The storied fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi was founded in 1911 with lofty goals of achievement, service, and empowering the African American community.
Over a century later, the fraternity's complex legacy mirrors the broader struggles and triumphs of the Black experience in America.
While producing icons like Wilt Chamberlain and Benjamin Mays, Kappa Alpha Psi has also recklessly strayed from its principles at times.
Hazing violence, discriminatory membership practices, sexual assault allegations and connections with criminal gang activity represent the fraternity's darker chapters. However, these failings do not tell the full story.
Kappa Alpha Psi's broader impact includes uplifting generations through academic and professional mentorship, community service initiatives, and empowering youth outreach.
The fraternity fulfills its creed most fully when providing scholarships, support networks, and leadership opportunities aimed at fostering Black excellence.
As an impartial chronicler, I aim to provide a nuanced perspective of this storied, yet sometimes troubled, fraternal order. Acknowledging troubling parts of Kappa Alpha Psi's past allows for an honest appraisal, accountability, and opportunity for growth.
The fraternity's future trajectory depends on addressing these difficult issues head-on.
While founded in 1911 on principles of achievement and brotherhood, the fraternity has been embroiled in a number of high-profile incidents related to hazing and pledging activities gone wrong.
Perhaps the most tragic case came in 1994, when Michael Davis, a student at Southeast Missouri State University, died of beatings inflicted during an illegal pledging ritual.
Despite the fraternity officially banning hazing in 1990, rogue chapters continued risky and violent practices.
Other instances include the hospitalizations of multiple pledges beaten by Kappas at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 1998, and the arrests of 9 members in 2001 on charges of beating pledges at Tennessee State University.
There have been numerous other allegations and lawsuits regarding life-threatening hazing activities over the decades.
Some historians have analyzed that certain chapters perverted the fraternity's pledging process due to a culture of hyper-masculinity and adhering to ancient rites.
Though hazing clearly contradicts the organization's creed, its persistence indicates a deeper struggle with upholding fraternal ideals versus dangerous sub-cultures.
Though founded as an African American fraternal organization, Kappa Alpha Psi enshrined overtly racist membership restrictions in 1923 by passing a resolution at their national convention requiring prospective members to be of "pure Negro blood."
This policy reflected the prejudice and narrow mindedness of the era, even within an organization dedicated to uplifting the Black community.
This ban on members of mixed racial heritage remained official fraternity policy until 1961, when it was finally repealed during the beginnings of the civil rights movement.
After existing for nearly 40 years, this discriminatory practice was removed, putting all men of merit on equal footing regarding Kappa Alpha Psi membership.
While ultimately a product of its time, the "pure Negro blood" resolution represents a moral failing by a leading Black empowerment organization.
While never the fraternity's intention, certain Kappa Alpha Psi chapters have been implicated in suppressing reports of sexual misconduct and showing negligence in preventing assaults against female students.
In 2010, a former fraternity member at the University of Texas alleged she was drugged and raped by fellow Kappas at an off-campus party in 2001, and the fraternity did nothing to address her report.
Similarly, in 2018 a former University of Maryland student accused the fraternity of covering up her sexual assault allegations from 2017 and failing to conduct an investigation.
Other lawsuits have contended that particular fraternity chapters promoted hyper-masculine environments that implicitly encouraged the objectification and assault of women.
Though never its aim, Kappa Alpha Psi has reckoned with the fact that certain harmful cultural undercurrents have jeopardized the safety and dignity of female students at times.
The most evident example occurred in 2005, when the fraternity's chapter at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was placed on probation after multiple members were implicated in organized gang crime.
Details emerged indicating that new fraternity recruits were forced to commit shooting and drug trafficking actions to join local gangs like the Bloods.
While an aberration from the fraternity's principles, this case underscored how some chapters failed to properly screen and mentor their membership.
Other scattered cases exist of members representing their local Kappa Alpha Psi chapters while perpetrating gang-related activities and violence.
However, it is imperative to note that at no time did the national leadership of Kappa Alpha Psi condone or facilitate such conduct.
These were isolated cases of certain chapters failing to uphold fraternal standards. The national organization acted firmly when made aware, including chapter suspensions and mandates for anti-gang programming.
While forced to address regrettable failings, the fraternity’s core aims center on empowerment and achievement. Kappa Alpha Psi's national programs provide scholarships to hundreds of students annually, supporting the next generation of Black leaders.
The Kappa League mentoring program steers Black youth towards personal and academic success.
Fraternity chapters across the country organize service projects to aid local communities and those in need.
During the racial justice protests of 2020, Kappa Alpha Psi chapters mobilized to distribute aid and supplies in Minneapolis, donate $500,000 to the NAACP, and more.
The fraternity backs causes like the March of Dimes and Habitat for Humanity at the national level.
Kappa Alpha Psi's alumni network actively provides mentoring, internships, and opportunities to young members entering the workforce.
The fraternity lives up to its motto of "Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor" by fostering excellence and advancement.
This broader picture exemplifies an organization sincerely committed to service, despite needing to transparently confront problems among some members. Kappa Alpha Psi's future impact hinges on upholding this ethos.