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Did you know that Alpha Phi Alpha crossed its first non-Black member in 1946?

His name was Bro. Dr. Bernard Levin, and he was the first white person to be initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha ever. He crossed at the Theta Chapter in Illinois and has since made his transition into Omega Chapter after working for over 40 years as a professor of dentistry at the University of Southern California. Bro. Levin passed away at the age of 84 on May 28, 2008.

His Alpha brothers from District of Illinois wrote the following excerpt about him:

“On Friday, June 21, 1946, Brother Bernard Levin was initiated as the first non-Black member of Alpha Phi Alpha. He was pledged through Theta (Pledge Master’s name was Brother William Jones) chapter at the University of Chicago along with four other gentlemen — Brother Spencer Hardy, Brother James Gaither, Brother William Rhetta and Brother Hershel Wallace.

At the time, Brother Levin was a 22–year-old Chicago native, studying dentistry at the University of Illinois. His interest in Alpha had been sparked by one of his friends at DePaul University, as well as his belief that Alpha Phi Alpha engages in constructive community, national and international activity. In addition, he felt as though “the other fraternities had nothing to offer except social affairs.” Thus, Alpha was the only logical choice for a fraternity.

It is interesting to note that a 1946 article in Ebony Magazine on Brother Levin provides several pictures of him and his line brothers performing various tasks for big brothers — shining big brothers shoes, cleaning trophies won by Theta chapter, cleaning the front of the chapter house, getting 150 brothers signatures on a large cardboard “A,” and being paddled. What may be more interesting is that Brother Levin’s initiation takes place prior to 1952 when the word “Negro” was allegedly stricken from the Constitution for the final time.”

Alpha Phi Alpha voted to end racial discrimination in its membership in 1945, just one year before Bro. Dr. Levin crossed. The word “Negro” was struck from the constitution’s, membership clause where it stated, “any Negro male student” and was changed to, “any male student.” Eleven years later, Roger Youmans became the first white member to address the fraternity at a general convention in 1954. In 1965, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey as given the title of Honorary Life Member.

Do you have any ideas for stories we can do about influential people or moments in NPHC history? Send them to our email at watchtheyard@gmail.com.

Click on the arrows below to see pictures of Bro. Dr. Levin.

Brother Bernard Levin (Theta, 46) at Alpha Dance, Circa 1946:47

Click on the arrows below to see pictures of Bro. Dr. Levin.

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1 Comment

  1. Lauren

    April 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you for writing this wonderful article about my grandfather. I enjoyed it.

    -Lauren Levin

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Activism

20 Powerful Quotes From the Legendary Dick Gregory

  1. I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that.
  2. I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.
  3. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.
  4. I am really enjoying the new Martin Luther King Jr stamp – just think about all those white bigots, licking the backside of a black man.
  5. Political promises are much like marriage vows. They are made at the beginning of the relationship between candidate and voter, but are quickly forgotten.
  6. In most places in the country, voting is looked upon as a right and a duty, but in Chicago it’s a sport.
  7. Just being a Negro doesn’t qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine.
  8. When you have a good mother and no father, God kind of sits in. It’s not enough, but it helps.
  9. And we love to dance, especially that new one called the Civil War Twist. The Northern part of you stands still while the Southern part tries to secede.
  10. I wouldn’t mind paying taxes – if I knew they were going to a friendly country.
  11. Revolution ain’t nothing but an extent of evolution; Evolution is a fact of nature. So when old folks tell me that they don’t understand hip hop and the music is too loud, well I guess it means you’re not supposed to be in there.
  12. Because I’m a civil rights activist, I am also an animal rights activist. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and vicious taking of life. We shouldn’t be a part of it.
  13. America will tolerate the taking of a human life without giving it a second thought. But don’t misuse a household pet.
  14. I waited at the counter of a white restaurant for eleven years. When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.
  15. Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘that’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’
  16. When you’ve got something really good, you don’t have to force it on people. They will steal it!
  17. If they took all the drugs, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine off the market for six days, they’d have to bring out the tanks to control you.
  18. I personally would say that the quickest way to wipe out a group of people is to put them on a soul food diet. One of the tragedies is that the very folks in the black community who are most sophisticated in terms of the political realities in this country are nonetheless advocates of “soul food.” They will lay down a heavy rap on genocide in America with regard to black folks, then walk into a soul food restaurant and help the genocide along.
  19. The only good thing about the good old days is they’re gone.
  20. If democracy is such a good thing, let’s have more of it.

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Alphas

Dick Gregory was a man of Alpha Phi Alpha.

On Saturday, Dick Gregory, a pioneering force of comedy in the 1960s who later became an iconic social and political activist died of heart failure at the age of 84.

“It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory, departed this earth tonight in Washington, D.C.,” his son Christian Gregory said via a statement from his father’s rep. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

Before his fame, Gregory was a 1954 initiate of the Beta Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at Southern Illinois University.

In the chapter photo below you will see him in the back row, third from the left.

Upon learning of their brother’s passing, Alpha Phi Alpha’s international Facebook page posted their condolences to the family.

As we celebrate the legacy of Brother Dick Gregory let us reflect on the following quote as we continue his legacy as men of Alpha in pursuit of justice and equality.
‘One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people’

Gregory’s home chapter, the Beta Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at Southern Illinois University also took to Twitter to memorialize their chapter brother.

We ask that you keep Gregory’s family, friends, and fraternity brothers in your thoughts. We also ask that you share this and leave your condolences and memories of him as a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha and a member of the Black greek community so that others can see how much he meant to all of us.

“Not all great men are Alphas, but all Alphas are great men.”

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Activism

Alpha Phi Alpha Lawmaker Files Legislation to Remove All Confederate Monuments From Florida Public Property

Photo Credit: twitter.com/ShevrinJones

Florida Representative Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. says he will file legislation to immediately remove all Confederate statues, signs and names from public property in Florida.

“William Faulkner once stated that ‘The past is never dead,’ but I’m here to tell you that it can damn well be buried,” the 33-year-old lawmaker said in a statement that he released this week.

“Rather than being held up as figures of celebration, it is past time we relegate these symbols of oppression and bigotry to the halls of museums where their proper context can be articulated. As one of the most proudly diverse states in our nation, Florida needs to show our citizens that we value everyone equally and will not be divided by the voices of bigotry and racism. Let’s move forward, not continue to look back, ” he stated.

While removing all of the Confederate statues, signs, and names from public property in Florida seems like a mammoth task.  Jones has succeeded at doing this on a smaller scale by being part of the successful fight to rename three streets in Hollywood, Florida, that were named after Confederate generals, Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate Army during the Civil War, Gen. John B. Hood, a division commander at the Battle of Antietam, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a lieutenant general said to be the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.

According to the statement he released, the vote will take place on August 30th.

Rep. Jones is a Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 101st District, which includes southeastern Broward County. Rep. Jones is a graduate of Florida A&M University and a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha.

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