There Goes an Alpha Man

The "Four Mystic Elements of the Nile" (4 M.E.N.) pledged Alpha Phi Alpha at the University of Georgia in the spring of 1996. Anthony Tillman, Omari Hardwick, Tavares Stephens and James Bailey. "These men became my brothers," Bailey said. "They were beside me when I lost my mother just three months after crossing the burning sands. We have watched each other marry, are the godparents to each other’s children, and they will stand beside me at the alter next year when I say “I do.” They have been a constant source of inspiration, support and friendship. They have changed my life forever."

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The "Four Mystic Elements of the Nile" (4 M.E.N.) pledged Alpha Phi Alpha at the University of Georgia in the spring of 1996. Anthony Tillman, Omari Hardwick, Tavares Stephens and James Bailey. "These men became my brothers," Bailey said. "They were beside me when I lost my mother just three months after crossing the burning sands. We have watched each other marry, are the godparents to each other’s children, and they will stand beside me at the alter next year when I say “I do.” They have been a constant source of inspiration, support and friendship. They have changed my life forever."

Bailey: 'I wanted to be a man of distinction, I wanted to add to the tapestry of greatness'

This is an occasional AJC Sepia series that looks at black Greek letter organizations

THERE GOES AN ALPHA MAN

By: Peter Clarke

There goes a man of high impulse, of princely mien and grace.

There goes a man of humble faith, a credit to his race.

There goes a man of conscious vast, with will to reach his goal.

There goes a man of lordly rank of heroes stock and soul.

There goes a man of noble cast whom hardship cannot break.

There goes a man in merit clad, whom duty won’t forsake.

There goes a man of culture verse, who holds a sportsman’s creed.

There goes a man too vigilant to bow to lust or greed.

There goes a man whose life is spent in service, not in scorn.

There goes a man whose majesty shines like a may time morn.

There goes a man who is a friend to love and duty truth.

There goes a man to help uplift the lives of wholesome youth.

There goes a man with industry and faith at his command.

There goes the best man in or out for he’s an Alpha Man.

My mother was a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, having pledged the Gamma Sigma Chapter at Albany State University.

She was my first and only exposure to black Greek letter organizations, but that would all change once I got to high school.

I grew up in Metro Atlanta and attended what was then Henderson High School in DeKalb County. When I entered school as a scraggly, four-eyed sub-freshman, I had no idea the positive influence Alpha men would have on my life, but their role became abundantly clear by my senior year.

Our principal Bobby Jordan was an Alpha Man. Our assistant principal Hal Benjamin was an Alpha Man. My physical education teacher Coach Beal, my calculus teacher Mr. Stinson - all Alpha men.

All would play a pivotal role in my development. I had strong male role models that demonstrated leadership, intelligence, commitment and compassion, examples of the type of man I hoped to one day become.

Soon I began to notice other men in my community, my church, throughout history that I admired, respected and looked up to all shared a common factor: Alpha Phi Alpha.

Now intrigued, with a little research, I learned that this was the fraternity of Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Thurgood Marshall and Jesse Owens -- men of greatness, men of distinction.

So as I prepared to graduate and select a college, it was no surprise that an Alpha man led the first student recruitment event I attended for the University of Georgia. During my first weeklong visit on campus, which ultimately sealed the deal on my decision to attend UGA, I met Gabriel Fortson and Artis Stevens, two Alpha men living across the hall. Once admitted, my orientation leader was Navarro Carr, an Alpha. Their presence was undeniable. Their influence on my decision was, even then, very significant.

As soon as I hit the campus as an over-confident freshman from Decatur -- just as green and clueless as I could be -- it was apparent who ran the yard.

The Black Affairs Council President was an Alpha; the first party of the year, the infamous Block Party, thrown by the Alphas. Heck, I later came to learn that the first black man to ever attend UGA was the great Hamilton E. Holmes – you guessed it: an Alpha.

My eyes were wide open, my intentions clear, my aspiration set -- I wanted to be a man of distinction, I wanted to add to the tapestry of greatness.

As an only child, I longed to be a part of something, to experience true brotherhood. I learned at an early age from my grandfather: to be great, you must surround yourself with greatness. At that point, I was sold. I knew I wanted to be a member of the Mighty Zeta Pi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha.

(And after attending my first Alpha Pajama Party as a freshman, it was no longer simply an aspiration - it was mandatory. I wanted in.)

My sophomore year, on an ice cold winter night, Feb. 26, 1996 I, along with Anthony Tillman, Omari Hardwick and Tavares Stephens, crossed the burning sands. My dream was real: I was donning the Black and Old Gold. I was an Alpha Man.  Four men had become 4 M.E.N. (Four Mystic Elements of the Nile).

Little did I know that night would change my life forever.

The bar was set and the die was cast. It was our goal to live in every way Alpha Phi Alpha’s motto “First of All, Servants of All, We shall Transcend All.”

More than words, it became our lifelong obligation. My line brothers and I made it our life’s commitment to serve.

My ace, Anthony Tillman, is a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force, making the ultimate commitment to service.

Omari Hardwick, my deuce, although now a Hollywood superstar, continues to pay it forward. When he is not on screen, he is consistently pouring into young people. I am amazed at his dedication to future generations.

Tavares Stephens is a life-long public school educator and non-profit founder, who has now answered an even higher calling to serve as he begins his studies in divinity school.

And personally, I have committed myself to serving others, recently founding the Phoenix Leadership Foundation. Our sole purpose is the better making of men.

These men became my brothers. They were beside me when I lost my mother just three months after crossing the burning sands. We have watched each other marry, are the godparents to each other’s children, and they will stand beside me at the alter next year when I say “I do.” They have been a constant source of inspiration, support and friendship. They have changed my life forever.

While pledging, we learned the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

Since then it has become my cornerstone, words that I live by: “If you can walk with kings nor lose the common touch.”

I have sat at the table with presidents, heads of state, Fortune 500 CEOs and world leaders. Never have I forgotten my commitment to love for all mankind.

I take Alpha with me in every endeavor, with every milestone and every triumph. Always remembering that I pledged to be a servant of all, and I hope my life has been a testament of the commitment fulfilled.

I will always owe a debt to this organization, for making me the man I am today, for expanding my mind and increasing my family.

I have received much more than I could ever return, and I will spend my life paying it forward.

Thank you Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.