With the tragic deaths of some of our entertainment icons over the last few weeks and the pressing need of The Family Meeting to comment on Black History Month, I frankly have been all over the place since the first of the month. I have sincerely struggled in terms of what my bi-weekly commentaries should be about to make them material and relevant to this year’s celebration of Black History.
Thus, there has been the silence over the last couple of weeks as I wrestled with what would be the appropriate thing to say about this annual celebration.
This annual month of recognition and celebration always evokes in me a very mixed bag of emotions. There is certainly pride, joy, and hope, but there is also sadness, frustration, and sometimes even anger upon conducting an honest and frank assessment of African-American history. Any frank and honest assessment of this unique and extraordinary story of our people, by its very definition, becomes a complexed configuration of these and many other emotions.
Our President is a beacon of joy and hope in the celebration of Black History Month. I recall as a little boy, in the ’60’s at the height of the civil rights movement, being told by my family that I could be anything that I wanted to be when I grew up including, President of the United States. I now know from those who are still alive that they never thought they would see an African-American President in their lifetimes. When our first African-American President was elected, I was 50! How cool is it to watch a Harvard Law educated African-American male eloquently speak the King’s english, be our Commander-In-Chief, the leader of the free world, and yet have an appreciation for music ranging from Al Green to Jay-Z?
As a person who along with a Juris Doctorate holds bachelors degrees in Africana- Studies and Economics from one of America’s Ivy League institutions, I have taken a protracted look through many lenses at the interrelationship of economics, politics, and sociology, which have been painted on the canvas of race relations in this Country.
I understand the gripping multi-generational impact of stripping millions and millions of Africans of their family ties, cultural and social similarities, or differences, by using a system of geographic displacement into a brutal, racist, and conspiratorial institution like American slavery.
The impact is a modern-day partially fractured African-American community that consists of a disproportionate number of our people who are semi-skilled, uneducated, culturally confused, and often shortsighted on the value and significance of life, or frankly the taking of one. This history of enslavement and the by-products in its aftermath have also given birth to an angry and misguided segment of African-American males, who are the necessary element of the frightening prison industry and its economies of scale that provide jobs and township revitalization to several of America’s rural communities.
There is an additional by-product of this history and evolution, it is the group of college educated African-Americans, who due to persistence, courage, education, integration, and its resulting exposure, have shown the world the positive and significant contributions that can be made by African-Americans. These people have dedicated themselves to this approach to the making of African-American history. They are constantly in search of and carving out that comfortable place, where achievements and capability are respected and welcomed. They long for the ability to embrace their culture and celebrate it, without ridicule or judgment. These African-Americans strive fervently to keep achievement and culture alive and vibrant.
From my early teenage years, I was intrigued by Black Greek life and the philosophical differences and similarities that each organization promulgated. The fraternity of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated seemed to consistently attract my attention and interest, as I matriculated through high school with the growing prospect that I too could become one of the “brothers” of this great fraternity founded in 1906 at Cornell University.
This month, this Black History Month, I am celebrating a milestone anniversary as a brother in my great fraternity of Alpha Phi Alpha. We are a prolific group of predominately Black men, intellectuals, and leaders from all walks of life who are committed and dedicated “to scholarship, manly deeds, and a love for all mankind.” So as I have marinated in this mixed bag of emotions that come out in me every year about this time, I thought of my exceptional brotherhood which has often brought light, thought, power, innovation, and solutions to this configuration painted on the canvas of race relations in America.
I reached the conclusion that there would be no better way this year to celebrate the rich history of African-Americans in this great country of ours than to highlight over the remaining days of February some of the great men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, who through scholarship, manly deeds, and a love for all mankind have positively impacted and shaped the story of African-American history in American.
We’ll start tomorrow.
Read, learn, and share…..Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller ’06
2012 All Rights Reserved