June 07, 2011

  Those who know me well know that I enjoy celebrating the interaction of cultures.  So last night was a remarkable one and it was all due to the nation's oldest black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.

I recall attending an AdColor awards banquet a few years ago, and hearing soft murmurs on how this organization wasn't adequately recognizing Hispanic agencies and practitioners.  So clearly last night the Alphas were teaching us a lesson or two.

Alpha Phi Alpha's New York City chapter is the force behind The Wall Street Alphas Charitable Foundation (www.wsacf.org).  The Wall Street Alphas organize an annual wine & spirits tasting that benefits its G.E.N.T.S. program, a mentoring program for African-American and Latino students.

While every year they honor a handful of both African-American and Latino students, last night was unique: all three of G.E.N.T.S. scholar honorees were Latino--all Dominican.  The Alphas remained true to their mission of recognizing leadership and fostering unity among the youth of New York City.

As the oldest black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha has had a distinguished roll-call of members including Martin Luther King, Jr., Olympian Jesse Owens, and Justice Thurgood Marshall.  They are to be commended for their work and their dedication to challenging ALL of our youth to excel in their academic endeavors.  This is the same fraternity who moved their 2010 convention from Phoenix to Las Vegas following Arizona's passage of its anti-immigrant law.

During the recognition portion of last night's programs, one of the honorees (who by the way received a 4-year scholarship in excess of $100,000) spoke on behalf of his two fellow honorees and about the G.E.N.T.S. program.  He left no doubt that he will never forget the commitment that the Alphas made to him.  A hopeful sign for the future of black-Latino relations in this country.

We know our cities are growing more Hispanic, but they are also growing more multicultural.  It behooves all of us to learn to work better together, or else we will all fail.

I salute the Alphas of New York who have been championing excellence wherever it exists.  A good lesson to be sure.

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