Alpha Phi Alpha awards scholarship at MLK luncheon

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

As the nation remembers the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 17-year-old Amin Williams longs to have a positive impact on the world around him. He said newly-awarded scholarship funds from a local fraternity will help him achieve that goal.

“I’m very excited, because it gives me a chance to attain higher education other than just a high-school diploma, because I realize that’s not enough for me and what I want to accomplish. If I want to go to college, I’m going to have to earn the money for it, and one way I can do it is to prove myself.”

Santana Flanigan (from left), director of educational activities for the local chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, congratulates Amin Williams, 17, for receiving a scholarship Saturday during the group’s annual luncheon honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Special photo

On Saturday, Alpha Phi Alpha Inc. gave Williams a $1,000 scholarship at the group’s eighth annual Scholarship Luncheon at the Merle Manders Conference Center.

Williams, a senior at Salem High School in Conyers, plans to major in marketing at the University of West Georgia in hopes of being an entrepreneur. He said he is concerned about the troubled relationship between law enforcement and the black community in today’s world.

While speaking to a packed room of fraternity brothers and supporters at the luncheon, he suggested steps which legislators and law enforcement could take to improve the issue. Those suggestions include body cameras for police, quarterly meetings between the public and law enforcement, and an independent grand jury in cases involving police-related deaths.

Santana Flanigan is the Director of Educational Activities for the fraternity’s Rho Sigma Lambda chapter. He said Williams was selected for the scholarship in response to the question how to address “the disproportionality of blacks dying in their encounters with law enforcement.”

“Although African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 31 percent of all deaths with police encounters,” said Flanigan. “What can today’s youth do to resolve and end that disproportionality?”

Flanigan applauded Williams for the “sincerity” of his ideas to tackle the issue at hand.

“They were not just pie-in-the-sky ideas, but ideas that we can implement today if the legislators choose to do so,” said Flanigan. “Amin is a passionate young man and is socially-minded, and that’s what spoke us, the committee, in awarding him this scholarship.”

Roderick James is the co-chair of the annual event. He said in addition to honoring Dr. King’s birthday, the event helps to convey an important message for young people.

“We were founded on the principles of scholarship and manly deeds,” said James. “Our main focus is to give back to the community, so this is one of our efforts to let the community have a peek into what we do every day.”

In past years, the fraternity has awarded three scholarships to deserving students at the MLK event. However, James noted that Williams was the only student who met the all the necessary qualifications to receive scholarship funds this year.

“Part of giving out the funds is, we want these young men to be responsible, so you’ve got to meet deadlines,” said James. “You’ve got to live the life that’s going to happen for you when you get into the real world, so we’re pretty strict on that.”

The luncheon also featured the Shiloh Baptist Church choir, poet Steaven Misher and keynote speaker Milton Davis, who was the 29th General President of the fraternity. Davis said it is important to reflect on “the man, the mission and the message” of Dr. King. Davis said the fraternity, of which King was a member, helped the civil-rights leader when he was jailed following the Montgomery bus boycott.

“That was before Dr. King had all these legions of people who were surrounding him and lifting him up,” said Davis. “His fraternity was surrounding him and lifting him up. That is why we are here today, because this is just an extension. That is why Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity undertook to build a memorial on the [National] Mall for Dr. King. Nobody else would have done that.”