A sea of black and gold is washing over Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and each wave is bringing more and more men of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. The group is hosting its 94th General Convention in Charm City July 12-16.

Hundreds of members and guests from around the country and beyond have swarmed the Baltimore Convention Center, where the fraternity officially kicked off with a flurry of events on July 12.

With a theme of  “The Urgency of Now,” members of the organization gathered on the convention’s opening night to discuss their role in improving the plight of African-American communities..

“‘The urgency of now’ requires that all men of Greekdom and all women of Greekdom come together and deal with the issues that are impacting our communities in a negative way,” said General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Everett B. Ward. “It is no longer a time for us to come together to talk about step shows and hazing.”

He added, “The ‘urgency of now’ demands that we come up with solutions, that we come up with remedies, and that we train a new generation for leadership because when Black men are being shot down in the streets of America they don’t ask if you are an Alpha, Kappa, Omega, or Sigma. We are guilty as charged because we are Black.”

Members of the panel were led by longtime White House correspondent April D. Ryan, a member of Delta Sigma Theta, and Alpha man Jeff Johnson, who has been making millions laugh while informing the masses through outlets such as the Rickey Smiley Morning Show, BET, CNN, and Fox News.

“‘Urgency of now’ means we have to be clear about strategy as we leave this place to do the critical work,” said Johnson, who posed several important questions to not only the panel, but also the audience gathered. “What are we going to do around education? How are we going to impact electoral politics? Who are the people that we are going to train to run for office? Where are the spaces that we are going to engage at the federal level, the state level, and the local level?”

When asked what two issues the entire National Pan-Hellenic Council should come together and focus its energies on, most agreed that the health of Black people — physical and mental—was most important.

“Many of the issues that are affecting our people today can be prevented,” said Dr. George R. Smith Jr., international grand secretary of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity. “If you look at the No. 1 killer of African Americans between the ages of 15 to 24 it’s assault. I don’t have to kill someone who offends me.”

Dr. Edith C. Booker, former North Atlantic regional director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, said healthcare was of the utmost importance right along with the issues surrounding the creation of educated voters- not just bodies casting aimless votes. “We dropped the ball in 2010 and we have to pick it back up in 2018. We have to come up with a strong message, not just ‘Go register! We’ll pick you up and take you to the polls-‘ but “Why are you going to the polls?”

Aside from meeting with K-12 educators, hosting a college fair, and discussing how to boost civic engagement, the Alpha brothers and their lady counterparts will be hitting Oriole Park, holding a fashion show, hosting the Black and Gold Leadership Gala, and making a stop at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. The conference will conclude July 16 after an interfaith worship service beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was founded on Dec. 4, 1906, on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. The institution, not unlike many thousands of other American colleges and universities at the time, provided a less than savory experience for African-American students who dared step on the prestigious Ivy League campus in hopes of a higher education and a better life.


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer