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 Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.’s Alpha Mu Chapter in Columbia, Maryland and did an interview with Eddie A. Winkley the Polemarch of the chapter.
The position of Polemarch/president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Eddie Winkley, who works as a Managing Director with Blue Cross Blue Shield, has been in the position of Polemarch for 1 year.
We interviewed Winkley, who is a Fall 1981 Alpha Mu 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?
I’m honored to be the Polemarch of the Columbia (MD) Alumni Chapter. When installed in the office as a Polemarch, you have already established yourself as a motivational or servant leader. Polemarchs are expected to exceed the goals and objectives of the chapter by inspiring others and leading change for the betterment of the chapter. In this role, I have the resources through the various skill sets that the brothers possess to impact the community we serve significantly. I am motivated by watching the chapter evolve to meet the needs of our ever-changing environment. It’s inspiring to see Brothers become the best version of themselves through the brotherhood, the volunteer services we provide to others, and the various mentorship opportunities given to those inside and outside the fraternity.
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?
The Columbia (MD) Alumni chapter has taken a four-prong approach this fraternal year by focusing on: The Brotherhood: We want to develop opportunities to engage, support, understand, and bond with every chapter member. We want to reclaim members who have departed the fraternity by reconciling through open communication. If we allow the brotherhood to be our north star, the black community will benefit by seeing Kappa men collectively come together to improve the lives of people of color. Social Responsibility: We’re committed to advancing initiatives that promote social responsibility by positioning chapter members who are proven role models in various organizations that promote social justice. We presently have a partnership with the Howard County Police Department and continue to support their youth programs, community outreach programs, and scholarship fundraisers that benefit the black communities within Howard County, Maryland. Community Relations: We’re strengthening relationships within Howard County, Maryland, with various community organizations that share a common interest as a force multiplier. We’re fully engaged with the NAACP and the African American Community Roundtable. We are further working with the Howard County Executive to obtain a Divine Nine house where we can collaborate to address the community’s needs. Encouraging Achievement: We promote individual success and career preparation as central components of helping our black community. Our robust Kappa League program is also assisting young men to grow and develop their leadership talents within their respective communities. Our sessions will focus on self-identity/purpose, training, competition, social, health education, economic empowerment, and college/careers. Each year, we provide scholarships to Kappa League members who graduate and move forward to pursue a college degree. We will continue to adopt an elementary school within our community and mentor at-risk students.
What made you want to pledge Kappa Alpha Psi?
In 1980, I attended Lincoln University (MO) as a first-generation student and saw all the fraternities and sororities. Even though every divine nine organization is exceptional, there was something extra special about the men of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. They immediately caught my attention by presenting themselves as distinguished leaders on campus. They achieved on every level and their values and commitment to excellence aligned with mine. It was unique and delightful to see Kappa men wearing suits, carrying briefcases, and making it a practice to sit in the front row of their classes. They took pride in how they treated women and often serenaded them. Being raised in a single-family home by my mother, the treatment of black women was and is still extremely important to me. Lastly, I often saw Kappa men at the local church demonstrating that they were men of faith. I pledged and was initiated in the Fall of 1981 at the Alpha Mu chapter as a first-semester sophomore and continued the legacy I saw from those brothers who went before me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The Columbia (MD) Alumni chapter utilizes modern technology and innovative techniques to improve efficiency and effectiveness by bringing brothers together in a virtual world. We partnered with a black-owned technology business to create an interactive virtual fraternity house (VFH) for the chapter. The VFH gives brothers an online experience to receive chapter news, event updates, and attend chapter meetings if they can’t attend in person from a single easily accessible technology platform. The VFH features a lobby to access chapter documents, calendar events, community outreach, and social events. There are also virtual rooms, such as the chapter’s gallery, meeting room, and the Polemarch’s office, where I can virtually provide important information to the chapter’s members. It was so important to us that we addressed the needs of every chapter member by giving them easy access to information promptly without them having to search through tons of emails for fraternity information.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Our chapter is very concerned about our undergraduates’ health and wellness and recognizes that physical and mental health are synonymous. Black youth are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles than non-black youth. We want to ensure that all our undergraduates get the necessary care to function holistically. We have two chapter members who lead a committee on a regional level to address this issue plaguing our college campuses. We have also started an initiative called “Polishing the Diamond,” which provides an opportunity for brothers and undergraduates to share personal experiences and feelings about life’s challenges and how to navigate through the obstacles of life. We want to provide brothers with coping strategies and firsthand information to help them become better men. We also have a member of our chapter focused on social capital by using the power of social capital literacy, analysis, and development to advance youth’s lifelong economic and social well-being. Social capital is essential in helping our youth connect with entities that will help them excel in the workforce.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We have to acknowledge that there are generational differences within our fraternities and sororities. Those differences affect how people think, conduct themselves, and function within the confines of our organizations. I’ve lived through brothers serenading on the yard, performing the bop cane, twirling canes, and shimmy. Each generation has its unique styles and traditions. One is not better than the other; it is just different. I believe embracing those differences makes us better as an organization. Our chapter has conducted panels of various generations to discuss these matters openly. We are also focused on the “Diamond Cluster” initiative, which consists of breaking our chapter into small clusters where senior, middle age, and younger brothers can come together outside of chapter meetings to dialogue to understand and accept our differences. Through these efforts, we see brothers across all generational groups fellowshipping and working closer together toward our mission and goals.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Before assuming any leadership role, a true leader must create a strategic plan with goals and objectives. Providing clear directions becomes our roadmap and defines what we plan to accomplish. The people who choose to follow you must trust you and know that you care about them. They have to be inspired to follow your lead, which is often accomplished if they know you would never ask anything of them that you’re unwilling to do yourself. As a leader, you must be willing to serve and support those who placed you in the leadership position.
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?
Learning from others has been a long journey for me. You’re never too old to seek support, advice, constructive feedback, and assistance from others to help you accomplish your goals. I am a retired Supervisory Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and now work as a Managing Director with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Along my journey, someone always saw something in me and pushed me to become what God has called me to do. Even though some people are in your life for a reason and a season, I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to feed off them. At this time, I have been in consistent contact with Retired Brigadier General George B. Price, who is also a member of my chapter. He’s had extensive military assignments, including being a commanding officer for former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge with a star, the Parachutist Badge, and the Ranger Tab. I’m genuinely humbled to have such a great mentor, and the things I’ve learned from him continue to be passed on to others.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard has been one of my favorite platforms to gather important information across all the fraternities and sororities. I love that it focuses on the importance and value each organization brings to society. The articles make us optimistic about where our respective organizations are heading. We are certainly enriching the lives of others through our achievements and service to humanity. This platform highlights those efforts.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. because of the bond of brotherhood that we each share. We are guided by our motto of “Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor.” Anything that we decide to pursue, we are expected to achieve at the highest level. My fraternity gave me the confidence to go beyond what was expected of me. It took me outside my comfort zone and created a positive change in my life that allowed me to grow. I was placed in leadership roles in my undergraduate chapter, and many of those skills transferred into my professional life. I served as Vice Polemarch, Dean of Pledges, and Guide Right Officer. For most of my working career, I’ve managed people, and most of the leadership traits I learned were developed when I became a fraternity member.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood means that we’re united towards a common belief throughout our lives. The bond that we share shouldn’t be broken based on any biases. True brotherhood should be the unconditional love that we have for our members. The brotherhood should transcend and persist through the good and the bad times. When viewed in that light, we do all we can to help those members in need and rejoice in each other’s success.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Eddie Winkley for his work as the Polemarch of the Alpha Mu Chapter.
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