The “AHEPA First” movement emerged in the 1970s as a vocal faction within the larger AHEPA organization.
Some members of AHEPA felt that the organization had lost its way and was no longer sufficiently focused on promoting Greek-American interests.
They believed that AHEPA should take a more active role in lobbying for causes such as the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, support for the Greek Orthodox Church, and advocacy for a strong U.S.-Greece relationship.
Over the years, the “AHEPA First” movement gained traction within AHEPA, with its supporters continuing to push for the organization to prioritize Greek-American interests above all else.
Some members felt that AHEPA should focus more on promoting Greek culture and heritage within the United States, while others believed that AHEPA should be more politically oriented and take a more active role in advocating for Greek-American causes.
One example of the “AHEPA First” movement’s advocacy efforts was its support for the naming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In the 1990s, AHEPA was actively involved in lobbying the U.S. government to recognize the country under the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” rather than “Republic of Macedonia.” AHEPA members argued that the name “Macedonia” was historically and culturally significant to Greece and that the use of this name by a neighboring country was a form of territorial encroachment.
Another example of the “AHEPA First” movement’s advocacy efforts was its support for the establishment of a U.S. arms embargo on Turkey in the 1970s. At the time, Turkey was involved in a conflict with Greece over the island of Cyprus. AHEPA members argued that a U.S. arms embargo on Turkey would help to level the playing field in the conflict and prevent further aggression by the Turkish government.
Despite ongoing debates within AHEPA about the appropriate balance between cultural promotion, philanthropy, and political advocacy, the “AHEPA First” movement has remained a significant faction within the organization. It reflects the ongoing tensions and debates within the Greek-American community about how best to promote and protect Greek-American interests.
Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
To promote the ancient Hellenic ideals of education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, family and individual excellence through community service and volunteerism.