A century of brotherly love

Alpha Phi Alpha president is keeping venerable organization on the community-service path

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June 04, 2006|By HOLLY SHIVER | HOLLY SHIVER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, founded Dec. 4. 1906, at Cornell University, will celebrate its centennial this year.

The 200,000-member group is the oldest African-American Greek organization, and has produced many leaders known throughout the United States for their achievements, including civil-rights activist Adam Clayton Powell, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The organization, headquartered in Baltimore, was established by seven young men who are referred to as the "Cornell Seven."

They are Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle and Vertner Woodson Tandy.

Darryl R. Matthews Sr. has been the general president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for just over a year. He talks about the fraternity and its mission:

How did the organization get started?

In the early 1900s, there were a small number of African-Americans at Cornell University, and other colleges, perhaps, across the country, and the people who subsequently became our founders noticed that a number of the enrolled freshmen from the previous year did not come back to school the next year. They realized that there was a need to form an organization dedicated to assisting others to acquire a college education.

Since you began your term as general president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., what has been your platform?

My strategic focus area has No. 1, [been] placed on making sure that our organization -- that is, our board of directors, our corporate governance system -- uses the best practices of today's well-run, well-managed nonprofit organizations. So, organizational development is one.

Also, economic self-sufficiency -- making sure that we continue building our endowments, that we strengthen our fiscal management systems, that we explore and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for those of us who are looking to establish a business, or to assist those who have businesses to grow.

And I want to make sure that our young members, specifically our college brothers, are well-versed in financial literacy, so we're establishing financial literacy initiatives to assist our college brothers and our entry-level brothers, and others who need it, to better understand the management of money.

What are some of the Alphas' community commitments?

We have the Martin Luther King National Memorial project that we hope to break ground on in November or December [on the National Mall in Washington]. I currently serve as vice chair of the board for that organization. This was a project that was initially founded and funded by the fraternity. We are the largest, noncorporate donor to date on this project, and we want to make sure that people in America realize that while Dr. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, his contribution to society and to the world at large is larger than his membership to any singular organization.

To address the challenge of teen pregnancy, Alpha Phi Alpha developed Project Alpha to address the responsibility of teen pregnancy from the male perspective. We counsel young men and work with young men to challenge their behaviors and attitudes about their responsibility with regard to teen pregnancy.

We are very engaged and active with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America. We are engaged in voter education and voter registration through our Voteless People Is a Hopeless People campaign. Consistently, you will find us in the community, especially during election periods, encouraging our folks to vote and to be educated.

We have Go-to-High School, Go-to-College, where we encourage our youth to not only go to high school and finish high school, but then to go on to college, and we're expanding that to say that beyond college you have to be prepared to go to work.

What are some of the organization's other goals?

We have chapters who have been very involved in building housing and developing communities through our community- development corporations.

We have some brothers, members, who are individually acquiring and building hotels. We'd like to assist some of our members with those goals and get the fraternity involved in enhanced development of our own communities. We're going to have to create more small businesses in the black community to employ our people because they're not moving any more factories in our communities; the large manufacturer jobs have been outsourced overseas.

Alpha Phi Alpha's 2006 Centennial Convention (Celebration) will be held in Washington from July 25- 30. It will include a symposium with national speakers, a public program, a reception and gala concert and other events.

For more information, go to www.apa1906.net or contact the national office at 410-554-0040.

unisun@baltsun.com

DARRYL R. MATTHEWS SR.

Age: 52

Fraternity role: General president and chairman of the board of directors, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Matthews was installed in office in January 2005 and is serving a four-year term.

Profession: Executive director and chief operating officer for the National Association of Black Accountants Inc. in Greenbelt. NABA is an organization for African-Americans in the finance and accounting professions.

Education: Bachelor of science in sociology and political science, Central Missouri State University, 1977.

Family: Married to Allison Paige Matthews for more than 20 years; three sons -- Julian, 24, Darryl Jr., 18, and Blake, 16.

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