Robert F. Smith Brings Success Back

Brother Robert F. Smith Brings Success Back Home

Brother Robert F. Smith Brings Success Back Home

It’s impossible to imagine that you haven’t heard about Brother Robert F. Smith, the tech entrepreneur and philanthropist, who made history during his 2019 Morehouse College commencement speech, when he freed the class of approximately 400 students and parents alike from student loan debt. 

Smith founded Vista Equity Partners (Vista) in 2000. Now, the firm, for which he stands as Chairman and CEO, is one of the leading global investment firms of its kind. Vista exclusively invests in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses through its four investment strategies – private equity, permanent capital, credit and public equity. And, as Smith’s platform has grown, so too has his commitment to giving back to underserved communities.

Smith’s generosity, beyond the scope of his wealth, extends to time spent sharing insights and experience with young professionals and students seeking their piece of the American dream. Whether it’s dropping knowledge during an ELEVATE conference at Columbia Business School, where Smith got his MBA, or giving a heads-up about digital transformation at Davos, Smith is focused on helping communities build self-sustaining infrastructures to aid the growth of Black business and leadership nationwide.

Robert F. Smith’s Philanthropy

Smith attributes much of his philanthropic philosophy to his family and the Alpha Phi Alpha commitment to community empowerment. In 2017, Brother Smith was the first Black American to sign the Giving Pledge, and by doing so, agreed to utilize half of his net worth for initiatives providing equal opportunity for underrepresented communities. These philanthropic ideas were united in 2014 under the mission of Fund II Foundation, a nonprofit of which Brother Smith serves as founding director and President. Smith also shows his continued commitment to the Black community as co-founder of Southern Communities Initiative, which is dedicated to advancing racial equity in the six Southern communities where more than half of Black Americans live. 

Smith innovates pathways for the future of Black success in the U.S. And his vision forward includes taking good care of our precious history. Brother Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s homes are now in the care of the National Park Foundation, so our children’s children can step inside history, due to a grant from the Fund II Foundation. The stories of our people are being digitally recorded and preserved at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, due to a grant from Smith, who believes this living tribute will not only enrich education but contribute to new curatorial studies. 

Smith has said that economic success over the next decade will be tied to careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To ensure the Black community takes part in the next cycle of wealth generation, Brother Smith made $10 million available at Cornell University, his alma mater, for scholarships to support Black and female students pursuing technology-related degrees. In 2022, Smith donated another $15 million to Cornell University’s College of Engineering to establish three funds – the Robert F. Smith Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, the Robert F. Smith Graduate Fellowship Fund and a third fund supporting student participation in career development events and conferences. In 2020, Brother Smith gave a $50 million matching gift to help launch Student Freedom Initiative (SFI), the capstone to his Morehouse College gift. SFI works to help relieve the burden of student loan debt and provides educational resources for qualifying STEM students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

Get involved with your community through Alpha Phi Alpha.

Stay up to date with Smith’s latest philanthropic and business efforts by following him on Facebook, Twitter (X), Instagram and LinkedIn and subscribing to his YouTube channel.

Statement on Hazing Allegations

Statement on Hazing Allegations

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Tyler Hilliard, a student at the University of California – Riverside. “The Fraternity shares our deepest condolences to his family, loved ones, and the entire university community, as their loss is unimaginable,” said Executive Director Jamie R. Riley.

Working with the University, the Fraternity has launched an investigation into the situation and has placed the chapter on an immediate cease and desist status, suspending all activities. The Fraternity is cooperating fully with law enforcement authorities as they investigate.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. does not condone and strictly prohibits any illegal acts, including hazing in any form, whether physical or mental, as a term or condition of membership in the organization. Any member found violating the fraternity’s anti-hazing policy will be immediately suspended with a recommendation for expulsion.

