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Fraternity convention brings acts of service to Charlotte area

jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Three thousand African-American men from around the world gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center Saturday, intent on making a difference in the city over the weekend.

Such acts of kindness are a tradition at annual meetings of Alpha Phi Alpha, which is holding its five-day convention through Sunday at the Charlotte Convention Center. Alpha Phi Alpha is the world’s oldest intercollegiate fraternity founded by African-American men, and was founded 109 years ago.

This marked the first time the organization has met in Charlotte, officials said.

Included among their activities: A massive blood drive and a health fair to raise awareness of the impact chronic health issues have on the lives and economic stability of African-American men. In the two previous days, the fraternity staged a voter registration drive and collected enough school supplies to help 1,000 Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools at-risk students start school with everything they need.

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha – called “Alpha Men” – can be found across four continents among their most famous alumni are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall Jr. and Cornel West.

The fraternity’s gathering in Charlotte was expected to pump $5 million into the local economy, officials said.

“We are everywhere,” joked Charlottean and fraternity member Kevin Price, who works with Novant Health. He helped arrange the health fair.

“We are an organization of African-American men and African-American men lead in all the wrong areas, as far as hypertension, diabetes, obesity,” said Price. “And as the primary providers for our families, we’ve got to a better job of taking care of our health.”

Among those who answered the fraternity’s call for community service was fraternity member Montae Monroe, 46, a member of the Charlotte chapter, Beta Nu Lambda. He gave blood and walked the convention center floors to raise awareness of Sickle Cell Anemia and ways average people can help those with the disorder.

He youngest son, age 16, is among those who have been diagnosed with Sickle Cell, which causes the teen to experience periods of chronic pain.

“As members of this fraternity, we are to serve as models of service for the community,” Monroe said. “In my case, that service hits a little closer to home.”

DionTre Speller, 18, was another among the donors.

He lives in Charlotte, attends Central Piedmont Community College and is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Speller said he came Saturday at the urging of his older brother, J.T. Speller, whose girl friend has Sickle Cell.

“If you saw a way to help save someone’s life, wouldn’t you take it?” DionTre Speller said. “I come from a family that has been in some tough spots, and my brother and I want to help other people in tough spots.”

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