In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Mu Xi Lambda Chapter in the Inland Empire (including all of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties) in Southern California and did an interview with Dr. Jamal J. Myrick the President of the chapter.
The position of president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Dr. Myrick, who works as a author and higher education administrator, has been in the position of president for over one year.
We interviewed Dr. Myrick, who is a November 9, 2019 initiate of his fraternity and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
My favorite part of the mission statement is “Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. develops leaders….” and what better way to develop as a leader than to serve in a role where you’re facilitating the success of a cadre of highly educated, highly competent, and strong-headed Black men? I’ve served in various roles both in my chapter and on our district level, so it felt like the natural best move for me. Prior to me becoming a Brother, I shared with the Chapter that one day I would be president and lead the chapter. Based on my body of work since then, the brothers agreed, and I have not been disappointed in all that I’ve learned from this experience. The lessons gathered in this role have transcended all that I do. From having difficult conversations with brothers to navigating the politics that come along with the position, it’s not too much that I don’t feel prepared for. I’ve often said, “If I can handle a chapter meeting with brothers, this work meeting is a piece of cake!”
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
Given that this upcoming year is an election cycle, we are really going to engage with our local community via our Voteless People is a Hopeless People national program. Our chapter is hosting virtual educational experiences focused on propositions and local elected officials. Also, we’re going to partner with other Divine Nine organizations to lead the agenda of newly elected officials in our local area. Additionally, we will have our 36th annual Oratorical contest, which is one of my favorite events of the year. This community staple gives youth the platform to conquer a fear held by so many adults and the amazing thing about it is that we’ve had multiple generations of families actually participate.
Next, we’ll have our HBCU Night with the LA Clippers fundraiser, which is an opportunity to amplify Black people and the wonderful contributions of HBCUs as well as the Divine Nine.
Finally, we’ll host our fourth annual golf tournament, which will bring community members together to not only fellowship with one another but also raise funds for scholarships for our Black scholars in the Inland Empire. One of my favorite parts of our tournament is that we provide golf clinics during the program to help those who have never played golf get the foundational skills down so they can participate. Golf is a “doorway to deals,” and the more Black people we help acquire this game-changing skill, the closer they get to the deals that can potentially change their lives.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
When I think of all of the men who’ve had a tremendous impact on my own development as a Black man, most (if not all) are Alphas, yet they did not brag or boast about it. It was a quality that each of them had and continues to have to this day. Each one of them is versatile, as they handled their business while also finding moments to have a good time. True Men of Distinction. This was the hook. When I started to learn more and dive deeper into the history of our Fraternity, I understood the impact and influence that Alpha has had in our community, and made me seek membership even more.
Alpha history is Black history, and I felt such a strong connection to so much of it. I started to see Alpha for its desire to influence change at all levels for Black and I saw myself in the same company. I felt that I had skills and a mindset that could add value to the Fraternity as well as my chapter for the betterment of Black people.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Our chapter has three unique features that I’m not only encouraged by, but I’m more proud of than anything. For one, we have one of the largest service territories in the entire fraternity. Between Riverside and San Bernardino counties, we have to cover more than 27,000 square miles, which is massive and ensures that we’re intentional about where we target our services. We strive to engage with spaces and places that have a high density of Black people and where there is a need for Alpha’s presence. Working with other Black-led organizations as well as our NPHC-IE partners, we continue to adapt our services and support through the years. Another unique fact is that more than 50% of brothers who have 20+ years in the Fraternity are actively serving in our chapter on committees. This means that there’s a wealth of knowledge and insight provided, especially with many of these brothers serving in local, regional, and national positions for the Fraternity. Finally, our chapter has a huge number of military brothers active which reflects the unique roots of our chapter’s origin story, where a majority of our charter members were actively serving in the military. We continue to find ways to celebrate our military brothers and their service to our country, community, and Alpha.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
For this fraternal year, we plan to support our undergraduate chapter in the following ways: Strong mentorship and advisement on issues and concerns (advising is the key word here, as we want to respect what they’re doing as advisors and understand that there are many different ways to get to the intended goal). Develop a clear, direct fundraising plan to achieve chapter goals. Provide financial assistance to attend the leadership conference as well as our regional convention. Ongoing workshops that focus on career development (especially resume building to help articulate all of this great work that they’re doing for Alpha) Help and support our graduating college brothers transition into an alumni chapter after their collegiate career.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
