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On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his “Dream” with the world, a vision that has been remembered for the last 45 years as a milestone in American history. Dr. King’s life has been much studied, but what most don’t know is that King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. This fraternity is one of nine historically black fraternities and sororities that collectively are referred to as the Divine Nine or the National Pan-Hellenic Council. All played an integral part in the civil rights movement and continue to advance opportunity for African-Americans and giving back through community service.
In 2005, I pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, one of Divine Nine with a predominant but not exclusive African American membership. Revered Founders Elder Watson Diggs, John Milton Lee, Byron K. Armstrong, Guy Levis Grant, Ezra D. Alexander, Henry T. Asher, Marcus P. Blakemore, Paul W. Caine, Edward G. Irvin, and George W. Edmonds established the organization on January 5, 1911, on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington. By its constitution, Kappa Alpha Psi is available to college men everywhere, regardless of their color, religion, or national origin. Our constitution is predicated upon and dedicated to the principles of achievement in every field of human endeavor through a truly democratic fraternity. Today, we have more than 105,000 members in 700 undergraduate and alumni chapters in every state and around the world. Among the Kappas are such prominent figures as Johnnie Cochran, Wilt Chamberlain, Arthur Ashe, Robert Johnson, former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, and Ralph Abernathy. Its International Headquarters is located here in Philadelphia.
At an early age, I was taught that giving back to the community is an important part of life. As an individual, I felt that I could only do so much in the community, and in aspiring to become a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, I realized that I could help many more people than I could ever possibly reach on my own. As an undergraduate at Villanova, I pledged a lifetime of service and now as a member of the Philadelphia Alumni chapter, I am dedicated to making Philadelphia a world-class community.
The five objectives of Kappa Alpha Psi are to unite college men of culture, patriotism, and honor in a bond of Fraternity; to encourage honorable achievement in every field of human endeavor; to promote the spiritual, social, intellectual and moral welfare of members; to assist the aims and purposes of colleges and universities; and to inspire to service in the public interest. My uncle, Michael V.W. Gordon, a prominent member in the organization and inspiration for my interest, embodied these objectives.
Kappas improve their communities through undergraduate member projects, as Alumni, and on a broader lever through the Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation. The Philadelphia Alumni chapter participated in NBC’s homework hotline to help local high school students with homework questions. Among undergrad members’ activities are raising funds for medical needs of the indigent, volunteering at a soup kitchen in West Philadelphia, and working with the University of Pennsylvania’s UMOJA campus organization to mentor underprivileged children.
Guide Right is another Kappa program for the educational and occupational guidance of youth in high schools and also in college. One of our major Guide Right programs for Philadelphia, for which I volunteer as a Kappa Alumnus, is the United Way funded Achievement Academy. It provides multi-faceted mentoring, counseling, and training programs to assist African-American males from 9 to 18 years of age. A secondary objective of the Academy is to counsel parents in developing a motivated student. To ensure the success of our program, the students' academic accomplishments are monitored for recognition and reward. The curriculum is detailed and designed to run October to May. Biweekly sessions are combined with weekend trips. The Academy also sponsors a series of workshops for parents.
I feel that being a part of an organization that requires its members to make a difference in the community for a lifetime is the ultimate tribute to Dr. King. This is the reason I pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Thank you, Dr. King.