Alpha Phi Alpha marks 100 years on campus

Colette Bell

It started with 12 black men at the University of Minnesota who started a social club in 1911.

The club became a chapter of the national Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in 1912. In less than a week, the fraternity will celebrate its 100th year on campus.

The historically black fraternity will celebrate in conjunction with the 80th Midwest Regional Convention of the national organization. The convention is a celebration of all chapters in the region.

Every year, chapters from the Midwest apply to host the convention. This year the Minnesota chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha will host.

“It’s been a long time coming; this is something we’ve been planning since we put in a bid about a year ago,” said Emeka Okafor, a pre-medicine and psychology senior.

The fraternity will start the event next Thursday at the McNamara Alumni Center. The evening will feature speakers, including communication studies senior and chapter President Anthony Gnakadja. Other student organizations on campus are scheduled to speak in recognition of the chapter. The convention will continue through April 15.

The convention will also serve as a commemoration of those who were initiated into the Minnesota chapter of the fraternity years ago. A room will display pictures of members since 1912. Many members who were initiated in the Mu chapter in the 1930s and ’40s are attending.

In preparation for the anniversary, the University provided the chapter a grant to help fund the convention and anniversary. The grant helped fund buses that will transport attendees from the University to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, where a large portion of the convention will be held.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was first founded in 1905-1906 at Cornell University, after half of a dozen black students didn’t return to school the previous year because of the racism they experienced on campus. The fraternity is the oldest black fraternity in the nation.

Notable members of Alpha Phi Alpha include Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Black greek life in its entirety benefits from the success of Alpha Phi Alpha. Since 2009, four other historically black fraternities and sororities have returned to campus.

“We, as men of Alpha Phi Alpha, we want to be leaders; we want to improve the community to the best of our abilities,” Gnakadja said. “But we cannot always do that by ourselves. We need help.”

The brothers see their accomplishments as largely supported by the black sororities on campus.

“What are men without women,” Okafor said.

Members of the fraternity have worked long hours to pull the centennial celebration together. Most express excitement and anxiety in tandem.

“It’s going to be a really big event on campus,” Okafor said. “There’s going to be a lot of people here, and it should be really fun.”