|From the Desk of Herman "Skip" Mason
Iota Chapter, Spring 82(Morris Brown College/Atlanta,
Eta Lambda Chapter since 1984
Historian, Pastor, Author, Entrepreneur and Lecturer
Vol. 1. No. 33 - Thursday, June 14, 1999
HAVING MY SAY!
By Skip Mason
I rarely vent in my own newsletter. Nevertheless, I need to and ask
your indulgence. A brother remarked to me,"Skip, you could be making a
killing on the Jewels." I said, "Perhaps I could, but that is and never
was my intent ." Those brothers who know me well, know that I have
a passion for history. I have labored in this fraternity since I joined
it back in the Spring of 1982 through Iota Chapter at Morris Brown College.
What a memorable time that was as my six other line brothers and I sought
the light and crossed those sands on April 4, 1982. Another Brother
asked me what I am going to do in Dallas if I am attacked again publicly.
I could not answer immediately. But then I said, I will do as I did in
Augusta. Say a prayer and put it into God's hand.
To have my character attacked as it was throughout the regions because
I desired to research and write a book on our Jewels has been one of the
most painful experiences of my life. To hear my name called out as if I
was some criminal, unable to defend myself or honor. I felt the hands of
brothers on my shoulder telling me to hang in there as the tears welled
up in my eyes. We have your back. Then God said, weeping my endure for
a night, but joy comes in the morning. I said, the real
criminals are the ones who have subjected this fraternity to a law suits
and thousands of dollars of legal fees. Do you know their names. NO!
Yes, I had access to some of our historical records. I was the Archivist.
But my research didn't come from one sources it came from hundreds. The
Alpha Archives was just one of many. Did I offer the fraternity the book?
Yes. I have the letter I sent to the National Office and the
response that I received. The fact is that I was not the choice to
interpret the history. I do not have a Ph. D(which is probably an unspoken
requirement) , but I have the compassion. Was it my writing
skills? Even the best writers have editors. Heck, Terry McMillan
and Toni Morrison have top of the line editors to rework their writing.
It was not my desire to bring the history book to date. My subject dealt
with an area that no one to my knowledge had written on. Well, I
may not have been the choice, but I certainly had the right! And with that
right, I pressed on because God kept saying to me there is a larger
picture (that even you can't see right now. God opened doors for me to
see this through. He placed on the hearts of a group of brothers a
sense of support as they mailed their checks to get this process started.
Well, today, there is a book rolling on the presses in South Florida
as we speak. I am so grateful to God for the ability to do it. Today,
close to 400 hundred of you have already preordered copies. To God be the
glory. Four hundred and eighty pages I have labored over just
to give you a glimpse of the world of our Jewels and General Presidents.
This is as I have said has been the most grueling project that I have worked
on. But I did if for the love of Alpha and nothing else. While there is
so much more to be found on them(just think what I could have done if I
had the money and support) I feel confident that after you read, you will
know these men a lot better than you know them know. If anyone else had
the idea to do the book, then they should have done it. Brothers, I have
reached a point where I must speak my peace. What do I have to lose?
One of the reason that God inspired me to start Skip's Historical Moments
was to share with you the world and words of the Jewels and the 30 General
President as I have researched it. I had no plans to do it. I am
telling you that the Lord sat me down on the April 15th and the first issue
came out. And now we are up to issue No 32 and I have over 4,000 brothers(minimum)
that I share that with. One day I sure would like to know how many brothers
it actually reaches. We walk by faith, not by sight. Sounding like a preacher?
Well, I am and I must practice what I preach! I don't know how
long I will continue to do these moments. A new historian may be named
at the convention. Out of deference to that brother, I may cease
to them in the spirt of realizing that "I have done what the good lord
told me to do." I do know the Lord will speak to me on it and tell me when
to move on.
Well, to be quite honest with you, if I had my way or if I were General
President, I would require every brother of Alpha (old and new, pledged
and aspirant) to attend a mandatory class called Jewel 101 for Jewel
Certification. In that class which I would teach and later train other
brothers to teach, each brother would be required to dissect and
analyze the true foundation of the fraternity from the perspectives of
the founder. I am
not talking about memorizing what was served at a banquet or who made
this motion or cramming six weeks worth of material into two weekends,
but clearly understanding the basis for why this fraternity was founded.
