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Leadership Highlight: Johnathan Whorton the President of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Kappa Delta Lambda Chapter in Lansing, Michigan

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 Kappa Delta Lambda Chapter in The Greater Lansing-area and did an interview with Johnathan Essex Whorton 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. Johnathan Essex Whorton, who works as the Chief Deputy Probate Register for the County of Ingham, Michigan., is newly elected to the position of president of his chapter. 

We interviewed Johnathan, who is a Fall 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?

The Kappa Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (KDL) is my home. I was initiated into this chapter in the Fall of 2019. Since my initiation, I have seen my chapter grow and be active in the community, including during the height of COVID, giving out over 4,000 masks and sanitizers during the pandemic; over the years, we have personally delivered thousands of boxes of food to our community’s elderly and shut in, and thousands of pounds more of food at food pantry sites throughout the Lansing area; we taken the leadership roles in our community such as the presidency of the Lansing Branch of the NAACP, Board Members of Big Brothers Big Sisters Michigan Capital Region, the Lansing NPHC; and have seen the growth of my chapter prophytes, line brothers, and even the lines of neophytes that have come in to this chapter and across the Michigan District. All of these positive contributions we have made to the Lansing community moved me to want to play a more active role in directing this chapter’s future. 

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?

This year my chapter is involved in two youth mentorship programs: the Turning Point of Lansing & the Lansing Alpha Esquires Program; two major monthly community service projects: Phirst Pham Phirst Wednesdays & Lansing Mobile Food Pantry Deliveries; Real Men Read; and giving out scholarships via our KDL Foundation. Through both the Turning Point of Lansing & the Alpha Esquires, my chapter has already begun and will continue to positively mold the youth of our community by teaching them important life lessons about relationships, financial literacy, exposure to rich experiences, and being around men passionate about their futures and the future of our community. Our dedication to community service with both the Phirst Pham Phirst Wednesday & our Lansing Mobile Food Pantry efforts have afforded us the opportunity to be able to feed thousands of families that need it most. In a time where inflation has taken a larger portion of families’ incomes in our community, our food distribution to helps lighten the economic burden of so many. Our Phirst Pham Phirst Wednesday community service is done in conjunction with the Lansing & East Lansing Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Chapters on every first Wednesday of the month, which we have done continuously for over a year. Our Lansing Mobile Food Pantry deliveries have been done by KDL Chapter brothers every month for nearly 11 years in the Lansing Community without a lapse in service. Our Real Men Read Initiative places KDL Chapter brothers in classrooms of students at the Pattengill Middle School in Lansing, MI. Reading in these classes allows young people to see intelligent, thoughtful and educated Black men. When the youth see us and the positive images that we bring, they are able see and be encouraged to make strive themselves to be individuals of great worth and give back to their own communities as well. And finally, every year my chapter gives out scholarships to deserving students in our community, via our KDL Foundation, a recognized 501(c)(3). This past year we were able to provide 6 $1,000 scholarships & 3 stipends of $750, and we plan on being able to do even more with the help of financial sponsors and community partners. 

What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?

The Men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. have always found themselves on the frontline of addressing the most serious social, economic & intellectual issues of our times. I had always considered myself to be a person with deep love of my community and was not certain how and individual, such as myself, could make a significant positive impact. But when I saw the men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Delta Lambda Chapter display such continued Alpha Excellence, the passion for their community and the genuine care for one another, I was wise enough to set my sights on aspiring to join an organization filled with distinguished members and of such a noble purpose. This has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made in my life. 

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?

My chapter is unique because of our wide range of age of our brothers and the brotherhood found in the 527th house of Alpha. My chapter has brothers that crossed in the 1950s and as recently as 2022. The Immediate Past Chapter President, Bro. Harold Pope, is more than 35+ years my senior, but the effortless sense of brotherhood and love for our community binds us. In passing the leadership torch to me a relatively young brother, aged 26, and having brothers that have been in Alpha Phi Alpha longer than I have been alive is extraordinary. These older brothers have trusted me, and so many of our younger brothers in leadership positions, while, at the same time, we have been able to grow and develop under their mentorship. In short, our chapter’s genuine brotherhood extends beyond generations and we are appropriately proud of this fact. 

How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?

Our undergraduate chapter that we advise is the Zeta Delta (ZD) Chapter, located at Michigan State University (MSU). We believe in direct support and relationships over attempting to dominate our brothers. We have provided our time, energy and support in hearing the Zeta Delta Chapter’s ideas for things they would like to do and bring to life, the same is true vice versa. Sexual Assault is a major issue across the country and across the world, however this past May, for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, our chapter & ZD partnered together to create a video that addressed statistics and facts regarding sexual assault & volunteered at the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing to beautify the premise and support those who are on the frontlines helping survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and at-risk for other traumas. Our chapters collaborated to execute Voter’s Registration Drives on MSU’s campus and in the city of Lansing. Lastly, but not exhausting our list of support, we are brotherly with our undergraduate brothers. We interact with our undergraduate brothers in non-formal ways: inviting them over for cookouts, we attend their events, share their posts on social media & their achievements, help them with their job & internship searches and decompress over games together like spades. 

