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June 98 Message
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"The greatest struggle we have is not against the enemy but against ourselves - against that in us which is in contradiction with the choice we made for liberation and a higher level of human life."

Amilcar Cabral

Cabral was the founder of the liberation movement in Guine’-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands of West Africa. He was a brilliant scholar who was sent by the Portuguese colonial oppressor of his people to university in Portugal. The Portuguese intention was to employ Cabral in a position in their colonial bureaucracy to facilitate the continuing oppression of his people. But upon graduation, Cabral rejected the overtures of the oppressor and went home to found and lead the movement for the liberation of his people.

Jewel Brother Dr. Henry Arthur Callis stated in his Founders’ Address to the 1950 General Convention, that in 1906 Alpha was "... born in the shadows of slavery, on the lap of disfranchisement. We proposed to foster scholarship and excellence among students; to bring leadership and vision to the social problems of our communities and the Nation; to fight, with courage and self-sacrifice, every bar to the democratic way of life. So long as we swerve not from these purposes, Alpha Phi Alpha lives." Also, in the feature article I wrote titled "The African-Centered Focus Of Early Alpha Phi Alpha," that was published in The SPHINX issue of Summer 1997, I documented that Alpha was established as a profoundly Afrocentric brotherhood.

Recently an incident at the 1998 Eastern Region Convention of Alpha held in Rockville, Maryland brought to attention that the struggle begun by the Founders that was rooted in African culture and history is unfinished.

The Convention agenda included a call for a report by the Eastern Region Committee on Racial Justice and Public Policy. On the afternoon of Friday, April 3rd, a small group of Brothers met with the Chairman of Racial Justice and Public Policy to propose issues on which Alpha should take a stand. During the discussion, Brothers suggested a number of issues including the creation of charter schools, social security reform and use of sampling for the national census. I had recently returned from the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Association For The Study Of Classical African Civilizations conference held at City College of New York in Harlem. Speakers at the conference included Black scholars from America, Africa, England and elsewhere. I told the Chairman that Alpha needed to take a public stand on the attack on Black scholars in this country and elsewhere. I and other Brothers who identified topics were asked to write statements on our issues and get them to the Chairman by 7:00 p.m. that evening so that he could compile and report them for adoption by the Convention at Saturday’s session.

By about 4:00 p.m. I gave the Chairman the following statement:

"Those who wish to deny that mankind and organized society started in Africa, and also fear the challenge posed by Afrocentric scholars, have mounted an attack on the Afrocentric scholars in both academic institutions and the media for the purpose of silencing them and furthering a white supremacist view of world history.

"Among the Afrocentric scholars under attack are included: John Henrick Clarke; Yosef ben-Jochannan; Theophile Obenga; Brother Jacob H. Carruthers; Asa Hilliard, III; Brother Charles Finch; Molefi Kete Asante; Marimba Ani; Leonard Jeffries, Jr.; Tony Martin; Maulana Karenga and others.

"Historiography has been, for the most part, a study of the way Europeans think, research, write and theorize about the way history should be presented. The result is that African American students and the Black community, as well as the nation, are imprisoned within the limited context and thinking of a Western white supremacist point of view.

"We call upon all Alpha chapters to become a focal point in their communities for the study and dissemination of African centered historiography. Alpha chapters should work closely with key organizations such as The Association For The Study Of Classical African Civilizations [] in establishing study groups for all ages in their communities."

Late the next afternoon the chairman made his report to the convention but it contained no mention of the above issue. Immediately upon completion of the Chairman’s reading of his report, I asked the presiding officer for recognition which was granted. I asked the chairman why the report contained no mention of the attack on Black scholars. The Chairman initially responded that it was implied in language contained in the report but he backpedaled when no such language could be cited. He then stated that the issue I had raised would be reflected in "the final report." Inasmuch as we were about to vote on "the final report" I requested permission of the presiding officer to read to the convention the above statement concerning the attack on Black scholars. Permission was granted and I read the statement to the assembly and then moved that it be included as the position of Alpha in the Convention Report on Racial Justice and Public Policy. The statement was included by unanimous vote.

Afterwards, several Brothers were puzzled as to why such an important issue as the attack on Black scholars had been excluded by the Chairman of Racial Justice and Public Policy from the report he presented to the convention. One Brother speculated that the motivation may have been that the Chairman is employed by an education organization that is heavily influenced by some of the same people and groups who are perceived to be most active in the attack on Afrocentric scholars.

If the motivation for exclusion was as the Brother speculated, then it was yet another example of collaboration with oppression and a reminder that our greatest struggle is against ourselves. What choice will you make the next time the offer comes to be an agent for the oppression of your people?

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