During the initial year of my presidency, our chapter theme was Every Brother Counts, which was a call to action for each brother to truly build relationships with one another, develop a bond that is more than “I crossed in Sp 87”, and connect on more than just work. Oftentimes, I believe that people think that alumni/graduate chapters are just about the work of the community (which is true), AND we also have fun too and I thought it was critical to have this spirit in our chapter. From ongoing intentional fellowship activities prior to our chapter meetings to our Brotherhood Experience Committee hosting monthly programs and socials that provided a space for brothers to let their hair down. Finally, as Chapter President, it’s essential that I role model the behaviors that I’m encouraging brothers to do as well. Making phone calls on a daily basis with brothers on my commutes, sending personalized cards and messages on Alphaversaries, and writing letters of gratitude are some of my favorite (and effective) ways that I’ve implemented to create a sense of unity among our chapter.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
One of the pieces of advice that I give to those who aspire to take on leadership roles in alumni chapters is that leadership is difficult and intentional. It’s not easy serving in an unpaid leadership role that takes up a lot of time, energy, and intentional effort if you’re true about moving your organization forward. One has to be mindful of the verbals, non-verbals, and everything in between when engaging with their respective chapter members as well as external organizations and people. Serving in a leadership position means you’re working with and leading people who bring in all sorts of experiences, perspectives, and even hurts, and as someone in leadership, be mindful of these at all times. Finally, I would say, have fun with the role and make it yours. Put your stamp on it, and know that your members want to see the various sides of you too. It doesn’t have to be business all the time. Beat them in dominoes, show them that stroll that you love doing, and show them that you’re human too.
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
Honestly, I wouldn’t be anywhere in my life without the care and intentional love that I’ve been shown through mentorship, especially in Alpha. As mentioned in a previous question, leadership is hard and as someone fairly new in the organization and chapter, I recognize that I don’t know everything and I’m humble enough to ask questions for my pros, especially in my first year. The first Alumni chapter was chartered on April 11, 1911 and since then, there’s only a select few who know or understand what it means to serve as the president of an Alumni chapter. It’s a unique experience that brings unique challenges, and I’d be a fool not to rely on those before me for guidance. Even in other parts of my life, Alpha has had a huge impact on me, whether it was helping me navigate the homebuying process or creating space for me to be vulnerable. Some of the brothers I’d like to shout out are: William Jernigan (SP ’75), Kevin Hill (SP ’78), Mike Richardson (FA ’79), Ed McMillon (FA ’90), Dr. Robert Brodie (SP’ 92), Marlon Long (FA ’95), Louis Dilbert (SP ’01), Kevin Simon (FA’05), Ed Enunu (FA ’05), Bro. Josh Postell (SP ’16), Armad Obasohan (SP ’17), Gregg Bishop (SP ’18), , Charles Brown (SP ’19), and Joseph Williams (FA ’19).
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard is essential to Black Greekdom! In a world where there’s a level of distrust, misinformation, and misrepresentation of our organizations, I believe that Watch the Yard showcases the good that happens in our organizations. In a world that questions the validity of our organizations and the need for them, Watch the Yard creates a counternarrative that amplifies who we are and the critical roles that we play not just here in the United States but across the globe. I believe another value that comes with Watch the Yard is that it creates critical conversations amongst our Greek family that may be contentious at times but are needed.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
There’s so many reasons I love being an Alpha. For one, being an Alpha comes with a level of responsibility and sense of duty that motivates me on a daily basis. There’s never been a moment where I haven’t been inspired or motivated hearing a brother’s life journey. It’s inspired me to do things such as write another book called Parenting is Hard AF, be a better man to my family, and so much more. Additionally, I’ve developed as a leader who can boldly face the many challenges that come in my personal and my professional life. If you can lead an Alpha chapter meeting, you can lead anything. And finally, the brotherhood transcends in so many ways. Everywhere that I go, I know that there’s an Alpha brother nearby. Never again will I be lonely for I have brothers everywhere.Even in cities of population two, I even have a brother there. This means something to me!
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood/sisterhood are terms often used and often misunderstood. It’s a bond between a community hat have strong ties to loyalty, support, and a sense of duty to another. Additionally, when its used in the context of Black people, both words takes on a deeper meaning. In a society that often vilifies Black people, the need for both is even more critical for the continued thriving of our communities. The only way that our communities can move forward is with a sense of unity and duty to one another and I believe our Black Greek Letter Organizations have the blueprint.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Dr. Jamal J. Myrick for his work as the President of the Mu Xi Lambda Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1977.
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