BLOOMINGTON, IN — Thousands of delegates of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., convening for its national convention in Indianapolis next July, will make a "historic pilgrimage" to Indiana University Bloomington, where the organization was founded nearly 100 years ago.
The historically black fraternity also is planning a National Founders Day event in Bloomington in January to mark the centennial of the milestone, which took place on Jan. 5, 1911.
Kappa Alpha Psi was the second African American fraternity incorporated as a national organization. Elder Watson Diggs and nine other African American students at IU embraced a mutual vision to form a fraternity that today has 730 chapters and 120,000 members worldwide.
Officials of the national fraternity announced their plans at a news conference in Indianapolis on Monday (July 5). The 80th Grand Chapter Meeting and Centennial Celebration will take place July 5-10, 2011.
"We are preparing for the most significant event in the annals of the fraternity," said Dwayne M. Murray, the 31st grand polemarch (president and chief executive officer) of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. "We are convening with a record number of brothers at the places where our fraternal journey began.
"We are honoring Indiana University for its contributions in training our founding brothers, as well as brothers who have been members of the Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity on the campus of IU at Bloomington," Murray added.
Dr. Edwin C. Marshall, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and a former vice polemarch of the Alpha Chapter at IU, said the campus is looking forward to welcoming back many IU Kappas as well as many more from around the world.
"It is interesting that you would have a fraternity that's predominantly African American founded on this campus in 1911," Marshall said. "When you look at some of the challenges that students faced then, and to a certain degree still do today, there was a need for a gathering of men, so to speak. Founding that on this campus and having it reach out beyond the state and beyond the nation was a pretty significant event.
"This is an opportunity for Indiana University to essentially showcase itself to the fraternity and its friends," Marshall added. "We do welcome, nurture and cultivate diversity and the founding of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity on the Bloomington campus is one notable example."
More than 20,000 are expected to gather for the Centennial Celebration. While most events will take place in Indianapolis, members, families and friends will be encouraged to visit IU Bloomington and places where the founders lived, studied and socialized. The route has been designated "The Kappa Trail." Activities are still being planned.
Diggs joined nine other IU students from Indiana and Kentucky to develop the fraternity's constitution and bylaws, which have never contained any clause that either excluded or suggested the exclusion of a man from membership because of color, creed or national origin. Originally chartered and incorporated with the state of Indiana as Kappa Alpha Nu on May 15, 1911, the name was changed to Kappa Alpha Psi in 1914 and became effective in April of the following year.
Alumni of the IU Kappa Alpha Psi chapter include Tavis Smiley, the prominent television and radio commentator; Dennis Hayes, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; William Mays, founder and president of Mays Chemical Co. and owner of the Indianapolis Recorder; George Taliaferro, IU football All-American and College Football Hall of Fame inductee; and acclaimed musician Booker T. Jones.
Two years ago, a historical marker, the Elder Watson Diggs Memorial, was placed at the intersection of 17th Street and Jordan Avenue, at the site of the first house built for the fraternity. IU's Alpha chapter remains very active on campus, but does not have a house.
More information about IU's Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi is available online at http://www.alphachapter1911.com/. For more information on the fraternity and centennial celebrations, visit their website atwww.KappaAlphaPsi1911.com.