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

For me, the best approach to foster a sense of unity and camaraderie in any setting is to genuinely share of yourself. Go to places & environments that people can feel comfortable getting to know one another. Places like that could be meeting at a person’s house, grabbing food at a good restaurant, going to a local sports event, at or after church. I give these examples because these are what worked for my chapter and even me, personally. If everyone involved is genuinely putting themselves out there and are shared in that unified identity of brothers or sisters of their respective organization, I imagine many would feel even more fulfilled by their interactions with their chapters. 

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?

My advice would be to do an internal audit of yourself and see what leadership qualities that you possess and those that you do not. Until the right moment presents itself, continue working on yourself. I did not become president overnight. I learned how to conduct committee meetings, I regularly attended (and still do) community service events, became the Central Area Director for the Michigan District of Alpha Phi Alpha, I watched other brothers lead, and spent a lot of time learning from my successes and my failures. I would stress aspiring leaders to not be afraid to ask questions of more seasoned members of not only your chapter, but members from other chapters and other organizations as well. And do your best to remember the excitement and pride that you felt when you first crossed into your organization, and continue to pull from that memory to push you when moments are challenging. 

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?

Mentorship has opened the door for my development not only as an Alphaman, but also as a person. Mentors took me under their wings and treated me like family as I grew into an adult. When my time at Michigan State began to wind down, I turned to a summer bridge program for incoming MSU Students called ESSA to mentor the next generation of Spartans. Because of those rich experiences and pouring in to those young adults, I was further motivated to push the envelope in my life. I served as a mentor for that program for 3 consecutive years and was able to go back for the first cohort since COVID and speak to those freshmen alongside students from all 3 years that I had mentored in the program. I am a better person because I gave back and I pray those students continue to do the same. And the latter question is so difficult to answer, because so many of my brothers have made significant contributions to my life through mentorship. To name a few brothers, I would have to say Bro. Wayne Lynn, Bro. Harold Pope, & Bro. Carlos Brown. Bro. Lynn was my sponsor through my Alpha journey, and he has been a prime example of what it means to be a good family man, husband, and pillar of his community. He entrusted me with the keys to the House of Alpha and I am forever grateful. To this day we still meet up and touch bases. He had his first sushi rolls out to lunch with me, he was there when I proposed to my fiancé and he just recently offered me counsel about managing interpersonal relationships as president. Bro. Pope had been the Chapter President every year that I had been an Alpha. He brought with him an essence of Alpha Excellence, poise, passion and rigor. He never let any of the lines that came in under his administration take backward steps, and he exuded leadership. He pulled me to the side many times and encouraged me to further my development as a brother. Most of all, he opened his home to me and made me feel like family. I am proud to be that brother’s successor and holding the title of president aloft. Bro. Carlos Brown is someone I met while I was a neo and he motivated me to move strategically. He was someone that would always make time to hear my thoughts and opinions, but also help me come up with alternatives. If there was ever a brother to hold up a mirror and cause me to engage in introspection, he is that brother. He’s been great for a late night laugh, and going to fraternal conventions together. Bro. Brown is truly a brother’s brother and I am a better man because he is in my life. 

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

Watch the Yard is important for Black greekdom because it has been a forum that allows all persons, whether they are D9 or even the general public to see the great things that are occurring in each of our great organizations. Watch The Yard has been around for years, and when it showcases the black excellence of our orgs it only serves to raise the prestige of those same organizations. What we have to continue to as a greek community continue to capture the attention of our respective members, and all the while aspiring members and the public at large. Seeing all of the positive posts about the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha on this and other media locations further moved me to make my fateful journey, and I suspect the same is true for the next generations of black greeks to come. Lastly to this point, when the general public are able to see us, the work that we do, the vintage steps, and modern day strolls, and our genuine communion with one another, it brings positive connotations to the names and imagery of our black organizations. We support the community, and we are most successful in this goal when the community supports us. 

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

I love being a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., firstly, because I get to serve my community with my brothers with a unified voice, purpose, and action. The strives that my fraternity’s founders made, and the work that our members have made to this day have made our community a better place. Our love for all of mankind and our verified history of manly deeds and scholarship are unmatched and we continue to march onward and upward. Secondly, my brotherhood is everywhere. I did not that say my organization was everywhere, because we are so much more than a group. Alpha Phi Alpha is an idea: that men from all different walks of life can come together in the bonds of brotherhood and make our lot in life better through collective action. Just being a brother compels the overwhelming spirit of camaraderie to manifest between brothers and that is special. 

​Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?

To me brotherhood means family. Real families may argue and disagree, but at the end of the day we love each other because we are a family. Families grow together, feed each other, and even welcome new family into the family tree. It is equally true that families may have to push on one another to do better. Families may have to hold other family members accountable, but at all times, a real family deals in love. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is a family. 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Johnathan Whorton for his work as the President of the Kappa Delta Lambda which has a legacy that spans back to 1972. 

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