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 Lambda Chapter in Washington, D.C. and did an interview with Mikael E. LaRoche 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. Mikael LaRoche, who works as a Head of Brand, Marketing, and Communication – Byte Back Inc., has been in the position of President for one term.
We interviewed Mikael LaRoche, who is a Spring 2011, Mu Lambda Chapter 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 journey from dedicated vice president to President of the Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. epitomizes unwavering commitment and true leadership. For four years, I served as vice president, pouring energy into our chapter’s growth. Witnessing its transformative impact on young black men in Washington, D.C., I laid the groundwork for my ascent to the presidency. Rooted in the legacy of past leaders like Jewel Henry Arthur Callis and Brother Charles H. Wesley, my motivation springs from their sacrifices, dedication, and pursuit of excellence. After a decade in the chapter, I’m driven to pave a path for young black Alpha men. My journey is collective, echoing leaders who uplifted communities. With gavel in hand, I embrace the role with humility and vision. Beyond my term, I envision Mu Lambda as a beacon of hope, education, and positive change. As President, I embody Alpha values – purpose, principles, and uplifting others. The journey from vice president to president exemplifies progress and transformation.
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?
Embracing the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s principles, Mu Lambda charts a 7-pronged strategy for the D.M.V. region. Beyond a roadmap, it’s a testament to our commitment – blending national programs and local initiatives for community impact. Rooted in national programs like “Go to High School – Go to College” and “A Hopeless People is a Voteless People,” we’re resolute torchbearers of change. Yet, our scope expands further. Local initiatives are woven into our community fabric. A signature monthly contribution to the House of Ruth exemplifies our dedication, culminating in an annual event that brightens lives. We broaden our commitment: an annual Toy Drive with the DC Government, health-focused days, and support for neighboring chapters’ initiatives. Excellence extends to fundraising; we’re top contributors for the March of Dimes, aligning seamlessly with broader goals. This journey embodies our fraternity’s essence. United, we shape a future where service and advocacy define our core. We honor heritage, illuminate paths, and leave lasting marks on cherished communities.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
My transformative journey into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated spanned five pivotal years. Departing Trinidad and Tobago in 2007, I embarked on a new chapter at Howard University. Spring’s arrival unveiled remarkable yard showcases that ignited my spirit. Through that summer, I absorbed the Beta Chapter’s impactful values, witnessing dedication, camaraderie, and leadership firsthand. In each member, I glimpsed reflections of myself, sensing an influence deeper than words. College’s end revealed another Alpha presence – my head coach, linking me further to this noble affiliation. Guided by Alpha men at every juncture, destiny’s path emerged clearer. Standing at the crossroads, I embraced the mantle of leadership, continuing the legacy of impact and dedication. Empowered by this journey, infused with gratitude for those who guided me, I am prepared to lead with purpose, embodying the spirit of Alpha Phi Alpha.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Nestled in Washington, D.C., Mu Lambda, the oldest Graduate Chapter in the nation’s capital, boasts a legacy that resonates deeply. Chartered in 1923 by 22 esteemed Alpha men, including two of our revered founders, our roots are interwoven with Alpha Phi Alpha’s history. With strong ties to the Beta chapter at Howard University, our tradition transcends academia. Beta bridged young professionals beyond college, a legacy alive even after a century. Guided by excellence and service, we shine in the fraternity. In 2022, partnering with our foundation, we renamed First St. NW to Alpha Phi Alpha Way, marking our commitment to the city’s streets. Our history houses Alpha’s luminaries. Our chapter’s tapestry weaves influential threads, crafting our vibrant narrative. Mu Lambda is more than history; we lead as a flagship. We pioneer policy, leadership, and strategy, driving change echoing beyond. Location and legacy converge at Mu Lambda, where history meets the future. Our story’s chapters gleam with purpose. United by founding principles, we march onward, dedicated to ideals, and boundless potential ahead.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Mu Lambda’s dedication to nurturing the Beta Chapter’s legacy embodies an unwavering commitment to mentorship, scholarship, and service. This pledge is more than an extension; it’s etched in our actions and impact. Over a decade, we’ve sheltered Beta members in our foundation’s house, fostering growth and camaraderie. This support lays a strong educational foundation. Our commitment extends further. Through strategic pairings, we bridge undergraduates and seasoned members, offering a lifeline to their futures. We pave paths to careers, internships, and professional landscapes. This influence echoes beyond the present, creating an unbroken chain. Our thriving Beta Chapter Alumni Initiates community, including our Immediate Past President (1987) and current Vice President (1993), testifies to this effort. As Howard alumni, gratitude drives us to support successors. Duty and obligation fuel our commitment to brotherhood, guiding those shaping the future. Our relationship intertwines unity, mentorship, and shared goals. By supporting the Beta Chapter, we bridge generations, crafting a limitless, unbreakable legacy.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