Each session would focus on a Jewel, his life, family life, background,
writings, influences. Getting to the heart and soul of these seven men.
For isn't that what Christians do in church, in bible study and Sunday
School? Study the life and background of Jesus Christ, his words, words
inspired by him. What about the Nation of Islam. Don't they know the life
of its founder and sucessor Elijah Muhammad? Shouldn't we as Alpha's do
the same thing? In Search of Sisterhood, gives a wonderful account of the
lives of the Delta founders. You feel like you know Miss Vashti or Myra
Hemmings. How on earth would I have known that some of the founders were
married to Alpha's if she had not given their husband names. Knowing
the names, I knew immediately
that they were Alphas. Connecting to our Jewels is not
an option, it is mandatory before we lose sight of our purpose. I
am certain that is why the brothers in Atlanta fell in love with Jewel
Ogle's granddaughter during her
visit to Atlanta as I fell in love with the daughter of Jewel Ogle
when I visited her. Do you know that Jewel Callis's daughter Jane Callis
Evans, a pioneer African-American graphic designer, a member of Delta
Sigma Theta died last December 1998 in Washington, DC. She was 83 years
old. I wonder how many brothers in DC knew that or made the connection.
A dear brother faxed me her funeral program. Before we had our convention
in DC in 1987, I had suggested we invite these descendants to what
I had proposed for a
dedication of the archives. Well, it didn't happen and I will just
leave it at that. Imagine, we would have had the daughters of Jewel
Callis and Ogle in the midst, both of them living in Washington, DC, along
with Jewel Jones granddaugter Betty whom I a spoke to on several occasions.
Brothers, the founders are real. Not just fraternal icons, or CCJKMOT,
or names to memorize and recall on a test.
Oh, I become dismayed often, but remain optimistic when I notice and
observe the numerous things that brothers and chapters are doing in the
name of Alpha Phi Alpha. I say to myself, "If they only knew how the Jewels
felt about this, perhaps we would not do these things." That 's why I look
forward in anticipation for the release of this book to share with you
their thoughts on certain issues from the history book, to conventions,
to the elections of officers, to hazing and brutality, to our true purpose
as Alpha men.
Lately, several issues have come to mind. Several brothers wrote
me and asked me about the various number grips. One brother said."My question
is that I want to know who started the individual grips for the numbers
1-7 and how come there are so many variations between different chapters?
As a 3 I've come across about four different "3" grips. Please enlighten
My dear brother and others, my response to those various grips
that brothers give is that I think first of all, it is ridiculous
and sacrilegious to the pure foundation of this fraternity that we have
the gaul to add to the sacred
fraternal grip. To me its like tampering with the ritual. Something
Jewel Callis complained about so often. There are chapter grips,
number grips and I don't know what other kind of grips. There is but one
sacred grip that should be given with intensed pride for it is the true
connecting factor between the brothers and the founders. If you grip me,
dont give me anything other than the true grip. Yes, I was a number
one.(Brothers today call them ace). That's fine and dandy, but I don't
care for an ace grip. Who are we to distort and create these
grips in the name of dear Alpha Phi Alpha? Back to the foundation
brothers, back to the Jewels!
Secondly, many chapters have monikers(names) which denote some type
of image or reputation. Sinister, Notorious, Outrageous, Gangster,
Bloody (I guess I hear from the Beta, Beta Omicron brothers and any other
chapter with that name). Keep it yourselves brothers. Before you
rush to write me, let me remind you that our Jewels would not be pleased
with these titles (though popular they are in this current tradition) Jewels
Callis, Chapman, Jones, Kelley, Murray, Ogle and Tandy would not be proud
of these names. I know why
you have it and what goes into it. But we know live in a world which
rejects gang like mentality, in a world which calls White thugs "cliques"
and black thugs "gangs, " we need to find appropriate intelligent monikers
for our chapter that represent who we are, the best and the brightest minds
of college trained men, the sons of the magnificent seven. We are the Jewel
Murray's "Black Geniuses."
