Kappa Alpha Tradition
"Through Striving We Shall Achieve,
Through Achieving We Shall Succeed"
History of the Kappa Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
By Bro. Darren C. Allen, Spring 1995
The Kappa Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated has established a proud tradition of excellence since its humble beginning, December 2, 1974. We were founded by 8 great men, whom we affectionately call our Mini - Jewels or "The Excellent Eight":
Mini - Jewel Bruce Carl Allen
Mini - Jewel Melvin Grover Cleveland, Jr.
Mini - Jewel Norman Merriweather
Mini - Jewel Van Cornelius Pinkard
Mini - Jewel Joe Clifford Ransaw
Mini - Jewel Frank James Roscoe
Mini - Jewel Alphonso Gary Wesley
Mini - Jewel Sylvester Wilson
During the summer of 1973, the members of Beta Lambda Kappa[Fraternity], ΒΛΚ, were in the planning stage and the group was officially organized in the fall of the following [school] year. The young fraternity was not that well accepted even though for the first time, blacks in an organization other than the African American Association received University of Alabama recognition. It received as much opposition from the blacks as it did from whites. As a matter of fact, white fraternities were somewhat relieved because of the pressure that had been building to give membership to blacks. A year later in the spring semester of 1974, the first black national Greek organization was established [at UA], it being Kappa Alpha Psi. It was followed by Delta Sigma Theta, Omega Psi Phi, and Alpha Kappa Alpha. The remaining members of Beta Lambda Kappa became Alpha Phi Alpha in the fall of 1974.
The Kappa Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated evolved from a desire among African-American students at the University of Alabama to heighten "a sense of black pride and usefulness unforeseen in University history." During the 1972-73 school term, just ten years after the historic "stand in the schoolhouse door", there was a growing interest among African-American students in participating in fraternities and sororities. The white Greek system participated in every facet of campus life, usually affecting the outcomes of student government elections, homecoming court selection, and the allocation of student activity funds to campus organizations. It appears that some African-American students pledged at nearby Stillman College, none of the national black fraternities and sororities had colonized the University's campus with a chapter. Black student leaders engaged in great debates over the merits of "Black Greek organizations." Members of the Afro-American Association felt that "black Greek organizations would only tend to further divide an already divided black student body."
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, August 1, 1973, a group of male students met in room 308 of Fitts Hall to lay the foundation for a fraternity based upon their common interest. They laid the foundation of Beta Lambda Kappa (ΒΛΚ), the initials of which represented the word "black." The fraternity quickly adopted a motto: "Through striving we shall achieve, through achieving we shall succeed." The fourteen initial members chosen were listed as founders. "Mini-Jewel" Sylvester Wilson was elected president and "Mini-Jewel" Melvin G. Cleveland was elected Secretary-Treasurer. The group expressed two main purposes in its founding. 1.) Official recognition by the University and Inter-Fraternity Council; 2.) Attracting national black fraternities to campus. As early as Sunday, August 5, 1973, the group had received a letter from Dr. Eddie R. Johnson, president of Delta Phi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. acknowledging receipt of a letter from Sylvester Wilson and Beta Lambda Kappa inquiring about "merging" with Alpha. Brother Johnson asked that Wilson set up a meeting of members of his group and members of Alpha Phi Alpha. The group continued the business of organizing while seeking membership into Alpha Phi Alpha and inquiring in general about fraternity structure.
Through these events, the group saw the possibility of accomplishing both goals by the fall of 1974 when the majority of members have reached sophomore status. They enumerated Beta Lambda Kappa's precepts in a constitution on Wednesday, August 8, 1973. Their precepts were:
1.) to foster a union of male students dedicated to the perpetuation of the culture normally associated with fraternities
2.) the creation of a fraternity dedicated to the principles of humanity and dignity;
3.) to create a fraternity which shall not practice racism or discrimination in any form in its choice of members
4.) to stand as a symbol of character, scholarship, and harmony of men through the exchange of ideas and mutual assistance
5.) to serve as a social and service sponsoring outlet for its members.
While continuing discussions with Alpha Phi Alpha, the group accepted ten of fourteen pledges as members-eight freshmen and two sophomores during the fall of 1973. Listed among the first pledges were: "Mini-Jewel" Bruce C. Allen, "Mini-Jewel" Van C. Pinkard, "Mini-Jewel" Joe C. Ransaw, and "Mini-Jewel" Alphonso G. Wesley. Membership increased to eighteen (some of the founding members did not return to school).
The fraternity realized its initial goal on Tuesday, September 4, 1973, when the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) voted to recognize Beta Lambda Kappa as a member organization, thereby, making it "the first black Greek organization at the University of Alabama." President Sylvester Wilson emphasized that the group was a "social-service organization" with a current main emphasis on social activities. The fraternity hoped to compete within the IFC's and campus intramural sports. With the primary goal accomplished, Beta Lambda Kappa strove toward the realization of its second goal-attracting the four national black fraternities.