In our journey, collaboration is the thread weaving unity. As chapter president, I’m more than a leader; I’m a conductor harmonizing each brother’s strengths. Our collective synergy drives excellence, vital for our chapter’s growth. I motivate, sparking greatness within each brother. Transparent dialogue guides us – even candid criticism propels growth. Transparent communication forms our brotherhood’s foundation. Unity isn’t an idea; we live it daily. I cultivate an unbreakable bond where differences enrich us. Shared purpose showcases our strength. Visibility matters. Social media spotlights brothers weekly. Our magazine extends their stories. This effort forges deep belonging, fostering remarkable participation. The journey is a symphony, not one leader’s solo. Unity is our reality, cultivated through collaboration and shared purpose. United, we radiate strength from diversity, limitless in our potential.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
As chapter president, I’ve learned that unwavering devotion to our fraternity’s mission is the guiding light for leadership. Balancing innovation and tradition demands honed skills, each a step to success. Listening is crucial – understanding needs and perspectives bridges intentions and impact, guiding our evolution. Kindness in your voice mends divides and fosters collaboration. Your principles must be your compass, ensuring decisions align with our values. Amid leadership, humility is key. It forges trust, unity, and shared purpose. My advice, born from experience: Leadership isn’t just power, but upholding ideals, innovating tradition, and leading humbly. Thus, we honor our legacy and pave the way for those to come.
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?
In a decade, mentorship shaped me. Past presidents guided my leadership path, building the framework for my role. Brother LeRoy Lowery III taught me the art of smooth speech, honed by his leadership roles. Brother John “Tony” Wilson’s strength navigated us through the pandemic which inspires my tenacity. Strategic insights from Brother Eddie Neal and lessons in kindness from Brother Joel Grey influenced my identity. Their tapestry weaves my leadership. Senior leaders like Brother Raymond Hawkins and Brother Gregory Parks further shape my direction. Their wisdom molds me. I’m not alone; a lineage of mentorship propels me. With their support, I carry our fraternity’s ideals forward.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Amidst negative narratives around Black Greek Letter organizations (B.G.L.O.s), their resilient legacy and purpose persist. Divine Nine Organizations hold profound significance, occasionally overshadowed by misrepresentation. Platforms like “Watch the Yard” counter this, consistently spotlighting our positive community impact. The “yard” symbolizes collective thought and progressive action. Here, our voices echo authentically. Unity, symbolized by the African proverb “go far, go together,” resonates in my mind. Together, we illuminate transformative impact. “Watch the Yard” weaves our efforts into inspiration and empowerment. It unifies Black Greekdom, reminding us of shared values and commitment. Gathering in shared ideals, “Watch the Yard” binds us, strengthening bonds and amplifying stories. Unity rises above shadows, spotlighting our legacy. With this platform, we showcase the exceptional contributions of Black Greek Letter organizations, embracing our lasting community impact.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
Aligning with figures like Brother & Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Brother Robert F. Smith is a surface connection. Yet, my love for this organization comes from realizing my potential to create an impact like theirs. Tethered to excellence, this fuels me. Restlessness arises at the thought of mediocrity staining my legacy, our legacy, and their names. Being among exceptional men inspires me to surpass myself daily. This privilege drives my pursuit of growth and excellence. My heart bears the duty to honor and uplift my fraternity, radiating its light with dedication. Looking back, I learn for the future. My actions shape a legacy of change and value for those who follow. Membership is a sacred honor, fueling my commitment to transcend limits, overcome challenges, and amplify my impact. I’m conscious of the torch I carry, ignited by those before me. With each step, I leave a purposeful legacy, guiding those who follow.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood thrives on shared experiences, guiding us in life’s treasured moments. It unites strengths for a higher purpose, transcending differences. Disagreements foster growth, anchored in respect. It reflects unity over self, nurturing leadership and shared journeys. Providing meals and shirts in need, it’s an unwavering commitment, enduring adversity. Beyond lives, it’s a legacy. Brotherhood endures, embodying ideals. In Alpha Phi Alpha, brotherhood is our essence. It intertwines lives, shapes paths, and gives ventures significance. Alpha Phi Alpha epitomizes brotherhood, embodying our strength and purpose.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Mikael E. LaRoche for his work as the President of the Mu Lambda Chapter.
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