As of this spring, there is a new fraternity chapter paving its way at Samford University. Alpha Phi Alpha, in partnership with both Samford and Birmingham Southern College (BSC), has been building a presence on both campuses in an effort to bring more support for people of color.
The group, officially known as the Tau Lota chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Incorporated, has organized various events on each campus as a way to re-establish their name and presence after years of not having one.
Tito Canales, a freshman law and history major and member of the fraternity at Samford, explained that the fraternity is not very well-known on either Samford or BSC’s campus.
“Alpha Phi Alpha has not been very present on campus in recent years. We’re not very heard of, not a lot of people know about us,” he said. “Partnering with schools like Miles that have large presences and learning from them and seeing how they grow is really helpful for us.”
He also spoke on his experience as a person of color on campus at a predominantly white institution (PWI).
“Once you get onto a PWI like this, you can kind of just get lost in the wash,” Canales said. “A lot of times, [men of color] are just seen as athletes or here for another reason than to get an education. Having like-minded men all in the same space, serving in communities such as this one and BSC, it’s really been empowering and it’s really powerful when used properly.”
Canales described that having the community of other men of color in the chapter has been beneficial to him, and explained what they represent as a whole.
“It’s such a large PWI and being men of color, being able to share that common bond but also share the common goal that we all want to be successful [has been helpful],” Canales expressed. “We represent that men of color here are present, want to be successful, we have large goals that we want to accomplish.”
Canales defined what his and the fraternity’s goals are as they continue to grow their presence on each campus.
“Our goal is to continue to empower men of color and students of color. We just want to empower everyone here on campus [so they know] that there is a space for them,” he explained. “My personal goals are to see more people like me at Samford and more education on the social issues that we’re dealing with now. I feel like misinformation gets spread around on a campus like this, and a lot of people don’t know about the issues that people of color are dealing with these days.”
Dreylan Fonby, a sophomore finance major at BSC, also shared his experience with the fraternity so far, specifically the community and brotherhood he’s found with other members of Alpha Phi Alpha.
“As I’ve joined the fraternity, one of the biggest things I’ve found is the ability to meet people and know that immediately you’ve met a friend and from then on, you will understand and respect each other even thought you might have different backgrounds,” Fonby said. “The main thing I’ve learned through this fraternity is to rely on people. You can’t do everything by yourself and although people come from different backgrounds, you can understand that people are there for you through different circumstances.”
He also described some of the chapter’s upcoming events and hopes that people will feel encouraged to stop by and find out more about the group. He explains an event that has been organized on Samford’s campus that the chapter calls “Experience Thursday,” where the group convenes on Ben Brown with music, food, and strolling as a way to meet new people.
“Experience Thursdays are a way for people to see us and understand what we do. We want it to be something different that sparks interest in people, so they come and ask questions,” Fonby said. “We also have Alpha Week coming up where we’ll have different events at BSC and we hope people will come out, have a good time, and see how Alpha’s handle themselves.”