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 the Chicago (IL) Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi in Chicago and did an interview with Melvin Flowers the president/Polemarch of the chapter.
The position of Polemarch of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Flowers, who is an attorney, recently took on the position of Polemarch this year.
We interviewed Flowers 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 does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
It means that I serve the Men of Kappa and they look to me to lead. Being elected as Polemarch is a notable achievement. But to be elected to serve as Polemarch of the illustrious Chicago Alumni Chapter, the first Alumni Chapter in the history of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., is simply an honor. It is a major responsibility leading men that were initiated by or whom regularly convened and socialized with the Founders and early leaders of our great Fraternity. Furthermore, it is an awesome challenge administering the diverse programming that we provide to the community and young men. So, I take this responsibility very seriously.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
We have deployed a Food Distribution program to assist in eliminating food access issues which create food deserts in parts of Chicago. Our Senior Kappas (led by Brother James McMurray) have kicked off this program in the month of August where we provided free fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) to the community. In a span of 2 hours, we served close to 300 people. We will conduct this program every 4th Saturday of the month. We also provide renewable scholarships to eligible young men. In April we doled out $36,000 in scholarships to college bound young men. Through our Edward G. Irvin Foundation, we have provided over $1,000,000 in scholarships since the Foundation was founded in 1979. With respect to mentoring, Our Guide Right and Kappa League programs are outstanding. Through our Kappa League program we provide SAT prep assistance, scholarship assistance, tutoring and a study abroad component. Yes, we send young men all over the world to study in different countries (e.g. France, Finland, Japan, Sweden, etc.). As a result the consistency of our programs, the Chicago Alumni Chapter Guide Right Program has won the Jay Crosby Award three consecutive years (2017, 2018, 2019) for Outstanding Guide Right Program under the leadership of our current Guide Right Chairman.
New initiatives will focus on community beautification, an innovation lab to assist small business entrepreneurs, health and wellness sessions for the community and pro bono legal services.
What made you want to pledge Kappa Alpha Psi?
I was influenced by many men at a young age that were doing great things in my community. One example was a Brother by the name of R. Eugene Pincham. He was always providing pro bono legal services in the black community even though he was an accomplished attorney and Illinois Appellate Court Justice. There were also smooth brothers who were in education administration at my high school. For all of these men, I was not initially aware that they were Kappas, but they made an impression. Once I headed off to college and saw Nupes on the yard, studied the history, went to the smoker, I knew I was going to pledge Kappa. I simply did not let them know it 😉
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Well to start, the Chicago (IL) Alumni Chapter is the first Alumni Chapter in the Fraternity. It was chartered by one of our Founders, including members of the Alpha and Beta Chapters of Kappa. There were also many notable Charter initiates on that first line in 1919 including the famed Robert S. Abbott, the Founder of the Chicago Defender Newspaper. Our Founders had envisioned that the Chicago (IL) Alumni Chapter would be the template for which all other Alumni Chapters would follow. As such, we are the oldest and the first to celebrate 100 years of existence as of April 17, 1919. We are the largest in terms of members in the Chicago Metro area. However, we roll as One Kappa in the city of Chicago.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think alumni chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
All Chapters should have significant and an active social media presence. This includes Facebook and Instagram. Further, all chapters should have dynamic websites which assist in telling the story of the good work that these organizations perform week after week.
What does leadership mean to you?
It simply means serving first and be confidently humble. Meaning, you know your capabilities but don’t need to say it, you simply do it and be the example. It also means: 1) developing new leaders to succeed you, 2) putting people in the right position to succeed, 3) putting people in uncomfortable situations that pull out great qualities, 4) having direct, honest and tough conversations that build a better organization, better processes and better relations within your chapter and among the membership. Leadership also means leading with love and a focus on always building better relationships.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
I think it Watch The Yard presents a very positive view of these organizations and assists in maintaining the relevance of Black Greek Lettered Organizations. It is also entertaining to read the content and you assist in elevating the pride that many have for their organizations and others that are doing the work that their founders had intended when those organizations were started.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Self sacrifice and love. Some would say it means “dying to self” to focus on helping the “whole” or the “we” instead of simply “I”. It means having individuals that you can say or tell anything to and you know that they will always have your back, but will also correct you because they want the best for you. It also means having individuals who are intent on making sure you rise, when they rise. It really is a blessing.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
At present we are not the advising chapter for an undergraduate chapter due to the number of Alumni Chapters in the Chicago Metro area. However, we invite the undergraduates out to our events to bond. For example, in the recent Bud Biliken Day Parade in Chicago we invited undergrads out to walk in the parade. Many of our members remain connected to their undergraduate chapters and act as advisors or have created Alumni Associations to assist chapters financially and with guidance. Kappa was started as and remains an undergraduate Fraternity as this was the vision of our Founders. As such, the undergrads are very important and they continue to make us relevant. We still want to be sure that they carry on the vision of the Founders and also pick up a Cane.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Melvin Flowers for his work as the Polemarch of the Chicago (IL) Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi which has a legacy that spans back to 1919.