Don't like what I am saying. I'm sorry. You can move that mouse
to close, click and delete "if you can't stand to hear the truth spoken,
sometimes twisted by naives to make traps for fools." I mean no disrespect,
but I guess like so many other brothers I have reach my point. I've
cried a tear(s) over Alpha. But, yet in still I know that God has
anointed me to be a mouthpiece for these beloved founders at this time.
Am I a fanatic over the Jewels? You better believe your seven pearls
that I am, but in an intelligent way. We all should be. I have read
their speeches. We ought be able to quote from Callis, Kelley and
Ogle with proficiency. Why isn't there a Jewel's rap? The thoughts set
to music, personified. I'd call it the Miseducation of an Alpha man. I'd
flow with rhyme and verse with words from these men. We can't quote
from them because there has not been anything to quote from. To tell
others what they thought about the ways of the fraternity.
You my brothers have sustained me over the last several months with
your emails of support and encouragement. I wish I could thank each one
of you personally. I have tried. How appreciative I am of the kind words
you have shared. A brother wrote to me and said, "Skip, you really don't
know how many
brothers receive your email." I guess I don't. It is still surreal
to me that all over the country and the world, I get the opportunity to
share a few words with my brothers. There is one brother Steve Little
Carolina, who sends me a weekly letter he calls "a Skip pick
me up." This brother is a newly wed, new job but still finds time to drop
me a line. After I read it I say, Lord I am so blessed to have these
are others who do the same. I am reminded of the times when DuBois
was going through his crisis as Editor of the Crisis. The verbal attacks,
the criticisms, yet he maintained. I recall how despondent our Brother
M.L. King had become during the late 1960's with the Vietnam war and his
shift in focus to African-American economic survival. Who was there to
support them in their darkest hours? He loved Alpha. King recalled being
in the Montgomery Courthouse during the Bus Boycott movement and looking
out and seeing General
President Frank Stanley and General Secretary James Huger. Andy Young,
who wrote the forward for my book and a true supporter of my efforts says
that King and Belford Lawson were the inspiration in his life. Young's
daddy was an Alpha. On the back of King's funeral program of
which I have several copies that I treasure is the poem "There Goes An
Alpha Man." Our motto calls for us to support the aims of our brothers.
We ought to encouragement and expect encouragement and support from our
brothers. This is what has
baffled me about what I am trying to do, share knowledge.
Oh my brothers, this journey to uncover the lives of the Jewels
has become a part of my ministry. The more I try to let it go(and trust
me I have tried to convince myself that I am putting too much into thing
called Alpha, I have tried to drop the project, to say to hell with this,
I don't need this hassle), the more I recognized that God is all over this
process. I don't have the time or space to explain. My faith just says
"move mountain move!"
This is a phenomenal brotherhood that is on the brink of its centennial
celebration in less than seven years. I used to have a dream years ago
that I wanted to be General President of Alpha when we celebrate our Centennial.
After all it would be a historical celebration and I was the man.(remember
this is a dream). The 100th birthday of Alpha would be a glorious
year of celebration. Nothing but looking back, to be reenergized to forge
ahead.(Alright if a future candidate uses that, you know where it came
from). From the fall of 2005 to December 4, 2006, we would take the
Jewels Historic tour across the states(visit grave sites, birthhomes where
they lived); there would be a major exhibition on the fraternity at the
Smithsonian or the Schomburg, each chapter would focus on one major project
that uplifts young African-American men and support it to the max.
Reclamation would be a breeze. I'd tell every Alpha alive that if you are
never financial again, in your love and reverence to these beloved seven
men whom we call Jewels, in remembrance of the vow you made when you became
an Alpha, please pay your dues. I know the checks would roll
in, membership would be the highest it had ever been. Why? Because there
is not an Alpha man worth his weight that would not want to be active to
wish Alpha its 100th birthday. We would do the Jewels Centennial tour to
each state over the year with a birthday celebration. At that
special convention in 2006, we will gather in Buffalo, New York,
travel to Ithaca(maybe on a train just like they did in 1956(for I cannot
think of anyplace else but to go back to our birthplace) and walk on that
holy ground. We might share a moment with Sigma Alpha Epsilon(where
Callis worked or Beta Theta Pi,(where Kelley worked) and acknowledge their
support of our Jewels in the early years. By that time we arrive,
that long lost film of the Jewels(filmed in 1956) would have been found
and we would sit in an auditorium and watch Callis, Kelley and Murray speak
at the 50th Anniversary or hear Brother Martin Luther King give us his
banquet speech "God, Give Us Men."(reprinted in the Talented Tenth) . Yes,
Tears would flow down our eyes. I know you have chills thinking about it
because you have made that spiritual connection with the fraternity.
