Seven Men of Vision
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., was founded on December 4, 1906, in Ithaca, New York, by seven students on the campus of Cornell University. The seven young men of vision were: Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Vertner Woodson, Robert Harold Ogle, and George Biddle Kelley. Each of the seven recognized the need for a strong bond of brotherhood among African descendants in the United States.
Alpha Phi Alpha is the first intercollegiate Greek-letter Fraternity established for Black men.
Alpha is in My Blood
My introduction to the fraternity was through my father, the late Brother Austin R. Cooper, Sr. An Episcopal priest, he was very active in the community of Cleveland, Ohio, where I spent my formative years. In addition, his brother and my uncle, the late Brother Clement Theodore Cooper, was also an Alpha, here in Washington, D.C.
My father pledged at the Gamma Psi Chapter of Saint Augustine’s University, Raleigh, North Carolina. My uncle “crossed the burning sands” at the Nu Chapter at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
So, you see, Alpha Phi Alpha is quite literally in my blood. And as my father used to tell me and others, “Oh Austin has a choice of fraternities, but just one.” However, for me, choosing a fraternity was a no-brainer.
Other childhood idols included numerous distinguished members at the time included, but was not limited, to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke, U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, scholar, singer and activist Paul Robeson, author and humanitarian W.E.B. DuBois, former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, and music legend Duke Ellington.
Becoming an Alpha
When I arrived on the campus of Saint Augustine’s University in August 1979, I immediately noticed that the men of the Gamma Psi Chapter were focused on two things: education and scholarship. The Alphas were known as the campus scholars and Gamma Psi Brothers had some of the highest-grade point averages on campus.
They were involved in all campus activities, including student government. Gamma Psi was known for various community engagement efforts, including, for example, voter-registration efforts leading up to the 1980 presidential campaign between former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
I completed the pledge process as a sophomore and December 5, 1980, remains one of the proudest days of my life as I officially became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. My father was present that evening and pinned me.
Servants of All
Today, forty-two years later, the fraternity remains an important part of my life. I am a member of the Mu Lambda Chapter of Washington, D.C., of which my Uncle Theodore belonged for over fifty years. As a member, I serve on the education committee, where one of our community engagement activities includes monthly mentorship meetings with young men at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast.
These young men at Ballou are our future and I am confident that such one-on-one interactions, which resumed last month after a two-plus year break due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, will have a positive impact on their lives. You see, when done properly, mentorship works both ways for the mentor and mentee. My Alpha Brothers and I are inspired by them just as much – and possibly more – as much as we seek to strive to be reliable and long-term sources of inspiration, guidance, and support for these young men.
And at the end of the day, community service and human kind, around the world, remains a core mission of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., 116 years later. “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All.”
Brother Austin R. Cooper, Jr. (Featured Image)
Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.