To be clear, any individual found to have participated in or knowingly allowed any hazing activity or any illegal act does not support the mission, vision, or aims of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has taken several steps in efforts to prevent and eliminate hazing. As an advocate, supporter, and participant in hazing prevention initiatives with organizations like, the Novak Institute, and the Greek Anti-Hazing Hotline, Alpha Phi Alpha is educating members and those who are interested in membership about this issue. The following provides a snapshot of current anti-hazing efforts:

  1. All chapters must receive state, regional, and national approval before engaging in sanctioned new member activities. All active members of the Fraternity are required to attend an annual immersive risk-management, anti-hazing training before participating in sanctioned new member activities. This training provides very detailed information regarding the Fraternity’s anti-hazing policies, an overview of applicable laws, and engages members in case studies about eradicating hazing culture.
  2. All new member applicants are guided through the Fraternity’s anti-hazing policies as part of membership application process.
  3. During the Fraternity’s international, regional, and state conventions, active members of the Fraternity are required to attend additional in person anti-hazing trainings.
  4. Each of the five regions of the Fraternity’s membership host a College Brothers Leadership Retreat, where anti-hazing education and training are the primary components of the core curriculum.
  5. The Fraternity has a long-standing partnership with HazingPrevention.Org, and most recently participated in an intense three-day national anti-hazing institute, where members learned about the root cause of hazing and developed strategic approaches to eradicating hazing culture.
  6. The Fraternity has long-standing participation and partnerships with several anti-hazing organizations, including the Fraternal Law Conference, Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors (AFA), and the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC).
  7. The Fraternity has several anti-hazing resources available on the national website.
  8. The Fraternity has a National Committee on Risk Management Education and Prevention, which focuses on implementing innovative educational and awareness curriculum and providing cuttingedge recommendations on new anti-hazing policies.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, MD, was founded on December 4, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The Fraternity has long stood at the forefront of the African-American community’s fight for civil rights through Alpha men such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Andrew Young, Edward Brooke and Cornel West. The fraternity, through its more than 720 college and alumni chapters and general-organization members, serves communities in the United States, Canada, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. Visit and follow on Twitter @apa1906network.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Henry Health announce a national digital campaign for National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Henry Health announce a national digital campaign for National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Washington, D.C. — Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the nation’s oldest and largest collegiate fraternity founded for Black men and Henry Health, Inc., a health care digital startup, announced today the formation of Reclaim Our Strength, a national digital campaign aimed at raising the awareness of emotional and mental health issues impacting black men.

The digital campaign, which will end with a national twitter townhall on the emotional and mental health of black men, will feature an infographic on the stressors for black men, as well as a microsite where men will be given the opportunity to share their personal stories, and essays from prominent health and community leaders on mental health issues.

“We, as Alpha men, have always prided ourselves on being leaders within our communities,” said Dr. Everett B. Ward, general president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. “The truth is that we can’t lead if we are emotionally unhealthy. We want to help men, especially Black men, understand that when life becomes challenging there is strength in seeking help.”

Untreated mental health disorders and unmanaged stress are silent killers of Black men. Adult Blacks are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems compared to the general population. Only 6.6% of Black men used mental health services in the last year. Constant exposure to stressors over a prolonged period can contribute to chronic health conditions and exacerbate mental illness.

“Our goals at Henry Health is to help shift the cultural view related to accessing mental health services,” said Kevin Dedner, founder and CEO of Henry Health. “The Reclaim Our Strength campaign is simply a step and I am pleased to partner with the Office of the General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.”

Alpha Phi Alpha Denounces The Separation And Detainment Of Families

Alpha Phi Alpha Denounces The Separation And Detainment Of Families


General President Ward asks its members to urge their Congressional lawmakers to act

BALTIMORE, MD. (June 20) –  Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. General President Dr. Everett B. Ward today urged the Trump administration and Congress to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of immigrant children from their families along the Mexican border and reunite them.
In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance policy” requiring arrest of all immigrants who attempted to enter the country along the Mexican border illegally.  Under previous administrations, those adults who crossed the border illegally by themselves often faced arrest, but anyone who travelled with a child would not be prosecuted.

“The heart-wrenching images of immigrant children being separated from their families conjures other images of our country’s troubled past when African Americans were brought here in bondage and they and their children were torn from their families,” said President Ward. “The Trump administration and Congress must end this practice immediately and find a humane and just deterrent and solution to illegal immigration.”

Recently, President Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of families at the border by indefinitely detaining parents and children together. Congressional Republicans have also attempted to develop an immigration plan to alter Trump’s contentious “zero tolerance policy.”

