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Leadership Highlight: Ryan Turner the President of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Delta Lambda Chapter in Baltimore

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 Delta Lambda Chapter in Baltimore City and did an interview with Ryan Turner 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. Ryan Turner, who works as an Executive Director in philanthropy, has been in the position of president of his chapter for 4 months. 

We interviewed Turner, who is a Fall 2018 – Baltimore City 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?

I was motivated to take on the role of alumni chapter President for the Delta Lambda Chapter in order to contribute to lasting and positive impact in the City of Baltimore. As a native son of Baltimore, I take personally the progress, growth and development of the city and its most marginalized communities. Baltimore has limitless potential, yet it also faces its share of challenges, ranging from social inequality to educational disparities and economic disenfranchisement. By assuming the role of chapter President, I see an opportunity to leverage the collective strength of our chapter and the diverse skill sets therein to address these challenges head-on through ambitious strategic priorities and with fidelity to Alpha Phi Alpha’s national programs. 

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, our chapter is taking a strong stance to empower the citizens of Baltimore by focusing on two key initiatives that aim to improve both the local community and the broader Black community: Voter Registration and Engagement: As we gear up for the top-down elections in 2024, from the President of the United States to the Mayor of Baltimore, our chapter is doubling down on our commitment to get citizens registered to vote. We believe that active participation in the democratic process is essential for bringing about meaningful change. By increasing voter registration and engagement, we hope to amplify the voices of Black and Brown communities in Baltimore and ensure our concerns are heard at every level of government. Through education and outreach efforts, we aim to dismantle barriers to voting and foster a culture of civic responsibility. Advocacy for Equitable Policies: Alongside our voter registration and engagement efforts, we are adopting a policy agenda designed to advocate for laws and policies that uplift Black and Brown communities in Baltimore City. Our focus is on addressing systemic inequalities and injustices that have persisted for far too long. Our Political Action Committee led by Brother Jordan McKinney will collaborate with community leaders, experts, and organizations, as we aim to develop and promote policies that address issues such as criminal justice reform, affordable housing, quality education, healthcare access, and economic opportunity. Through strategic advocacy, we aim to influence decision-makers and bring about positive, lasting changes that will benefit both our local community and the broader Black community. 

What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?

What led me to want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha was a transformative journey guided by the influence of my mentor, Patrick Johnson. His embodiment of a remarkable standard of excellence deeply inspired me. As I transitioned to college, I learned more about Alpha Phi Alpha and discovered that its members upheld the same level of excellence and a profound dedication to their communities, much like Patrick. The realization that luminaries such as Bro. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and fellow Baltimore natives – Brother Carl J. Murphy and Brother Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall were a part of this esteemed fraternity further solidified my conviction. Witnessing their contributions and impact on society, I recognized that Alpha Phi Alpha was an embodiment of the values I aspired to uphold in my own life. This alignment between their commitment to excellence, community, and social change resonated deeply with my personal aspirations. It became clear that pledging Alpha Phi Alpha was the pathway for me to contribute meaningfully to both personal growth and the betterment of society, just as the remarkable men before me had done. 

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

The Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. holds a prestigious distinction as the fourth oldest alumni chapter and 25th House of Alpha. Since our charter on May 23, 1919, the chapter has embodied a legacy of excellence and leadership. Over the years, we have remained on the frontlines of various fields, including politics, education, medicine, technology, and more – while mentoring younger generations and lifting as we climb. Our chapter is blessed to have five generations within our membership. Our youngest Brother is 25 and our oldest brother is almost 90. This wide age range provides powerful opportunities for intergenerational learning. Delta Lambda’s unique nature has attracted notable men from inception. Delta Lambda is home to the 11th General President of Alpha Phi Alpha, Brother Simeon S. Booker – who also happens to be one of the charter members of our historic chapter. Delta Lambda is also proud to have among its roster Brother Dr. Freeman Hrabowski former President of UMBC, Councilman Dr. John Bullock, Senator Charles Sydnor and Maryland State’s first Black Governor Brother Governor Wes Moore. 

