This past weekend I attended my Fraternity’s—Alpha Phi Alpha—Southern Regional Convention. I attended in part because I am a Life Member, financially active in a chapter in the Southern Region (i.e., North Carolina). I also attended because I am the National Chair of the Fraternity’s Commission on Racial Justice. Saturday afternoon, a brother asked me an important question—one that I think many people wonder: what is my agenda with regard to BGLOs. The brother indicated that he did not mean anything by the question; he was not assuming what my motives are, but he was curious and suggested that others seem to be curious as well. So, let me remove the mystery.
There is an assumption that my writings these past eight years have been profit-driven. To be clear, the royalties I earned from all of my BGLO books last year was just shy of $850.00. Yes, you read that correctly—eight hundred and fifty dollars. I never set out to be a researcher and writer to get wealthy off of my writings. If I did, I would not publish with academic/scholarly/university presses. I would be publishing with Simon & Shuster or some other large, trade press. The truth is that publishing scholarly works is not a money-making enterprise for a whole range of reasons. Even more, while step-shows and T-shirts may be a good investment for someone who wants to profit off of BGLOs, producing scholarship is not.
The other assumption is that I am gunning for some office in my Fraternity. I have never run for an office in Alpha. The highest office I’ve held has been as an alumni chapter Vice President. And I have always been recruited to the offices I have held. I am not chomping at the bit to be any officer in Alpha. I do not need a position to bolster my resume/CV. I think my professional accomplishments to date speak for themselves. This does not mean that running for some local, state (district), regional, or national office is out of the cards in the future. But I am focused on my career and enjoying my life, now.
The reason I write about BGLOs is because I find the topic interesting, and I get paid as a law professor to write about things that interest me. In a sense, it is that simple. But even more, I see great value in BGLOs, and I hope to play a role in helping them, generally, and Alpha, specifically, reach their potential. I believe the way to do that is to have a well-reasoned approach to analyzing their history, culture, and contemporary issues. Even more, it is to develop solutions to their problems that are either empirically based, theoretically grounded, or consistent with best-practices.
As an academic, it is my job to analyze and critique. I am not a BGLO cheerleader. I am objective and fact-driven. As a critical race theorist, I believe in the scholar activist model. I do the research on BGLOs, but I am also engaged in practical ways with my own Fraternity. As a believer that BGLOs should be the best they can possibly be, I am impatient and intolerant of leaders at any level who are incompetent, crooked, and lacking in transparency. I am particularly intolerant of leaders who bully rank-and-file members. I believe that if BGLO members want their organizations to be what the founders’ envisioned, those members must fight for those types of organizations either against leaders who do not want the same (e.g., leaders who see the organization as their piggy bank or stepping stone to something, personally greater) or on the side of leaders pursuing that quest.
I am not seeking to be the next Belford Lawson, or Charles Wesley, or Walter Kimbrough, or anyone else. I tip my hat to other great Alpha men and other BGLO members. But I am neither in a competition nor exhibiting an effort to replicate what has already been done. I simply want to be the best me—the best lawyer and social scientist—who contributed something tangible to making BGLOs better. In doing so, I am more than willing to take the path less-traveled or blaze my own trail, to challenge authority or upend it.