God only knows where that film is, but its somewhere in some brother's
house. Afterwards, we would erect a memorial where the Singleton's
house was, walk down East State Street and North Albany Street. Visit
the AMEZion Church where the brothers held their social (maybehave someone
recite Paul Lawrence Dunbar or DuBois, like Kelley used to do) , go to
the Odd Fellows Hall where Jewel Murray played the organ during the first
initiation(I bet you did not know that). Brothers would be inspired,
tears streaming down your eyes, charged up because they would have connected
to the very foundation of the fraternity. Accompanying us on the tour would
be the grandchildren of Jewel
Ogle (Melanie and Julian), the granddaughters and great grandchildren
of Jewel Callis, the great grandchildren of Jewel Murray, the grandson
of Jewel Tandy (Robert Tandy). Perhaps by that time, we would have discovered
the descendants of the daughters of Jewel Chapman(perhaps somewhere in
Chicago). Lemuel Graves granddaughters would be there, George Lyle(founder
of Beta and husband of AKA founder Ethel Hedgman Lyle) greatgrandson Kevin(an
Alpha) would be there. These living descendants of our pioneers there with
us at our Centennial. It wouldn't be enough film to capture these moments.
These were the dreams that I had. Well, what happens to a dream deferred
is the question playwrite Lorraine Hansberry asked.
But in reality, it is just that a dream. I don't know what the future
holds. Right now, I'm just a "renagade" author removed from the inner
circle. No longer the archivist, will probably never be the Historian
and not on the Historical Commission. But guess what? It's all good!
Glory Halleluia, it is all good for in a few weeks, many of you brothers
will receive the mail a package, a book titled the "The Talented
Tenth: The Founders and Presidents of Alpha." As each book is mailed, I
will pray over it as I have prayed over the six or seven drafts of the
manuscript that some good will come out of this. In spite of the
decline of fraternities in the public eye, the debate over intake, the
law suits and everything else, Lord, some good will come out of this. Once
again, I leave you with the words of our beloved seven. I know these men,
like I know my daddy. They speak to me (I guess you are saying Skip has
lost his mind.) On the contrary, I have found peace of mind. In the
words of the songwriter, "This joy I have, the world didn't give it,
the world can't take it away." Skip
In case you have forgotten why you are an Alpha, let the Jewels remind
"Our purpose is to raise the intellectual and cultural level, yes-and
the moral level also; to aid in the development of special skills: to build
men of vision, courage, self sacrifice, who are willing to develop a wise,
consistent leadership toward the integration of a truly democratic
"I mean by this regardless of the many, many purposes each of us may
devise as the activating principle in our life and the many goals toward
which we may be striving, I can see, nevertheless, that we do have one
supreme purpose for our existence as a fraternity, and that is the recognition,
as well as the development and thereby the making of better men." 1931
" A membership upwards of eight thousand men, should be able to take
into their hands the leadership in the Negro's struggle for status." 1936
"Our main purpose in 1906 was to found a fraternity composed of groups
of undergraduates so chosen in the various colleges and universities that
they would represent the best of the Negro youth of that institution,
banded together to help each other in the various essentials necessary
for success in college; successful scholarship, healthful recreation and
"Brothers, Alpha Phi Alpha needs a real awakening from its lethargy!
It is asleep and things are transpiring in many of the local chapters that
would humiliate and shame your Founders..something must be done if we are
to hold our place in the sun as the first fraternity among Negro men."