The fraternity realized its second goal as four national black Greek organizations colonized the campus: Kappa Alpha Psi, Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Omega Psi Phi Despite the presence of two national fraternities on campus, Beta Lambda Kappa continued conducting service projects, competing in intramural sports, and sponsoring social events. After a study of the ideals and goals of the two fraternities, the leadership and majority of Beta Lambda Kappa members did not wish to acquiesce to convenience and affiliate with either Kappa Alpha Psi or Omega Psi Phi. This caused division within the young fraternity with the dissenting faction joining a pledge club and becoming members of the charter line of Omega Psi Phi, one dissenter chose to pledge Kappa Alpha Psi. The remaining members were patient and deliberate in completing the arduous process of becoming men of Alpha. They contactedAlpha Phi Alpha again with hopes of completing affiliation and pledging by fall 1974. It has been noted that "that group of young men had organized their affairs on their own" and that the existence of the Kappa Alpha Chapter was solely initiated by those listed as charter members.
A smoker with Alpha Phi Alpha was held during which Brother Wilson and Brother Cleveland made the fraternity's [Beta Lambda Kappa's] aims clear. "The similarities between the origin, goals, concepts, and beliefs of the two organizations were astounding." One member was deemed ineligible as he graduated in May. By the end of the spring semester, Beta Lambda Kappa had become the Alpha Phi Alpha Interest Club (Delta Phi Lambda Extension Chapter at the University of Alabama) taking the name "Tame Typical Alpha Men", hence, the dissolution of Beta Lambda Kappa Fraternity. Two new members, "Mini-Jewel" Norman Merriweather and "Mini-Jewel" Frank J. Roscoe, then joined the pledge club which was under the tutelage and direction of Brother Dr. Eddie R. Johnson and Brother Dr. Benjamin L. Winston, president and secretary respectively of Delta Phi Lambda Chapter, the Tuscaloosa graduate chapter. The chapter officially received its charter Monday, December 2, 1974, and given the name, Kappa Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, according to Alpha Phi Alpha protocol for nomenclature. From the outset the young chapter, as was the former young fraternity, strove to achieve. The brothers attended their first convention in Tuskegee, Alabama on Friday, March 7, 1975, thus establishing the record of excellence that we still hold today by winning the distinction of "State College Chapter of the Year." It has also been reported by the charter members that they also won the first step show competition at the University, beating all fraternities on campus. Following in their footsteps and in the footsteps of "The Jewels" we have been a beacon of success. We proudly say that we have reached the pinnacle of all 3 aspects of Alpha, and continue in doing so.
At the University of Alabama, we have been an academic force. We established ourselves as a community of scholars from the start by holding first, second, or third place among all fraternities for eleven consecutive years. We held the Order of Omega Scholarship Cup starting 1992 for Five Years (or ten semesters). Kappa Alpha possesses several brothers in a variety of academic majors. Some of whom are regularly recognized on the Dean's List. Kappa Alpha continues to produce high-quality men who attain their various degrees in a timely manner.
In addition, to the Nationally mandated service programs of Alpha, Kappa Alpha had adopted an elementary school (Stafford Global Studies Elementary), tutor and mentor at Program Future, assist with the Boys and Girls Club, and offer (an average 2-3 ) Issues Forums every month. Upon the closing of Stafford, Kappa Alpha continued to provide educational help to the students at Oakdale Elementary. We aid the teachers in developing students learning skills. We also provide after-school tutoring for math and science. On the last Friday of each month the entire Area 5 Cluster ( Delta Phi Lambda, Epsilon Nu, Kappa Alpha, and Pi Delta ) provide a birthday party for the students. KA also volunteers their time at the Salvation Army to help serve meals to those in need.
Members of Kappa Alpha have founded: The University of Alabama Chess Club and Freedom Chess Academy (a chess tutoring program); Common Ground (a campus-wide spoken word/poetry organization); Counter-Friction (a student activist group); SCAR (Student Coalition Against Racism); a Campus-wide newsletter College Dayz; SBL (the Student Business League), the university's 1st Black Business Fraternity; and hold the position of president and other offices in several campus organizations.
Not only are we recognized for having the best parties on and off-campus, but we are also well showcased on the step show stage as well. Our "Greek week" receives rave reviews as we have visitors from as far away as three states to visit us. We won our annual NPHC Homecoming Stepshow 5 consecutive years. We also won the 8th and 9th Camille Armstrong Stepshow on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
After a period of social silence, Kappa Alpha emerged again and won the 14th and 15th Annual Camille Armstrong step shows. The Kappa Alpha Chapter enjoyed an undefeated step show run in 2004. They went (5-0), an impressive winning streak that included the 2004 UA Homecoming Stepshow Kappa Alpha is also one of the first NPHC fraternities at the University of Alabama to host a joint social event with another NPHC fraternity ( WYF). Kappa Alpha enjoys traveling to other campuses and supporting our Greek sisters and brothers.