Alpha Phi Alpha Celebrates 102nd Anniversary
It is hard to imagine a time when African American students were not fully integrated into collegiate life at mainstream campuses across the country. Prior to 1906 and the formation of the first Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., many Black college students were ostracized on all-White campuses and unable to enjoy the entire college experience.
However, on December 4, 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., the Alphas became the first Black fraternity, and laid the foundation for the other eight Black Greek-letter organizations. On July 17, 2008 the Black fraternity, known for such prestigious members as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall and Cornell West will kick off their 102nd Anniversary Convention in Kansas City, Mo.
“This year’s convention is certainly going to be an experience in history in terms of the bold political, social and economic initiatives we will be conducting in Kansas City,” says the fraternity’s 32nd General President Darryl R. Matthews, Sr. “In keeping with the tradition of the fraternity, Alpha will leave a positive mark on Kansas City, as we have been doing for the rest of the nation for more than a century.”
The Black fraternity expects over 5,000 members for the convention themed, “Developing Leaders for Service and Advocacy,” which will feature workshops, business sessions and appearances by Soledad O’Brien, Hill Harper, Dr. Randall Pinkett and Alpha member Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).
On the eve of an historical presidential election, Alpha Phi Alpha will host a town hall forum entitled, “Voteless People is a Hopeless People,” on Saturday, July 19th. The meeting will discuss important political issues affecting both major party candidates and encourage voter education, voter registration and basic civic participation. Famed journalist and fraternity member Kevin Powell will be one of the panelists.
The fraternity is also pleased to honor CNN senior correspondent Soledad O’Brien with the Alpha Award of Honor, which is the highest honor for a non-fraternity member. The organization will also hold a special screening of O’Brien’s much-anticipated series, “Black in America.”
In addition, actor Hill Harper will also receive the Alpha Award of Honor for his bestselling books, Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister.
On July 18th and 19th, they will hold the annual Belford V. Lawson Oratorical Contest tackling the timely question “Is the N-word Really Buried?”
More importantly is Alpha Phi Alpha’s commitment to the younger generation. Matthews has called for 10,000 members to become mentors, to assist in fundraisers and to serve local Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chapters. The Black fraternity will also recognize nearly 20 Kansas City high school students for outstanding scholastic achievements and community service.
And on July 21st, the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha will host their Project Alpha initiative addressing the dilemma of teenage pregnancy, focusing on safe-sex education and individual responsibility.
“During my tenure, I strived to continue in the tradition of which [Alpha Phi Alpha was] founded, to elevate the conversation, mentality and consciousness of our Alpha brothers,” says Matthews. “We need to continue to spark intellectual discourse and be intentional in our efforts to create, commit and contribute to the positive well-being of the communities in which we represent.”
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.