"Founded on a platform of service, loyalty and reverence to God and
our fellow brothers, we have learned that the greatness of any group of
men lies not in the fine buildings they erect, or the numerous air castles
planned but never erected, but rather in service to God and your fellow
brothers, whether it can be in the fraternity house, on the street, on
the school campus, at a public gathring, or in your own home." 1936
"It is of vital importance that we seriously consider the contribution
that every brother may make for the good of our fraternity. Never
were the demands for constructive effort and intelligent devotion as great
Never before was it as incumbent upon every member to restate loyalty
and exemplify fraternal obligation by consistent life and unimpeachable
character. '" 1939
FROM THE LIPS OF A JEWEL:
"As the years pass on, the founders note more and more that the fraternity
is the victim of politics which becoming a dangerous menace without our
realization. The ambition of the brothers for office, the maneuvering for
place and the jockeying for position is becoming alarming and will soon
make us lose sight of the idea of service for all which is one of our tenets.
May I point this danger in a fatherly way and ask for a better understanding
among the brothers and a deeper realization that the office seeks the man
rather than the man the office."
Jewel George Biddle Kelley,
SKIP'S QUOTE FOR TODAY
Count your blessings and not your crosses
Count your gains and not your losses.
Count on God and not just on yourself.
(This was shared by a brother whose name I accidentally deleted. Special
thanks to you my brother).
SKIP'S OTHER QUOTE OF THE DAY
You have to kepe writing b/c the failure of a race can be traced back
to it's failure to WRITE and RECORD the events that gave birth to it....Keep
And finally, from the lips of Jewel Callis who was so prophetic, he
"ALPHA requires new sight for 2006"
FROM THE EMAIL LETTER BAG
Congrats on the completion of the Talented Tenth. My order form is in
the mail, TODAY!! I was also reading today's e-mail about brothers in the
NFL and I wanted to share that I met Bro. O'Neil Gilbert of the Tennessee
Titans. I forget whether he is a linebacker coach or a linebacker but he
affiliated with the NFL. The brothers here at Chi Chapter (Meharry
Medical College) are real excited
about receiving copies of your book. We can't deal with the ANTICIPATION!!!
Even though many of us are busy studying for boards or in the clinics,
we will make time to read your book. Keep holding high the name.
Bro. James Oliviere Jr.
(pledged) Omicron Alpha-'97
(currently) Chi Chapter, Parliamentarian
As I have said before, your Historical Moments
are a highlight for myself and many other brothers. At times, they re-ignite
a spark that may have been smoldered for whatever reason. However, I have
noticed some things that disturb me. It seems that some brothers
are forgetting that although this mailing list
is sent to "brothers", we also know that outsiders read SHM.
We've read comments from two Omegas, one Kappa and at least one AKA.
I know that you haveasked brothers to forward these Historical Moments
to other BROTHERS, for thatis the purpose. But, we must remember that everyone
who says they are a
brother may not be and that some brothers feel the need to show these
volumes to others outside of Alpha. In that respect, and that the SHMs
are kept on a webpage, it disturbs me when brothers ask you to explain
the significance of certain facets of Alpha. In most instances, it
has been items that are non-ritualistic but
should stay clear from those outside of Alpha. Its clear that
there is a variance in information and rumors from chapter to chapter about
these items that should be answered or at least reduced. (i.e. the brother
who said that the handsign was devised in the eighties by brothers on a
post-convention trip, the brother asking about the significance of the
"gorilla" to Alpha, the brother asking what is the significance of the
term COLD, etc...) I know what I was taught and that information may or
may not be right, but the question at hand is if this the proper medium
to discuss these items. I think not. Although these items are
not ritual, I still would not want the information published on the web
or on a distribution list that can end up anywhere. What are your
thoughts on the subject, Bro. Mason?
Brother Shawn Aric Haywood
2-Kappa Alpha - 1992
SKIP'S NOTE- I do hope brothers will use discretion in their decision
to share materials from this newsletter.
ON THAT ISSUE OF CANES A BROTHER WROTE:
I am Brother Acie McGhee, Jr. of Alpha Zeta Chapter, West Virginia State
College. I was initiated April 29, 1951. I had entered the pledge club
at Gamma Phi Chapter, Tuskegee Institute, now University, in the Spring
of 1949. We used canes in our pledge routine as we moved about campus.
We also wore tuxedos and top hats. Stepping in those days was unheard of.
I know you get this alot, but I have a name of a brother who went out
and got a computer just so he could start receiving you SHM, His name is
Bro. Devin Scott and his email address is email@example.com
if you could add him to your ever expanding list I would be appreciative.
