September 25, 2003

Alpha Phi Alpha Acts to Register Voters

Print More

As part of a national program to raise voter awareness, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity held a voter registration drive in front of the Straight yesterday afternoon.

The theme for the drive was “A Vote-less People is a Hopeless People.”

Maurice Johnson Jr. ’05, APA’s treasurer, explained that the voter registration drive was a way to increase voter awareness among Cornell’s student population in preparation for the upcoming Ithaca elections.

“It’s important that we raise the community’s awareness about the political issues, campaigns and candidates in order to increase voter participation,” he said. Johnson said that he was “surprised” at the number of students who were already registered, but he stressed the importance of “making sure we have a voice, [because] if a quarter of Cornell’s students voted, then we could decide who the next mayor of Ithaca would be — we as students have a lot of power.”

In addition to raising student voter awareness, the registration drive was one of this semester’s events intended to raise the profile of APA on campus. After a six-year hiatus, Cornell’s APA Alpha chapter has made a comeback this fall, and intends to attract more members as the semester continues.

APA’s president, Rosco Newsom Jr., said that while the voter registration drive was “one way to connect with the rest of the Ithaca community,” it was also a means to increase awareness about APA itself. “We want to get out there and make our presence known,” Newsom said.

The voter registration drive is one of three major national programs spearheaded by APA. The other programs include the “Go to School, Go to College” program that informs high school students about the transition from high school to college, and “Project Alpha,” an awareness program associated with the March of Dimes that aims to raise consciousness about teen pregnancy.

Besides the voter registration drive, APA plans to have Round-Up on Oct. 25, a fundraising event for the Dr. G. Alex Galvin Tour. Named to honour one of APA’s members in the 1950s, the tour is an all-expenses-paid program that takes Ithaca high school students to historical African-American universities on the East Coast. Its aim is to facilitate prospective students’ decisions in choosing between different post-secondary institutions. Later in the year, APA plans to hold a Greek forum during Alpha Chapter’s event week from Dec. 3-6, which coincides with the last week of classes.

With over 500,000 present members nationally, APA was founded in 1906 by seven Cornell students as the first African-American Greek fraternity in the country. As an organization, it brought together the half-dozen or so African-American students then enrolled at Cornell, in addition to combatting a racially hostile environment that was characteristic of the time.

The long list of prominent national APA alumni include comedian and producer Keenan Ivory Wayans and civil rights activists Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass and Willie L. Brown Jr., current mayor of San Francisco. More information on APA’s alumni, events and founding history are available at

Archived article by Kim Mok