University News

Students reestablish historically black frat

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two students have reactivated the Brown chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. this year. The historically black fraternity was deactivated in 2003 — when its last member graduated — but has been revived by Raymond Jackson ’12 and Marc Howland ’11.

Because there were no Kappa Alpha Psi brothers on campus, the pair sought out members of KAPsi at other Providence schools, including Johnson and Wales University, who helped them go through the process of receiving recognition from the fraternity as a chapter.

“Part of our fraternity’s focus is achievement, and that’s what attracted both of us to our fraternity,” Jackson said.

Both have personal connections to KAPsi — Jackson counts his father, uncle and several cousins among fraternity members. Howland is from Cleveland, “where Carl Stokes was the first black mayor of a major U.S. city. … He almost adopted my sister before my family did, and he saw himself as almost a godfather to my sister,” Howland said. “In the course of my life he has always influenced me, and he’s sort of been another father figure to me. And I actually found out in college that he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.”

 Despite the fraternity’s primarily black membership, it has never denied a person initiation on the basis of race or religion, Howland said.

Jackson said the fraternity has a history both on campus and nationally. In the 1980s and 1990s, Brown’s race-based fraternities were heavily involved in campus life, particularly through the Third World Center, he said.

Kappa Alpha Psi was founded in 1911 at the University of Indiana, at a time and place when blacks were facing significant discrimination. In the 1930s, the fraternity came together with eight other black fraternities and sororities to form the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Though the context in which the fraternity now operates is in many ways different from the one in which the National Pan-Hellenic Council formed, Jackson said the body is still important to KAPsi’s activities. “Our chapter is never going to have enough members to fill a dorm. … If we wanted to do a project, we would do it through the National Pan-Hellenic Council,” which can provide resources beyond those available to the Brown chapter, he said.

While current undergraduates may not be familiar with race-based fraternities, the religion-based Wriston Quadrangle fixture Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity, is well-known on campus. “AEPi National is funded by Jewish philanthropists, and they want us to be 100 percent Jewish. But we do not pursue a 100 percent Jewish rate — we do not turn down guys because they aren’t Jewish,” said Daniel Rome ’13, a brother of the fraternity. Still, the fraternity is based on Jewish values, which AEPi upholds in part by hosting events such as Hillel’s Purim party, a Passover Seder and Shabbat dinners. “As it happens,” Rome said, “most of the guys who show up to rush happen to be Jewish.”

But it is hard to say much about most of the guys who show up for KAPsi. At the moment, KAPsi’s Brown chapter consists solely of Howland and Jackson, and they are not actively advertising or recruiting. “If they’ve done their research, and they want to be a part of it, they’re going to come to us and they’re going to talk to us about it,” Jackson said.

“Quality over quantity,” Howland added. “Our fraternity will stay true to (its) objectives and is not going to sacrifice its ideals and its values to allow people to come into the organization who aren’t true to those objectives.”

The brothers of both AEPi and KAPsi said choosing a fraternity was a personal choice. “I met two of the founders at Brown, and they started it because they wanted an AEPi — they didn’t want to join Sigma (Chi), they didn’t want to join (Delta Tau), they wanted a Jewish fraternity,” Rome said. “It’s whatever makes you feel comfortable.”