The Essence of Alpha

Sixteen years ago I became a member of the Rho Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. At that time, most of the gentlemen featured in the short clip below were in preschool. While almost two decades separate our respective pledge experiences, watching this video brought back so many of the powerful emotions that made and make Alpha dear to me. Coincidentally, if you ask a Man of Alpha why he pledged or what the fraternity means to him, chances are he will struggle mightily to find the right words to convey its essence.

Spring 2011 – Beta Gamma Chapter from John Ledbetter on Vimeo.

Alpha is more than the pledging, the stepping, the strolling, the chanting, the signs, the gear, the partying, the debauchery, the brotherhood, the service, the academics, the secrets, the history. Yet, it is all those, too. I share this video because it captures the essence of Alpha better than I can and does so with no words. Now you know.

In the process of preparing to write this post I realized it is quite conceivable that, in sixteen years, Owen could be that skinny kid, standing with his line brothers in the rain, Alpha Phi Alpha emblazoned on his chest. How powerful would that be?

Great Moments in Alpha History: May 1995 Northeastern University Stepshow Competition

You are about to witness something special. Something rare, magnificent and hilarious. This is how I chose to give thanks on this special day. Alas, I am getting ahead of myself and need to set the stage.

As you may recall, I’m an Alpha man. My two line brothers and I pledged Rho Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in spring 1995. (On an historical note, Rho Nu—which encompasses MIT, Harvard and Tufts—will celebrate its 20th anniversary next September.) I was digging through some old VHS tapes, from the brief period during my college days when I had a camcorder, and came across several gems. In addition to footage of family, I also had hours of tape from the Million Man March and a tape of my first stepshow…the topic of this post.

Rho Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Rho Nu inducts its new members in the spring. The tradition is the newest members join with the “older” chapter bros and their fellow counterparts from Sigma chapter—which covers the Boston side of the Charles River—to compete against other fraternities in the area in the annual Northeastern University Stepshow competition. At stake are trophies, a year’s worth of bragging rights and a hockey rink full of women who like a good stepshow and love to see young men work up a sweat.

I suggest you take a moment to read the bottom of my Alpha turns 100 post which includes a brief summary of stepshows and their significance to Black Greek letter organizations.

To recap, after pledging during the long, bitter New England winter, a new member practices a couple more months with his fellow fraternity brothers to represent the fraternity at the competition and (hopefully) avoid completely humiliating himself in front of the Greater Boston community (which may include his future wife). It just so happens TB was the camerawoman for my first stepshow so there is a modest correlation between stepshows and long-lasting love, right?

Without further ado, I present a Keith’s Amusing Musings exclusive, 16-minute video of the Alpha step team from the May 1995 competition. We won first place, of course. So, go ahead and crank up the sound, sit back and feast your eyes on the “Peabo Bryson circa 1993” inspired suits, forceful rhythms and intricate formations only Alphas could pull off.