by Taki S. Raton
The men ofAlpha PhiAlpha Fraternity, Inc. will host their annual Founder’s Day observance Sunday, December 4, at Christ the King Baptist Church, 7750 North 60th Street beginning at 4 p.m.
This year’s theme according to Founder’s Day observance chair Randal Ali is “Acknowledging Leadership Potential – Honoring Accomplishment” (ALPHA). This Sunday’s occasion will acknowledge new, elder, and founding members of the Delta Chi LambdaMilwaukee Graduate Chapter.
Fraternity members who will be honored for their contribution to the growth of the chapter and towards the progressive enhancement ofAlpha Phi Alpha are Marvin Bell, Perry Bishop, Warren McIver, Dr. Peter Murrell, Bonnie Newby, Dr. Randle Pollard and A.D.Williams.
Proclaiming the motto “First ofAll, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All,” Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity is the oldest and the first Inter-Collegiate Black Greek Letter fraternity. According to Michael J. Cuyjet in his 2006 title “AfricanAmerican Men in College,” the early 1900’s marked a period in which mainstream campus doors to higher education were barely opened to African Americans.
“Alienation, prejudice, and intolerance were harsh realities for the few African Americans who were permitted to matriculate at almost exclusively White colleges and universities,” notes the author.
Courageously confronting such challenges, a small group of African American men at Cornell University organized themselves in pursuit of two stated objectives. As shared by Cuyjet:
“First, given the hostile racial climate on campus, they desired greater contact with each other beyond what was offered through their classes.
With this purpose as a primary motive, they established a social studies club that was used as a vehicle to support their pursuit of the Cornell degree, an accomplishment that had been reached by few African Americans.
A second stated purpose was to organize what would become the nation’s first continuous Black college fraternity.”
He adds that secret societies forWhite males had been organized and were operational as social networks for years but understandably had been “off limits” to Black men. Hence, says Coyjet, “seven African American men deemed it necessary to establish their own group out of a need to combat the isolation, hostile campus environment, and socially debilitating conditions in which African American men were expected to learn.”
Founded 105 years ago on December 4, 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Cornell student founders, Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelly, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle, and Vertner Woodson Tandy were known as the “Seven Jewels”.
WalterM. Kimbrough in “Black Greek 101” reveals that Cornell’s Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was started forty years after the White fraternity movement began on Ithaca’s campus and that several of the founding members of Alpha worked as laborers in Cornell’s White fraternity houses to support themselves financially.
“They witnesses firsthand,” writes Kimbrough, “the benefits that came with membership in such an organization.”
Alpha Phi Alpha developed an image and a fraternal structure later used by many Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) that soon replicated the Alpha model. The Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt was selected as its symbol, further inspiring the fraternity’s early growth as witnessed by emerging charter chapters at Howard University in 1907 and Virginia Union University in 1908.
There are presently over 730 active chapters in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia with more than 185,000 active members.
This esteemed service organization provided leadership during the Great Depression, World Wars I and II and the Civil Rights Movement. It has historically and consistently been at the forefront addressing such issues as apartheid, AIDS, urban housing, and the economic, cultural and political concerns of interest to peoples of color.
Alpha Phi Alpha further conducts initiatives and philanthropic programming with theWorld Policy Council, the March of Dimes, Head Start, Boy Scouts ofAmerica and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Fraternity archives further disclose that members of Alpha PhiAlpha Fraternity represent a distinctive segment ofAmerica’s social demographic profile. Alpha men have been instrumental in the founding and leadership of the NAACP as in the contribution of W.E.B. DuBois, Alpha brother Norman Manley of the People’s National Party (PNP), Jesse E.Moorland with theAssociation for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH), Frederick D. Patterson of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The National Urban League has had eight Presidents in its almost 100 years of existence. Six of its leaders are Alpha’s – the Urban League’s first President, George Edmund Haynes, Eugene Jones, Lester Granger, Whitney Young, Huge Price, and Marc Morial.
Other prominent members of the fraternity include Jamaican Prime Minister Norman Manly, Olympian Jesse Owens, Justice Thurgood Marshall, United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.
The fraternity’s National Historian Robert L. Harris, Jr., records that “The Sphinx Magazine,” published in 1914, is the second oldest continuously published Black journal in the United States, the oldest being the NAACP’s “Crisis Magazine” started by Alpha member DuBois. Alpha’s mantra of “Manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind” was proudly expressed recently in the fraternity’s successful sponsorship of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial inWashington, D.C.
In 1998, records Harris, Congress authorized then President Bill Clinton’s approved Alpha Phi Alpha request to build a memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Following more than two decades of planning, fund-raising and construction, the memorial opened to the public on August 22, 2011. The official address of the monument, 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., commemorates the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.
A dedication ceremony was scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the “I HaveADream” speech that King delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. But due to the unforeseen occurrence of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony was postponed until October 16, the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March on the National Mall.
Proceeds from the December 4 Founder’s Day will go towards the fraternity’s business center and for the college scholarship fund. The event is open to the public.
Tickets are $30 with reduced prices for children and college students. For ticket purchase and for any additional information, please contact Ali at (414) 807-1924.