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 Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.’s Tau Omega – Hartford Alumni Chapter in Greater Hartford – Connecticut and did an interview with Kendrick Trevor Roundtree, Sr. the Polaris of the chapter.
The position of Polaris/president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Kendrick Roundtree, Sr., who works as a school administrator, has been in the position of Polar for four terms.
We interviewed Roundtree, who is a Tau Omega (Hartford CT Alumni) – Fall 2013 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?
From my first day on line, until I crossed the burning sands on November 8, 2013 at 10:55 p.m., my dean prepared me to hit the ground running and do the work of Iota. I became the chapter’s community service chair one week after my crossing. The following year, I became the Chapter Vice-Polaris, and would later serve three terms as Chapter Polaris. I love the community that I serve and I love the role that we play in strengthening the neighborhoods and communities in greater Hartford (Connecticut).
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, the Tau Omega Chapter has committed to supporting Black and brown males of all ages, by supporting mental and physical health initiatives, as well as their educational pursuits. #BLACKMENtalhealthmatters Our virtual series #DefiningManhood has allowed us to tackle real world issues that are unique to the Black and brown male experience, and provide a space that encourages our brothers to engage in active dialogue about these issues. Our annual Moving Mountains Fatherhood Hike encourages fathers and father figures in our community to use nature spaces as a therapeutic resource and bond with their children and loved ones. The Brothers of Iota Phi Theta draw from the strength of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and our founding on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. As such, we support endeavors that focus on celebrating the rich histories and traditions of HBCUs nationwide. The Bro. Kendrick T. Roundtree HBCU Scholarship Fund allowed us the opportunity to identify and financially support a rising freshman who will be attending Hampton University in the fall. Additionally, we have co-sponsored a HBCU send-off celebration for rising college freshmen for fall 2023 and a back-to-school backpack and haircut giveaway for K-12 students in East Hartford, Connecticut.
What made you want to pledge Iota Phi Theta?
Interestingly enough, I had no desire to pledge an organization as a college freshman in 1991. I dropped out of school after two years and worked primarily in nonprofit work for nearly fifteen years, before deciding to continue my education and complete my Bachelor’s degree in Human Services. When I began my Master’s degree in Organizational Management and Leadership, I became interested in learning more about the five fraternities that were part of the Divine Nine. The founding and drive of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated spoke directly to me. Our twelve Most Honorable Founders were like me: older students who were raising families, were working part-time in addition to taking classes and were acutely interested in the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Our Founders were unafraid of going against the norm and were outspoken, enthusiastic men of character. I wanted to join an organization that did not ask for conformity, but embraced who I was an individual. In my time in the fold, I have been blessed with the opportunity to sit and speak directly with four of our twelve Most Honorable Founders. This is a privilege that only Brothers of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity can take advantage of today. We honor and revere the last living Founder of a Divine Nine organization, the Most Honorable Founder Lonnie C. Spruill, Jr.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
In 1987, Tau Omega was the first chapter of Iota Phi Theta chartered in the state of Connecticut. Since then, we have established undergraduate chapters at The University of Hartford, The University of Connecticut, Central Connecticut State University, Sacred Heart University, and Southern Connecticut State University.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
The Tau Omega Chapter supports our undergraduate chapters through shared technology and marketing supports. Our new website will have direct links to each undergrad chapter and we will offer technical support to assist with their promotion and recruitment efforts on campus. Additionally, we assist undergraduate chapters connect to service opportunities in the communities they serve.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Our executive board acknowledged the need for creative fellowship and bonding opportunities with our alumni chapter. As such, we have launched a “Cigars, Brims and Brotherhood” series, which serves as a time for fellowship and recruitment of new members. Additionally, we have gathered for the annual Greater Hartford Jazz Festival, the NPHC of Greater Hartford Divine Nine Cookout, axe-throwing and day party excursions. These activities foster a sense of unity and pride in our beloved organization.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
The best advice that I can give is that taking on a leadership role requires you to do two things; one, is to have faith in your executive board and their individual and collective talents, and two, this is not a task for the weak. Remain steadfast in your convictions, listen to advice of your board and keep your eyes on the Polaris!
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?
Now this is a loaded question… First, I have to acknowledge my big Brother, mentor and one of my best friends, Leonard Epps. Brother Epps is one of the first men of Iota that I met, and he has proudly represented Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated for thirty-six years. He served as the best man at my wedding and gave me the line name of SHAFT. Second, would be my Dean, Bro. Adrian Conde, IKA Half-Man, Half-Amazing. Bro. Conde is responsible for embedding the focus of working hard for Iota while I was online. Last, but certainly not least, is the Most Honorable Founder Lonnie Spruill, Jr. There is no greater privilege than to be in his presence and hear him speak with a sense of pride and accomplishment about the direction that our beloved brotherhood has taken over the last sixty years. Can you imagine one of your organization’s Founders knowing you on a first name basis? I could listen to him talk about the successes, challenges, obstacles and triumphs of our Brotherhood all day. And I do. As a working professional, I created The First Step Foundation in February 2008. In this capacity, I hire and train therapeutic mentors to support youth under the care of the Department of Children and Families. As a former foster youth, creating this opportunity for those who came after me, was a labor of love that I am extremely proud of.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
I love Watch The Yard because it offers a perspective of Black excellence that is sorely missing on most social media platforms. Watch The Yard has become the go-to platform for honoring our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as all of the Divine Nine organizations. If you are a rising freshman or a thirty-year alumnus, you will find content that speaks to your soul on Watch The Yard.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I cannot imagine being part of another organization. The Brotherhood of Iota Phi Theta is unique and beautiful- we were born at an HBCU, in the Civil Rights era, by twelve men who were unafraid to be change-makers. I have Brothers who have become family. I have mentors who have provided guidance, love and support throughout my personal, professional, and fraternal journies. I have young brothers who are poised to be and do great things in our community. I wear my letters and colors with pride. I will continue my pledge to uphold the values of scholarship, leadership, citizenship, fidelity and brotherhood. L.I.P.T.T.D.I.D.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
For me, brotherhood means being present, supportive, and active in the lives of those that you recognize as brothers. Brothers do not always agree on everything, but through active dialogue and discourse, brothers can achieve a common goal. I love my fraternal brothers, and I know that they love and support me in the ways that I need. I made a lifetime commitment to our fraternity and I hope that my thoughts, words, and actions are truly aligned with my pledge.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Kendrick Trevor Roundtree, Sr. for his work as the Polaris of the Hartford Alumni Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1987.
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