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 Theta Rho Lambda Chapter in Arlington and Alexandria, VA and did an interview with Keith Laing 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. Laing, who works as a journalist, has been in the position of president for two years.
We interviewed Laing, who is a Spring 2007 Eta Lambda Chapter initiate of his fraternity and a graduate of Howard University 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?
I have been a member of my current chapter since 2013, which represents two-thirds of my entire time in Alpha. So it’s fair to say that it has been my home away from home. In many ways, TRL revived my Alpha spirit. I became a Life Member here. I served whenever asked in a variety of positions in the chapter prior to becoming president and watched with pride as our chapter doubled in size. I agreed to take on the role as president in 2021 because TRL means the world to me and I believed my talents would be of good use to the chapter.
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?
Our chapter will conduct all of our national programs in this upcoming year. We will also complete a variety of special projects, including Back-to-School, Thanksgiving Basket and Toys for Tots giveways. We will raise money for the March of Dimes and our Education Foundation will give away multiple scholarships to deserving students in our chapter seats at our annual Black and Gold Gala. The work we do is vital to the black communities in northern Virginia.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
I wanted to be an Alpha because I was awed by the history of the organization and inspired by the Brothers I saw on campus when I was a student at Howard University. I had several mentors who were Alpha men and they saw the potential in me to become an Alpha myself, at times even before I did.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Theta Rho Lambda is a small but mighty chapter with a strong sense of Brotherhood. I was embraced as a visiting Brother from the day I attended my first meeting. I have formed such strong relationships with Brothers in this chapter that my vice president is my son’s godfather. Another Chapter Brother is the emergency contact at my daughters’ school. Our families know each and we have grown together as men in my decade here.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Our chapter doesn’t officially have a mentee chapter, but we work with the other chapters in our area to provide support for the Iota Alpha Chapter at George Mason University. We have supported their events on campus and also conducted joint service projects to ensure they get credit for completing required national programs.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We conduct monthly happy hours to provide Brothers will a chance to socialize in a more relaxed setting. We also host several family friendly events throughout the year to allow Brothers to bring their children out and foster friendships between them. We also strongly encourage Brothers who sponsor incoming candidates to continue mentoring them through their transition into the fraternity.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
I would advise aspiring alumni chapter leaders to focus more on service than titles and accolades. Those things will come if you do the work that is required of any role you are asked to hold in any Greek organization. There are no small jobs in any of our organizations, as each position is vital to to the operation of a chapter. I would also recommend that aspiring leaders remember that alumni chapters are by design multi-generational organizations, so programming decisions should always reflect that.
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?
I have been blessed with strong mentors for my entire journey in Alpha Phi Alpha. My sponsor was initiated at Beta Chapter in 1963, and I recently had the chance to watch his line celebrate their 60th anniversary on the campus of Howard University. My prophytes in Eta Lambda still teach me things to this day, and the veteran Brothers of Theta Rho Lambda have also mentored me on this chapter’s culture and history.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is important to Black Greekdom because it highlights both the current happenings and history of our organizations. It also spotlights the importance of remaining active at the alumni level for members who are initiated at the college level.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being Alpha because I love been surrounded by like-minded men who believe in the importance of uplifting our community.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood means everything to me. Brotherhood is the primary reasons I sought membership in Alpha Phi Alpha. It means more to me than any title or award, even serving as chapter president.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Keith Laing for his work as the president of the Theta Rho Lamba chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1964.