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December 97 Message
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"First of all; Servants of all; We shall transcend all."

Motto of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

"Mythology grows about any institution stalwart enough to survive. The name becomes a rallying symbol for the ideas and the ideals of men. Apparently Alpha Phi Alpha has become such an institution. …"

"The name is older than the Fraternity, and was adopted in the realization that we in America are descended from many African races and tribes. We believe ourselves to be the first group of men in college, of African descent, bound together as brethren, with the purpose of advancing the lot of all peoples of such descent."

"The chief significance of Alpha Phi Alpha lies in its purpose to stimulate, develop, and cement an intelligent, trained leadership in the unending fight for freedom, equality and fraternity. Our task is endless. Our activity is limited only by our courage and our capacities. Our field is the world of social institutions."

Jewel Brother Dr. Henry Arthur Callis
The Sphinx, 1941

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? … Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works; show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."

The Book of James 2:14 – 18
The Original African Heritage Study Bible
King James Version
General Editor: Brother The Reverend Cain Hope Felder, Ph.D.

The issues of leadership and service are juxtaposed in the motto of the Fraternity. The leadership role for Alpha men to be active – not passive – in the social institutions of their community is cited in the quote from Jewel Callis.

The standard of measurable service is cited in the Book of James. Moreover, thousands of years earlier than the Hebrew-Christian sacred texts represented by The Book of James, the ancient African people of the Nile Valley gave expression to their morality in an ethical and spiritual striving that stressed a practical dimension. Righteousness was real only in personal and social practice. This ancient African ethics and spirituality was represented in The Book of Declarations of Virtues which included, among others, this passage:

Nefer-Seshem-Ra, says:

I have spoken truly and done right. I spoke justly and repeated that which was just. I seized the right moment so as to stand well with the people. I judged two in such a way that would satisfy both of them. I rescued the weak from those who were stronger as much as was in my power. I gave bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked and brought the boatless to dry land. I buried those who had no children and built a boat for those who were without one. I respected my father, pleased my mother and raised my sisters and brothers."

Selections From The Husia: Sacred Wisdom Of Ancient Egypt
Selected and Retranslated by
Maulana Karenga, Ph.D.

Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brilliantly addressed the issues of leadership and service in his sermon The Drum Major Instinct. The sermon was based on The Book of Mark beginning at 10:35 where James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus to grant to them their desire to be seated on his right and left in glory. Brother King then cited Jesus’ response to them that stated in part:

"…whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant. And whosoever will be the chieftest, shall be servant of all."

Brother King then stated that we all want to get recognition and be seen as important as did James and John. It is a kind of drum major instinct. A desire to be out front and first of all. Jesus’ response to James and John reordered priorities and transformed the situation by giving a definition of greatness that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. The first of all shall be the servant of all.

And so to be great, to be first of all, has a long history of being linked with an obligation of service to all. It was understood by the ancient Africans of the Nile Valley, thousands of years later by the early Hebrews and Christians, and from 1906 on by the Founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Is it understood in our time?



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