Also on another note it seems that not only have you inspied me to become
a better Alpha, but your SHM has also made an impact on my little brother
Danya E. Jones, Nu Gamma Chapter, West Georgia University. He says
that your insight has helped him develop things that he wants his chapter
to take on next school year, so continued success with the book and SHM
and May Gods ever presence guide you and your work.
Craig D. Jones
TO OBTAIN BACK ISSUES OF SKIP'S HISTORICAL MOMENTS, GO TO
(my temporary web site)
Pull up About Skip and go to Skip's Historical Moments. There you will
be able to retrieve back issues in their entirety.
No 1- Callis's First Wife
No 2- The Ties That Bind: Lyle and Hedgeman/APHIA/AKA
No 3- Charles Chapman, A Poet?
No 4- The APHIA/Delta Connection (Most requested issue)
No 5- Frederick Douglass: He was the Spirit of the Fraternity
No 6- Rev. A Wayman Ward: The Author of the Fraternity
No. 7- Abram L. Simpson, Author of the Fraternity Hymn and other Alpha
No. 8- Revisionist Fraternities: The Omega, Kappa, Sigma Conspiracy
No. 9- The Daughter of Jewel Ogle
No 10- How Alpha is Portrayed in Current Literature
No. 11- Duke Ellington and Alpha Phi Alpha
No. 12- Jewel Vertner Woodson Tandy's Connection to Tuskegee
No. 13- The Mothers of the Jewels, Part One
No. 14- Jewel Jones Mother: Mrs Rosa Kinckle Jones/ Dr. Roscoe C. Giles
No. 15- Jewel Murray Mother: Mrs. Anna Evans Murray
No. 16- Jewels Ogle and Tandy's Mothers
No. 17- Mrs. Annie Singleton and the Mothers of Ithaca
No. 18- Jewel Eugene Kinckle Jones: Truly A Servant of All
No. 19- Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi(The Boule)
No. 20- The Sphinx Club and Pledging 1906-1930
No. 21- Masonic and other fraternal ties to the Seven Jewels
No. 22-DuBois and Alpha Phi Alpha: Was it the pride of his heart?
No 23- The Book: The Talented Tenth
No. 24- Jewel Ogle's Grave/Alpha's Second Honorary Member
No. 25- Having Their Say: Letters from the Brothers
No. 26- Jewel George Biddle Kelley, An Eternal Neophyte and Advocate
for College Brothers
No. 27-Charles Henry Chapman: The Reclaimed Jewel
No. 28-The Lighter Side of Alpha(White Brothers in the Fraternity,
No. 29- The Lighter Side of Alpha, pt. 2
No. 30- Egyptian Excursion/The Jewel's Granddaughter visits Atlanta
No 31- Jewel Murray Speaks
No 32- Having My Say: Skip Mason Speaks
THE TALENTED TENTH:
FOUNDERS AND 30 GENERAL PRESIDENTS
By Skip Mason
Foreword by Brother Andrew Young
Published by Four G's Press, c. 1999
Winter Haven, Florida
480 pages; 28 cm, 100+ photographs
$25.00 (soft back)
$32.50 (hard back)
To be released in June '99(hardbacks in July)
ORDER FORM, PLEASE PRINT, FILL OUT AND MAIL .
$25.00 (Soft back)
$32.50 (Hard back)
This is still prepublication price. So get it while it lasts!
Please send me ______ copies at ___________. Total enclosed:
(add $3.20 for shipping for each copy/ 6% sales tax each copy)
Ship books to:
CITY STATE ZIP_________________________________________________
INDICATE IF YOU WANT BOOK INSCRIBED AND TO WHOM_______________
To order, send order form, check or money order made payable to Skip
Skip Mason/The Talented Tenth 564 Blake Avenue, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30316
Skip's Historical Moments is a twice weekly newsletter used to dialogue
and discuss issues of historical importance to men of Alpha. This newsletter
is sent to over 3,000 brothers. If every brother would send this
to ten brothers this communication would reach a network of 30,000
or more. If you don't want to forward, please forward to me email addresses
and I will add them to the list. The list is growing by leaps and bounds.
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