Props to Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation's oldest historically-black fraternity, for moving its national convention out of Arizona because of that state's repugnant new immigration law. Instead of meeting in Phoenix this July, A Phi A will convene its 90th national confab in Vegas. Herman "Skip" Mason, Jr., the Alphas' national general president, was right on time when he declared in a statement: "It was the full opinion of the board that we could not host a meeting in a state that has sanctioned a law which we believe will lead to racial profiling and discrimination, and a law that could put the civil rights and the very dignity of our members at risk during their stay in Phoenix Arizona."
Mason's comment gets to the heart of why Arizona's law is so diabolical: it threatens the freedom of anyone who enters the state. In the short term, we know that this legislation will be used to target working class Latinos. But it won't take long before all Latinos get caught up. Then the target will aim at Asians and African-Americans. And since black men are already the frequent targets of over-zealous law enforcement, it stands to reason that the broad new powers granted to Arizona cops under this new law will only embolden that group bad apple officers who are cut from the same unconscionable cloth as Stacy Koon (the LAPD sergeant who supervised the beating of Rodney King) and James Crowley (the Cambridge, MA sergeant who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates at his own house). So, when Alpha president Skip Mason said that Arizona's immigration law could put his frat brothers at risk if they held their convention in Phoenix, he was by no means being hyperbolic.
Mason put Arizona's new immigration law into clear focus when he drew a parallel to one of the most revered members of his fraternity. Mason wrote: "Our late Alpha brother the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, in a letter he wrote while sitting in the Birmingham Jail, 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' Alpha Phi Alpha's decision to boycott Arizona continues that same fight, fought during the Civil Rights era."
BOULE' BROTHERS BUILD THE NEXT GENERATION
It's a beautiful thing to see how our various African-American organizations are living out the classic black admonition "each one teach one." I was privileged to spend a recent Saturday morning at Nordstrom department store in the Glendale Galleria as the men of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity's Gamma Zeta Boulé hosted a "dress for success" workshop for a group of African-American high school males from the Pasadena area. The event was part of the Gamma Zeta Boulé Foundation's L.A.M.P. (Leadership, Achievement, Management, Professionalism) mentoring program which offers college-bound students monthly training in success skills such as SAT and ACT preparation, leadership, business etiquette, financial literacy, public speaking, resume writing and more.
My pride swelled as I witnessed a group of African-American boys listen attentively and ask thoughtful questions as Nordstrom's team of style experts demonstrated how to select suits, slacks, shirts, shoes, ties and even jeans to project an image of confidence and professionalism. The presentation was rounded out by an Michael Ferrera, a young African-American entrepreneur who outfits corporate executives through his eponymous custom clothing company. Ferrera articulated overall theme of the day when he said that his goal is to "teach people how to dress in order to attract more of what they want in life."
It was indeed an inspiring morning! The fact that these teenage brothers had been brought together with top notch professionals by a group of progressive, success-oriented black men - the Archons of Gamma Zeta Boulé - brought home the total power of the day.
Archon Harlan Ward, who organized the Dress for Success day, said, "It's very critical that black men stay involved with the young people in the community, especially young black males. The question is always asked, 'Where are the black men?' The black men have to be there to guide and direct to make sure that our young men are jus as successful as anyone else."
That goal was amplified by Archon Raymond Ealy who stated, "We're building a strong bench so that there will always be a pool of excellent, young black leaders who are prepared to step up and continue the work of the elders."
The Gamma Zeta Boulé Foundation's L.A.M.P. mentoring program is just one example of the countless efforts being made by black folks all across the country to guide and nurture the next generations. "Each one teach one" is how we have ensured the success of our people down through the centuries against incalculable odds -- and it is why our future will continue to gleam brighter and brighter.
Thanks for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.