Ward said that President Trump’s proposed executive order to detain children and parents collectively is unacceptable as well and urges him to work with Congress to craft an immigration policy that does not punish children, but instead, provides a common-sense approach to reform. In the meantime, Ward is asking the more than 150,000 members of the nation’s first intercollegiate fraternity founded by African American men to urge their members of Congress to support legislation that will end the practice immediately and reunite families.

“We cannot stand idly by and watch children of all ages being separated from their families while their parents are caged in detention centers,” Ward said. “The voice of every member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. should be heard on this matter.  This is not the America any compassionate human being wants or believes in.”

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. President Everett B. Ward Calls NFL Owners' Decision an Attack on Patriotism and Democracy


BALTIMORE, MD. – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. President Everett B. Ward called the National Football League’s owners’ unanimous decision to require players to stand when on the field during the performance of the national anthem, an attack on “the very concepts of patriotism and democracy” and urged them to reverse their decision.

In a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, President Ward expressed his deep concern on behalf of the more than 150,000 members of the nation’s first intercollegiate Greek-lettered Fraternity for African American men and see the decision as effort to stifle player protests raising awareness about police brutality, hate crimes as well as hateful rhetoric.

“Protests are meant to be disruptive, inconvenient, provocative, and uncomfortable to stir the collective consciousness of people of goodwill to act for the betterment of society,” he wrote. “Peaceful protests, such as those led by our fraternity brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., influenced civil rights legislation and U.S. Supreme Court constitutional precedent during times of great civil unrest in American society. We should never lose sight of the aims of the protest because of the methods of the protest. Civil rights icon Rosa Parks was not anti-bus; she was anti-segregation and inequality in public accommodations. Likewise, NFL athletes and their millions of supporters are not opposed to the flag and all of the hope and promise that it stands for, but instead opposed to the brutal and often dehumanizing mistreatment of African Americans and other marginalized groups in our society.”

In addition, President Ward called on the NFL to not only reverse their decision regarding the anthem policy, but to enact an anthem policy that allows players to continue their peaceful protests of the racial injustice that exists in this country. The NFL should also join forces with organizations and individuals (including its athletes) that are committed to addressing this important issue. Alpha Phi Alpha is ready, willing, and able to work with the NFL if the NFL will make this commitment.

“Rather than react to social pressures or threats to its profitability, the NFL must instead be visionaries and a force to shape the discussion and attitudes around issues of racial inequality that persists in this country since the institution of slavery,” Ward wrote. “Reactionary policies may appear to be financially prudent in the short run, but in the long run may prove costly.”

The Derogatory Meaning of the Ape: A Perspective From The National Historian

The Derogatory Meaning of the Ape: A Perspective From The National Historian

When racists want to denigrate African Americans, they usually compare us to animals, more specifically “apes,” as Roseanne Barr tweeted on Monday, May 28th, about Valerie Jarrett, who served in the White House as Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. White racists, who could not stomach the presence of African Americans in the White House in any capacity other than as servants, often referred to Barack and Michelle Obama as “apes.” More insidious, especially in the context of Roseanne Barr’s scurrilous comment, was the idea that Black men and women copulated with apes.

Pseudoscientific racism, which emerged in the eighteenth century during the so-called Enlightenment in Europe or the Age of Reason, advanced the idea of race and racial hierarchy. Johan Blumenbach, a German anthropologist and physiologist, published his On the Natural Varieties of Mankind in 1776, which categorized five races of mankind based on pseudoscientific measures such as cranial profile and skin color. He placed Caucasians at the top and Africans at the bottom. Apologists for enslavement in the United States and elsewhere used racial classifications to enslave, colonize, and oppress Black people. Racial apartheid in the United States and abroad was based on theories of racial inferiority, that biogenetically Africans and people of African ancestry were less intelligent, more emotional, more promiscuous, and more imitative than Caucasians. When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 about evolution, proponents of white supremacy used his ideas to argue that Black people were in a state of “arrested development”, that we had not evolved as far as White people, and were therefore closer to “apes.”

The idea of Black inferiority was reinforced through minstrelsy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and through schoolbooks, postcards, movies, and advertising for products from shoe polish to tooth paste. African Americans were depicted as slow, dimwitted, clumsy, and without a mind of their own. They were shown with thick red lips, bulging eyes, big feet, and small heads.

