and the staff of the Embassy of Gayana, Steven Holmes, Joe Davidson, Raquel Fossett, Director of the White House Internship Program and Steven K. Benjamin of the Biden Administration, Stephanie Stebich, Director of SAAM, University of Maryland Baltimore County, the National Park Service at Ft. McHenry Park, Nicks Seafood Restaurant, our caterers – Tony & Rhonda, Trishana Bowden, Vice President for Advancement at George Mason University, the office of Jason Wright, Lewis, our bus driver who got us to every event and activity on time and refreshed, and the Mentors, parents and supporters of the Gamma Zeta Boule Foundation and the L.A.M.P. Mentor Program for their contributions to this awesome experience. You can become a supporter of the L.A.M.P. Mentor Program and the Capstone Experience Excursion by making a donation here.