The College of William and Mary’s Kappa Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. is working with the governor’s office to mitigate tensions after the chapter decided to boycott a service awards ceremony in protest of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s decision to proclaim April “Confederate History Month.”
The decision to boycott the event has been met with support from other Alpha Phi Alpha chapters nationwide, and from members of the College community.
“We did not contact the national office, but so far many chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha have been supportive of our decision,” Alpha Phi Alpha member Lamar Shambley ’10 said in an e-mail. “They understand what we stand for and they understand why we have decided to boycott the event … Many students, even some alumni, have e-mailed us supporting what we have done.”
McDonnell named the College’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha a recipient of the Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award as an outstanding educational institution in Virginia.
“We were nominated for the award by way of the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship here at William and Mary,” Shambley said. “We were chosen from a statewide pool of applicants as the winners of the award.”
According to Shambley, the Alphas originally intended on attending the awards ceremony, but reconsidered after McDonnell’s proclamation.
“We were definitely planning on going,” Shambley said. “We sent a letter to the governor proudly accepting the award, but we decided against attending the event. incredibly grateful to be recognized for our years of hard work, but after hearing of Confederate History Month, we simply chose to not be in attendance.”
McDonnell’s office could not be reached for comment.
Although Alpha Phi Alpha will not be attending the awards ceremony, a meeting with McDonnell could occur in the future.
“The governor’s office has been working with us in resolving the matter,” Shambley said. “We plan to meet with Governor McDonnell in the upcoming days so that we can foster a serious conversation about the implications behind Confederate History Month and his initial omission of slavery in his declaration.”
College Spokesman Brian Whitson said that the College supports Alpha Phi Alpha’s community service efforts and recognizes its decision to boycott the ceremony.
“We are very proud of the service and dedication that Alpha Phi Alpha provides the campus and local communities,” he said. “We understand why they decided not to attend last week’s reception. It’s good to know that they have now agreed to meet with the governor’s office to have a meaningful discussion on these issues. Ultimatly, Shambley said that the dialogue opened within the community was worth declining McDonnell’s invitation.
“If there has been anything that I have learned in the past four years as a William and Mary student [it] is that I have the capability to create conversation about something that I consider unfair or immoral. We’re happy that the governor’s office has listened to our letter and has opened the floor for conversation.”