by Morgan Williams
Kappa Alpha Psi is a Greek-letter, collegiate fraternity that features predominantly African-American membership. Founded on January 5, 1911, the organization has over 150,000 members in every state of the U.S. in 721 alumni, undergraduate, and international chapters. The fraternity has chapters on four continents including Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.
Formation and Organization
The organization is structured nationally as having a president known as the Grand Polemarch. This leader assigns Province Polemarchs, who oversee the twelve regions of the nation. The organization has many notable members locally, nationally, and internationally. The fraternity has published a quarterly magazine, The Kappa Alpha Psi Journal, since 1914.
The fraternity was founded by ten African-American students at Indiana University. Originally organized as Alpha Kappa Nu but was changed to Kappa Alpha Psi in 1915. The fraternity’s motto is “Achievement in every field of human endeavor.”
At the time the fraternity was founded, there were very few African-American students on the Indiana University campus due to widespread implementation of Jim Crow laws. The African-American students who attended the school rarely saw one another, and they were either prohibited or discouraged from participating in school functions by school administrators and students. Black students were routinely barred from joining the school’s sports teams except for track and field. This discrimination strengthened the bond between the Black students and sparked an interest in the Black student community to start a social group.
Membership and Activities
In the 1950s, Kappa Alpha Psi began using the “Kappa Kane” as they participated in step shows. This cane resembles a candy cane and is covered in the fraternal colors of crimson and cream. “Wrapping” is the process of covering the cane in the fraternity’s colors and is done in a very specific way.
Kappa Alpha Psi offers membership to undergraduate and graduate students and does not exclude anyone from membership based on creed, color, national origin. The membership spans nine countries, 367 U.S. cities, and 406 University and College and Alumni chapters. All candidates must have a 2.5/4.0 GP as a student and at the alumni level, they must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college.
The Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation was created in 1981 to support undergraduate and alumni chapters by offering after-school programs, scholarships, and collaborating with charitable organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.