When my dad asked months ago if I wanted to go to New Orleans for the Alpha Phi Alpha convention, I jumped at the chance.
It’d been years since I’d taken a family vacation, and I really did miss … traveling for free.
But I was mostly excited about returning to New Orleans. I hadn’t been there since college — pre-Katrina — and was intrigued to see the city up-close again. The music lover in me wanted to see if I could still “feel” the music in the birthplace of jazz. And the beignets at Cafe du Monde were calling my name.
I wasn’t focused on the convention; why would I be? I’m not a member of the fraternity and wouldn’t be attending most of the events.
But my dad would, and through that, I got to see this whole new side to him.
See, growing up, my siblings and I didn’t see him participate in a local chapter or follow national fraternity news and issues. He never wore paraphernalia, save for an umbrella his godson had given him.
Being Greek didn’t seem to mean a whole lot to him. Certainly not as much as being a great father, a great husband, a man of great faith.
And we knew that; my dad is an open book.
But something sparked in him a couple of years ago. He wanted to be active in the frat again, be a “good brother.” He wanted to help it reinforce its founding principles: education and equality.
He believes young black boys need stronger role models. He believes he can help. He believes Alpha can help.
I understood his motivation, but it still felt foreign.
If my dad truly is an open book, it was like reading a second edition with an added foreword.
My dad was an Alpha in the sense he’d pledged back in college. He didn’t talk about the frat. Or wear the official colors. Or step. Or sing the songs. And yet, here he was in NOLA in all his “good brother” glory.
I shrugged it off. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t supposed to get it.
Until I was.
Our last night there, the family attended “The Daughters of Alpha,” featuring notables such as actress Jasmine Guy, singers Lalah Hathaway and Yolanda Adams and Dr. Bernice King. They all shared stories about their Alpha fathers — some funny, some inspiring, all heartwarming and heartfelt.
Even Jewel Mason, national president Herman “Skip” Mason Jr.’s 9-year-old daughter, said some beautiful things about her father.
About halfway through, mistress of ceremonies Glenda Hatchett (yes, the Judge Hatchett) asked other daughters of Alpha to stand. My mom nudged me — she knows I hate doing stuff like that.
But as I stood and saw the other daughters, it hit me.
The convention isn’t about the stepping or the paraphernalia. It’s about honoring a legacy and fulfilling a dream. I’m a byproduct of Alpha because I’m a product of my father.
I look like him (so they say).
And like him, I’ll argue a point to the death (especially when we know we’re right).
The fraternity has initiatives designed to mentor young black men, especially those with absent fathers. But I was thankful for a program like this: No one ever talks about black girls who are fatherless, and the impact that has on them.
My mom taught me how to walk in heels and curl my hair and furnish my first apartment. She let me play dress-up in her clothes when I was little.
But my daddy? My daddy taught me how to drive and balance a checkbook and use basic tools. He put me back on the bike every time I fell off, even when I wanted to put the training wheels on again.
My mother taught me how to be a proper lady.
My father taught me how to be an independent woman.
If what my dad says is true, and we are all the sum of our experiences, then maybe Alpha Phi Alpha can take some credit for him being a great father, a great husband, a man of great faith.
And maybe the fraternity is all the better that one of its best members has returned to the fold.
Lindsay Pollard is a music blogger for Qcitymetro.com and a proud daddy’s girl.