Saturday will be the Founders Day of an organization dear to my heart, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Like many who pledged as an undergrad I don’t consider myself ‘active’ anymore, but every December 4th I think about the ways the fraternity shaped me, then and now. Here are 7 things that come to mind:
I was reading an article this week about this high school football team that described itself as a ‘family’. At first I thought the analogy was a little much, but as I thought back to my experience with Alpha, ‘family’ really is the perfect analogy. Some relatives are closer than others (line brothers usually), there are some relatives who are all about the past (grandparents), some all about the kicking it (like the fun uncles), you get my point.
Like any family there are some old traditions and usually some new ones that are created along the way. I came out of Uncanny Upsilon chapter, and we definitely have a ‘tradition’ that every brother in the chapter knows about it (as I do the ‘Fight Club’ style nod to the bruhs from Lawrence).
While as grown men it seems incredibly ludicrous, there was some genuine bad blood between the frats on the yard in my time, where the ‘dividing line’ was usually “He’s in that frat and I’m in this one.” Some of it can be chalked up to natural competitiveness, some of it was just a bunch of teenage/20 year old guys acting dumb. But every year that goes by, when we reflect on those stories, the last sentence always seems to be, “Man, we were in COLLEGE!!!!!”
I’m sure every chapter of every frat feels like this; all I can say is that if I would’ve had the foresight to have a camera on myself and the bruhs for an 12-18 month stretch in the late 90s, I could have made a documentary that would stack up to any rock and roll documentary that’s ever been made. We had a diverse group of personalities and egos, we went ‘on tour’ with our stepshow, we had…um…everything that rock stars had. I remember for the last show I was in (the one on Facebook) we ordered our fatigues, and when they came in, me and my ace put them on and stared at ourselves in the mirror for at least 30 minutes. And I know that sounds REALLY Kappa-ish, but we knew the show we were about to put on was going to kill.
(And it did!!!!)
The “Alphas Acting Silly” show as I like to call it was symbolic of the group of guys who were in the chapter at the time. Even when we talked trash, it was more about getting a laugh than really trying to put somebody down. I gave serious thought to making this whole post about the best jokes from our era. Teeth Sweat and Nurse Squirrel. The pitch perfect rendition of the Jodeci classic, but with the words changed because of a brother’s weight (“Forever So Hungry, Macaroni and Cheese…). The Doo-Doo Ride. The short brother who was getting into real estate, so the Dean said he had a property for him to invest in – turns out it was a Malibu Barbie Dream House. AND THESE ARE JUST THE JOKES WE TOLD ON EACH OTHER!!!!
(excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes…OK, I’m back….)
Everyone is told this during and after they join, but (especially as a black man) it’s just one of those cool things to meet a complete stranger and be able to strike up a natural conversation because of this bond you have. I went to one National Convention when I was fresh out of school and it was an amazing experience to sing the hymn and say the prayer with who-knows how many brothers. I plan on doing another Convention as an ‘adult’ to experience it from this side of the age table. And Alphas are everywhere; I haven’t worn ‘nelia in years and as I think back that’s probably why I stopped. I love y’all but there are some days when you’re not in the mood to have a 19 year old kid all up in your grill challenging you.
7. ‘Manly Deeds, Scholarship, and Love for All Mankind’
The legacy of community service is now more than 100 years old. ‘A Voteless People is a Hopeless People’ is to me still a great campaign; we were registering cats to vote WAY before any of us knew the political cycle would get as vicious as it is right now. It’s one of those ‘rights’ people died for; it’s something of an insult to not take advantage of it.
(Stepping off my soapbox…)
The LA Bros are having an Founders’ Day Mixer and Toy Drive from 7-11 PM Friday Night at Locals: 5027 West Pico Boulevard. I can’t confirm or deny I will make an appearance, yet. As I said upfront, I may not be as active as I once was, but Alpha Phi Alpha definitely shaped me as a man and is a big part of my legacy. To my brothers, here, there and around the world, I say as always, Onward and Upward!!!