Harp: Yale should better support our fraternity

By Jeremy Harp

The last article written about the centennial celebrations of the Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated (“Black frat celebrates 100 years,” April 10), was very nice and the Zeta chapter would like to thank the News for taking the time to research and write about our event. But the chapter brothers felt there should be a follow up article to talk about the history of the fraternity, the significance of a Black organization having 100 years at Yale and the numerous great men of Alpha Phi Alpha and in the Zeta Chapter who have contributed much to Yale and to the United States in general.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, was founded on Dec. 4, 1906, on the campus of Cornell University by seven African-American students. These students came together for support during a time when segregation prevented them from enjoying the college experience that their white counterparts had. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, is part of the Divine Nine group of historically black fraternities and sororities.

Like the other Divine Nine organizations, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity promotes brotherhood and academic excellence while providing service and advocacy for our communities. Each chapter in Alpha Phi Alpha must participate in the fraternity’s three national programs: Voteless People is a Hopeless People, Project Alpha and Go to High School-Go to College. Chapters also host other programs with the intention of improving their campuses, communities and neighborhoods.

The work of Alpha Phi Alpha is represented through its members and can be easily quantified through its extensive list of prominent members. These men of Alpha Phi Alpha consist of some of the most notable and influential men of the 20th and 21st centuries. Each has played his own role in shaping America into what it is today. Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha include Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Jessie Owens, Cornell West, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, John Hope Franklin, Noble Sissle, Ronald Burris, Frederick Douglass and Andrew Young, among many more. Also, out of all the black males, Alpha Phi Alpha claims 60 percent of doctors, 75 percent of lawyers, 65 percent of dentists and 95 percent of black college presidents. Men of Alpha Phi Alpha have had a very strong presence in America and continue to set the bar when it comes to excellence in any arena.

At Yale, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, is represented by the Zeta Chapter. The Zeta Chapter was founded here at Yale University on April 10, 1909. Over the past 100 years men of the Zeta Chapter have had a large influence on Yale through their presence and through the work they have done while at Yale. Three of the four founding members of the Afro-American Cultural Center are members of the Zeta Chapter. The students who led the fight to get African-American studies recognized as a full major here at Yale are members of the Zeta Chapter. John K. Johnson was the person who led the fight to get Dr. Martin Luther King Day recognized at Yale. Included in the list of alumni of the Zeta chapter are students from the University of New Haven and Southern Connecticut State University. These men were leaders in their respective colleges and also changed their schools in numerous ways. All of the alumni of the Zeta chapter continue to blaze new paths and truly set a positive example for young men to follow.

The Zeta chapter is a special chapter because we are tied as the second oldest undergraduate organization for African-Americans on a white college campus. The only other undergraduate organization older is the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at Cornell University, the first chapter founded in Alpha Phi Alpha. Even though ours is the Zeta chapter and the sixth chapter founded of the organization, it was one of the first founded at a majority-white institution.

Few African American organizations at Ivy League institutions are 100 years old. Yale should join us as we celebrate this monumental event with excitement and remembrance. Unfortunately, Yale has not paid much attention to the centennial of the Zeta chapter and not many people on campus know either. The brothers of the Zeta Chapter truly hope that Yale will recognize this accomplishment and help spread the word. The Zeta Chapter is planning on having another celebration of the centennial in December to celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the founding of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. On this date, we hope all of Yale can join us as we celebrate Alpha Phi Alpha, the Zeta Chapter, how far we all have come since 1909 and the wonderful institution that is Yale.


  • Anonymous

    Well said young man. Well said.

    Hats off to the distinguished young brothers of A PHi A.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, Jeremy. Congratulations to the Zeta chapter on your centennial.

  • Anonymous



    Maybe Zeta Chapter should take some responsibility for this lack of support? Mr. Harp does a good job blaming everyone but himself and the Alpha Fraternity. No group on campus celebrating an Anniversary or Reunion does so without taking consistent steps to ENGAGE and INFORM University officials. How often were they in contact and followed-up? How much did alumni do to help the students prepare and communicate with campus officers? Who was designated as campus outreach coordinator? Did the chapter meet with the President or Secretary's Office and explain their plans? Did the fraternity and it's alumni contact or meet with the Dean of Yale College or even invite campus officials to speak or provide some sort of proclamation? Did they research what other organizations at Yale do to plan for a Centennial? Did they print materials about their organization and distribute throughout campus? Were Black faculty invited to take part and did the chapter work with Masters and deans or the alumni office? Did they think to plan a tea or another event in a residential college for added visibility? These are actually basic things that any observant and organized group would automatically know. I get the feeling this Frat is NOT very effective on campus and therefore, would have had to work much harder to gain visibility for their event.

    Did they involve cultural centers more than simply sending flyers and asking for money? How often did they meet face-to-face with officials? A 100 year old organization should have a greater sense of how to plan a successful and visible event. It doesn't appear that they relied enough on the cultural center which has had very successful anniversaries and regular events. Sending out flyers doesn't do it and signifies a lack of vision on the part of the Fraternity, not the University.

    Also, why doesn't Mr. Harp say something about what they accomplished during the Centennial? It's curious that there's no publicity or statement about that, isn't it?

  • coldy

    “In the past, the administration has placated student leaders with proposals of diversity programming, only to sweep these promises under the rug once the students graduate.”

    Could you elaborate? All I know is that this year’s freshman orientation included a great deal of discussion about the importance of diversity and the potential for hurtful interactions. One movie, in particular, that everyone watched simultaneously addressed both the problem you raise of African American students being locked out of colleges and homophobia. A lengthy discussion occurred afterwards with freshman counselors. And there are other such examples.

    Not that one movie undoes the systemic problems you seek to address, but before writing this piece were you aware of all the steps the university *has* taken? If so, I didn’t get that impression from reading it.