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Leadership Highlight: John Norman, Sr. the Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi’s Berkeley(CA) Alumni Chapter

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 Berkeley (CA) Alumni Chapter which includes Fremont, Union City, Hayward, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Pittsburgh, Antioch, Stockton, Tracy, Dublin and did an interview with John D.C. Norman, Sr. 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. Norman, who works as a President & CEO of Raising Youth Resilience, has been in the position of Polemarch for 4 Months. 

We interviewed John D.C. Norman, Sr., who is a Spring 2004/Saint Mary’s College/Nu Sigma 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 “why” is simple, I want to lead us into a stronger service of mentorship within our chapter, community and Province. As a CEO of a mentoring and leadership youth development organization I know first hand the importance of mentoring and reaching back. Currently, there is an African American Achievement Gap which we the Brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. are poised to lean in and answer the call. By adopting just (1) school we can make an impactful change, garner residual revenue to help support the great work we do and position our Chapter to be recognized on a National stage. Building upon the goals of our current administration in the area of closing the Undergraduate and Alumni gap we can work side-by-side in Brotherhood to make a difference in the lives of those who need us most. 

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?

“Health Nupes” Spirit, Soul, and Body, is one of the first initiatives our chapter will be heading up. This will be led by one of our Medical Doctors within our Chapter. Recently, our fraternity joined in support of Good Health Wins. Health conditions like colon cancer and cardiovascular diseases impact people within the Black community at much higher rates than most other racial backgrounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More often than not, the reason why isn’t linked to genetics. “PK” Praying Kappa’s is one additional initiative our chapter will be heading up by one of Pastors within our Chapter. 

What made you want to pledge Kappa Alpha Psi?

During high school, there was a father of my classmate Brother Rev. Jimmy Cox of Berkeley Alumni chapter, most of us would call him Uncle Jimmy. Many of the students did not have a father figure and saw Uncle Jimmy as one. Weekly he would come to the school and check on his son along with many of us. However, it was the work he provided through Guide Right, which really impacted me! Uncle Jimmy brought a mini-step show to our school with representation from the D9. During that time in my life I knew college was next for me, but did not have very many to turn to for guidance. The extended services provided by the men of Kappa at that time was life changing. During our senior trip to LA, they sat me down and had manhood talk with me, offered to help me with my college application and encouraged me in thinking about life outside of football. During that conversation, one of the Men of Kappa had accidentally brought (2) left shoes. We laughed amongst ourselves, the actions Uncle Jimmy took next really grabbed my attention! Uncle Jimmy took his brand new pair of shoes and gave them to his fraternity brother. In my head I told myself, that is something I wouldn’t even do for my brothers. I knew if I ever had the opportunity to pledge, it would be Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. 

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

The Berkeley (CA) Alumni Chapter is the oldest alumni chapter in the SF Bay Area, and the second oldest chapter on the west coast. It is proudly the home of the 27th Grand Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc, and the home chapter currently of the 2nd highest elected officer in the Province, the Senior Province Vice Polemarch. We are the reigning Western Province Chapter of the Year for the last 10 consecutive years. 

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

We start off our year with our annual financial contribution to Gamma Alpha and nu Sigma undergraduate chapters. However, one area which my Polemarch Emeritus set out to strengthen was the relationship between undergraduates and graduates. I believe that picking up with our previous administration left off will be advantageous for all Brothers. Coming back from the pandemic, one shared focus will be re-lauching the presence, impact and reach of the Bay Nupe, both on the undergraduate and alumni side of service/s. 

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

I approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie through first building back the brotherhood which we all share within Kappa! The bond of fraternity we all hold ourselves to the high ideals of Achievement. Therefore, reconnecting with our foundational roots of the tradition of Kappa and training for leadership will be the primary strategies. We all have our Why Kappa story, taking time to share, engage and learn from each Brother within the room is one of the primary strategies I have found to be most effective. 

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 to start with gaining a balcony view point from working your way up the ladder of leadership and taking time to observe and reflect on the what, why, how of the fraternity. Oftentimes it is not until we can find a viewpoint high enough up which enables us to gain a better viewpoint. Once you have a strong knowledge base and view from top to bottom and bottom to top, ask yourself what about my authentic self can I leverage to help improve the chapter through my specific leadership style and/or approach. 

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 saved my life! As a kid I found myself constantly getting into fights, suspended and with really bad anger issues. It took getting expelled from school and nearly losing the opportunity to play football before mentoring was mandated as part of my conditions of returning to school. Through mentoring from my grandfather (John A. Jennings) who was also my pastor, my football coaches most specifically Coach Fred Jackson and last but certainly not least my fraternity brothers. I came into the bond as an 18-year old starting my journey to become a man. Through the many mentors as an undergrad, Nu Sigma Chapter all the way up through college and presently as an alumni, Berkeley Alumni Chapter. There are so many to name, I can share that each of them help to mold and shape me into the man I am today. I currently serve professionally as President & CEO of Raising Youth Resilience, a leadership and youth development organization for at-risk youth. There are however some late Brothers who I would like to honor: Brother Justin B. Alexander, Theta Sigma Chapter; we joined the bond together. Brother Alexander and I always aspired to work, grow and achieve within life and Kappa together. In his passing I vowed to continue that journey and lift us up as best as possible. Brother Shaki Moore, Nu Sigma Chapter; he was one of my immediate Chapter Brothers and we both grew up in Richmond, CA. Brother Moore, instilled a spirit of perseverance within me that I never imagined. Brother Jim “Coach” Brown, Gamma Alpha; Brother “Coach” Brown, epitomizes the example of a servant leader. 

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

I think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom because it provides an online platform that promotes, informs while also creating a virtual reach to the general public. Living in the 21st century we have become accustomed to having access and information at the tips of our fingers,literally one scroll, search or social media feed away. We are shifting from print media to online media and/or social media platforms. 

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

Achievement is the first word which comes to mind. I love that we are constantly training for leadership and working to achieve in every field of human endeavor. The brotherhood is rooted in the fundamental purpose of achievement and I love the daily pursuit we have to achieve. When I speak of achievement I think of people like the first black astronaut, The First Black Person to Walk in Outer Space was a Member of Kappa Alpha Psi. Did you know that the first Black person to walk in outer space was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi? On February 9, 1995, Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. I look at the accomplishments of Brothers like Athur Ashe, Oscar Roberson, Bill Russel and the list goes on and on. Every day, I wake with a sense of pride and urgency to provide service and be a part of something so much bigger than me. 

​Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?

Brotherhood is built on love, not only for other brothers but for the principle and values we all strive to uphold. Brotherhood means never meeting a stranger because once you become a brother, you are linked together no matter the school, chapter, or state. Brotherhood is the culmination of taking responsibility for yourself, others, and the Fraternity. Brotherhood is a lifetime experience, and your responsibility for it goes beyond college. It is built on love, not only for other brothers but for the principle and values we all strive to uphold. Brotherhood means never meeting a stranger because once you become a brother, you are linked together no matter the school, chapter, or state. Brotherhood reminds you that you are not alone, the greatest benefit of having brotherhood is having a sense of accountability. These are brothers I can be vulnerable with and confide in. Brotherhood gives me a sense of responsibility to be better and meet your goals no matter what they are. 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend John D.C. Norman, Sr. for his work as the Polemarch of the Berkeley (CA) Alumni Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1947. 

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