Members of Alpha Phi Alpha, along with the King family and other guests pose in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. –Photo by Jason Lewis
Members of Alpha Phi Alpha, who spear headed and were one of the major sponsors of the monument (Dr. King was one of their fraternity brothers) –Photo by Jason Lewis
Though the final event did not occur on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, King’s fraternity brothers honored him
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Staff Writer
Hurricane Irene put a damper on the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication, but on Friday his brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were able to have a private ceremony before the weather canceled Sunday’s public dedication.
A few thousand members of the fraternity flew in from all over the nation, wearing gold blazers and A Phi A fedoras to celebrate the most iconic figure in the organization.
“The experience of the entire weekend was a feeling of being overwhelmed,” said John Nelson, member of Beta Psi Lambda Chapter (Los Angeles). “Joining Alpha Phi Alpha, you hear so much about Martin Luther King. He was probably the most pivotal figure in history as far as membership is concerned. Joining Alpha, that is one of the first things that you learn is that Martin Luther King was an Alpha. Once you become an Alpha, you are a part of something that he was a part of.”
Several of King’s fraternity brothers, along with other civil rights activist such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, spoke about the importance of honoring King in such a grand fashion, and one of the most memorable moments of the weekend to Nelson was hearing King’s children talk about their father.
“The highlight was hearing Bernice King and Martin Luther King III speak at the morning program,” Nelson said. “It just felt like the spirit of King was living through them, and it reflected so much, and so many good memories of their father, and their mother. I loved that Coretta Scott was not forgotten in all of this.”
Bernice King, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., pointed out that her father would not have been as memorialized as he is today if it were not for his wife Coretta Scott King because she promoted him and his message during and after his life.
Martin Luther King, III, is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. The fraternity spearheaded the building of the MLK Memorial.
After several speeches by distinguished men of Alpha, the brothers marched down to the memorial, where a historic panoramic photo of the fraternity brothers, along with the King family, was taken by Sentinel photographer Jeff Lewis.
After singing the fraternity hymn, many of the fraternity brothers strolled the park, reading quotes from King, and taking photos in front of the memorial.
“It was a moving experience,” said Michael Siska, a member of Iota Zeta Lambda Chapter (Compton). “To be there in the midst of the quotes from King, and the meaning of the monument was just moving.”
After leaving the memorial, the fraternity brothers attended a luncheon where the keynote speaker was former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.
That night the brothers and their families were treated to a theatrical and musical celebration titled, “MLK: A Monumental Life.” The black tie event featured stars such as Phylicia Rashad, Della Reese, Roland Martin, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jasmine Guy, Lou Gossett, Jr., Dawn Lewis, Hill Harper, Ruby Dee, Tyrese Gibson, Tim Reid, Kenny Lattimore, and Victoria Rowell.
Nelson pointed out that it was disappointing that Sunday was postponed, but Friday’s Alpha themed events more than made up for that.
Martin Luther King, III, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, speaks at the dedicaiton of his father’s memorial. Photdo by Jason Lewis
Bernice King, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., addresses the crowd at the dedicaiton for her father’s memorial. Photo by Jason Lewis
Alpha Phi Alpha Gernal President Herman “Skip” Manson speaks with journalist Roland Martin. Photo by Jason Lewis
Harry Johnson, member of Apha Phi Alpha and president and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, addresses the crowd. Photo by Jason Lewis
A current Alpha with a potential future Alpha. Photo by Jason Lewis
Sentinel Photographer Jeff Lewis, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, stands in front of Alpha Brothers before they march to the King Monument. Photo by Jason Lewis
Michael Siska, or Iota Zeta Lambda Chapter (Compton), marches towards the King Momument. Photo by Jason Lewis
Brothers of Alpha Phi Apha march past the King Monument. Photo by Jason Lewis