The General Convention of the nation’s oldest Black Greek organization, Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., drew about 10,000 people to Austin in late June. Its theme was “Reinvesting,” a topic addressed by an array of esteemed speakers and guests during a public reception at the Hilton Austin Ballroom, the National Pan-Hellenic Council leadership greeted the crowd of Alphas on behalf of the “Divine Nine” – our nation’s African American fraternities and sororities.
In the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions related to higher education and the Voting Rights Act, Alphas were asked to consider reinvesting in education and civil rights. Ari Melber, a lawyer and co-host of the MSNBC ensemble show, “The Cycle,” described the nation’s highest court as “hijacking the Civil Rights agenda with racial revisionism.” Alpha Phi Alpha General President Mark S. Tillman said it would take “all of our collective might to battle the injustices we see.” Austin American-Statesman columnist Michael Barnes wrote about the event in a story that was published on July 3:
Speaker after speaker reminded the gathered that among their brothers in the nation’s oldest national black fraternity were Martin Luther King Jr., Heman Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall and University of Texas athletic pioneer James Means.
UT Vice President Gregory Vincent, who played a key role in landing the general convention, beamed with pride. He brought up the statues of King and U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan on campus. (Alphas played a big role in landing the King statue in the nation’s capital.)
“Today, we are at the forefront of the battle for equitable access to education,” Vincent said, citing Fisher v. University of Texas, with a nod to UT’s not-so-proud past record on equity.
Dr. Vincent delivered welcoming remarks at the reception and was honored to deliver the fraternal luncheon keynote during the convention.
Tillman and others discussed the importance of continuing to fight for equity not just for current Alphas but for future generations of African Americans. “We want to make sure our children receive all of the dividends of our investments, not just politically but also financially,” he said.