Lawn jockeys were one of the most ubiquitous forms of Black stereotype, with Black men in a subservient role and usually with exaggerated features. The American theater, which grew out of vaudeville, was based in large measure on minstrelsy, especially White men in blackface, who made fun of Black men. Minstrelsy was a means of comic relief to let White Americans, especially European immigrants, know what was expected of them. White America defined itself in contradistinction to Black people. They identified themselves not so much by what they were, but by what they considered themselves not to be. The cardinal rule was not to act like Negroes, not to be an “ape.” They told their children that Black people had tails. I can remember being in a department store and a little White kid feeling my friend’s buttocks. When my friend asked the kid what he was doing, the kid said he was trying to feel his tail. The first talking movie in this country featured the White actor, Al Jolson, in blackface. This legacy has been so deeply ingrained in American popular culture and in American society, that it is part of White America’s DNA. That is why Roseanne Barr could so easily denigrate Valerie Jarrett and earlier Susan Rice, a Rhodes Scholar, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama Administration. It is difficult to fathom why she selected these two important and accomplished Black women, except that for Roseanne Barr, they are “Uppity Negroes” and need to be pulled down and put in their “place” by comparing them to “apes.”

Many Brothers want to use some form of transformation to mark the transition from pledge to member of Alpha Phi Alpha. They have seized on the metaphor of evolution from “ape” to “man.” But that metaphor is fraught with stereotypical dangers with which we should not want to be associated. Other than evolution, we could use other models such as metamorphosis. Or, we could use qualifications for membership in a guild from apprenticeship, to journeyman, to master craftsman. We could adapt rites of passage programs that avoid stereotypes. Stereotypes die hard, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity of all organizations should not be complicit in perpetuating them. The image of the “ape” is not one with which we should want to be associated. It runs counter to everything that Alpha Phi Alpha was built on and stands for. In its verb form, “to ape,” means to imitate. While others might base their organizations on brute strength, men of Alpha are leaders and men of intellect who set the standard for others to follow. We do not “ape” anyone or anything and need to abandon the image of the “ape.”

Bro. Robert L. Harris Jr., Ph.D.

National Historian

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Waffle House Hero and Alpha Phi Alpha Brother James Shaw Jr. Honored at Alma Mater


Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. contributes $11K toward HBCU scholarship in his honor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Alpha Brother James Shaw, Jr., who disarmed the Waffle House mass shooter on April 22, was honored last night for his heroism at a special event at Tennessee State University, his alma mater.

Brother Shaw, a 2011 Beta Omicron Chapter initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., wrestled an assault rifle from a gunman and tossed it over the counter before shoving the shooter out the door after the shooter killed four people and wounded several others at a Waffle House in the Nashville suburb of Antioch. Authorities have said there would have likely been more casualties had it not been for Shaw’s actions.

“Like I’ve said, I was just trying to save myself . . . It seems like its inspires so many people throughout the world, and not only throughout the world, but in this room. For that, I am greatly, greatly appreciative,” said Brother Shaw during the ceremony. “To the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., thank you for being there. . . . There’s only one poem that comes to mind and that’s ‘Test of A Man.’ ‘The test of a man is the fight that he makes, The grit that he daily shows . . .’ Thank you for that!”

Brother Dr. Everett B. Ward, general president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., praised his bravery in a statement.

“The well-being and viability of our communities has often been predicated on the willingness of strong men to put themselves in harm’s way. In like manner, the men of Alpha Phil Alpha Fraternity Inc. have established a legacy of service and sacrifice to serve the greater good that was continued by our brother James Shaw Jr., whose actions prevented further loss of life.”

Brother Dr. Jamie Riley, executive director of the Fraternity and himself, a 2003 Beta Omicron Chapter initiate and TSU alumnus, who was present, recognized Brother Shaw’s heroism and bravery with a special fraternity proclamation.

“Your example challenges me and others to be our best even in the most uncomfortable circumstances,” said Brother Dr. Riley. In addition, he added that the Fraternity, including the local alumni chapter, District, Southern Region, and the General organization was contributing $11K toward an HBCU scholarship in Brother Shaw’s honor.

The new scholarship, which will benefit a TSU student is a component of the Fraternity’s national Onward HBCU initiative involving three strategic actions to designed to strengthen access, secure assets, and engage in strategic advocacy work to ensure capacity and sustainability of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities, among them Tennessee State University.