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

Our chapter is deeply committed to supporting the undergraduate chapters at Coppin State University (Pi Theta) and Johns Hopkins University (Sigma Sigma) in Baltimore. We amplify this support through academic tutoring, on-campus engagement, and upcoming vocation-focused affinity groups aligned with college Brothers’ majors. These initiatives aim to provide comprehensive assistance for academic success and career development, ensuring that our college Brothers are well-equipped for achievement during their college journey and beyond. 

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

As President of my chapter it is my goal to consistently create safe spaces for Brothers to demonstrate genuine care for one another. Last year, as Vice President of the chapter, I created a Brotherhood Fireside Chat session where Brothers were able to come and bring forth a range of topics. This was a space where Brothers could safely share challenges and thoughts that would ultimately support their development as an Alpha and as a man. This strategy proved to be successful as Brothers reported heightened experiences of Brotherhood and togetherness. Through this intervention, Brothers were able to show up for one another in a safe space and demonstrate genuine care. Additionally, in keeping with one of our national programs – Brothers’ Keeper, our Brothers call at least one Brother once a month to check on their well-being and inquire about their needs. Within Delta Lambda, we believe that it is important to be transformational in our engagement with Brothers and not transactional. It’s also important to just have informal social opportunities so that Brothers can get to know one another. 

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

To aspiring leaders in Alpha, I would say begin your journey by cultivating a deep understanding of yourself. Leadership within alumni chapters demands a strong foundation of self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your values, strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. This introspection will serve as the compass guiding your decisions and actions as a leader. Next, embrace continuous learning. Seek opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills in areas relevant to alumni chapter leadership. Whether it’s through workshops, seminars, or mentorship, the more you invest in your personal growth, the better equipped you’ll be to tackle the challenges that arise. Leadership is a collaborative effort; cultivate relationships with Brothers. Effective leadership involves understanding the diverse perspectives and needs of those you serve. Actively listen, communicate openly, and foster an environment where everyone’s input is valued. 

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 been the hallmark of my personal and professional growth. Within my journey in Alpha, I’ve been fortunate to have been guided by numerous luminaries who paved the way before me, as well as my fellow line Brothers. Through their mentorship, I’ve gained a profound understanding of the “ministry of presence” – the simple act of showing up can truly make a difference. The impact of mentorship within Alpha has been immeasurable. Brother Dr. Anton Bizzell, Brother Clarence J. Fluker, Brother Dr. Kama Tillman, Brother Pernell Hicks, Brother Dr. Marco Merrick, Brother Steven King, Brother Calvin Ruffin, and countless others have played pivotal roles in shaping my path. I’ve also been inspired by Brothers like Brother Jarrett Carter, founding editor of HBCU Digest and Brother Kwame Phillips. Their wisdom, guidance, and unwavering support have propelled me to where I am today. Their mentorship extended beyond imparting knowledge – it encompassed instilling values, fostering resilience, and inspiring me to be the Alpha man that I am today. The lessons I’ve learned from these mentors have not only enriched my personal growth but have also equipped me with the tools to navigate challenges and seize opportunities. 

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

NPHC organizations have a long and storied history, but outside of our organizational publications, there has never been a source that curated all of the positive elements of life in these groups. Watch The Yard understands the pulse of what makes these organizations valuable, attractive and essential to our experiences as members, but to the broader world. It is an invaluable resource to show the reach of our service and the influence of our membership on platforms where young people can distill and syndicate these positive views of our organizations. 

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

We are part of the world’s greatest professional network of men of African descent. We are a tapestry of like-minded men that can dramatically impact the socioeconomic and sociopolitical fortunes of our people. While we are human and all have our flaws and moments that fall short of greatness, we are ever-committed to principles of kindness, service, love and brotherhood. 

​Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?

To me, Brotherhood means embracing sacrifice, forgiveness, friendship, tough conversations, and unconditional love for the benefit of your Brother. In the words of one of my favorite Alpha poems, “To Be An Alpha Man” [Brotherhood] “…means an honest devotion, not anticipation of personal gain.” 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Ryan Turner for his work as the President of the Delta Lambda Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1919. 

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Photo Credit: Roy Cox Photography