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 Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.’s Tau Epsilon Sigma in Davison County, NC (Lexington, Thomasville, parts of High Point) and did an interview with Marzettis O’Neal, Jr. 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. Marzettis O’Neal, Jr., who works as a middle school teacher (grades 5-8), has been in the position of president for three years.
We interviewed Marzettis O’Neal, Jr., who is a Spring 2003 North Carolina A&T State University 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?
Believe it or not, I did not go into chartering our chapter with the expectation of becoming president. I actually wanted another brother to take on that roll. However, my fellow charter members and chapter members had a different idea in mind and voted me as president. It was a truly humbling experience and it showed me that (1) they trusted me and (2) when you have gifts and talents, people will see them and you will have to use them. What motivated me to continue take on the role of president is that I had a vision for our newly created chapter. I wanted to uphold the vision and dream that my fellow charter members and I had when we started the chartering process. I wanted to make sure that I built a strong foundation for future presidents and future leaders of my chapter to be able to stand on.
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?
We have forged a pivotal and official partnership with Edward Jones Financial, introducing the innovative Life Member Savings Plan, a forward-thinking initiative that empowers brothers to secure their future as Life Members. We will continue showcase the commitment to community by shining a spotlight on local black-owned businesses including Harbor One, Smoke & Oak, JJ’s Mamas Soulfood & More. Through monthly spotlights, local business will be recognized with certificates and the spotlight will also be amplified across the chapter’s social media platforms. We will also continue to collaborate with Mountainaire Farms to provide Easter and Thanksgiving Dinners, extending gestures of care and nourishment to the community during special occasions. We have also expanded the scope of impact by adopting Lexington Middle School as a second school within our service area, partnering with Connect21 to provide invaluable mentoring to male students, while also showing appreciation to educators during Teacher Appreciation Week with treats, spotlights and support. We also lead the triumphant chartering of the Davidson County NPHC, uniting diverse organizations in a collaborative effort to promote unity, service, and empowerment within the community. It will be our goal within this year to host more joint events and programs with other D9 organizations within our service area.
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
I pledged Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc because of my friend Bryan Grant, who is a Spr. 02 initiate into the Eta chapter and because of the work I saw Sigma men doing. During the time I was at A&T I saw the Eta chapter doing the most work. They were always having programs to better the students and our community. Even though I was not a member of their organization, they still took care of me and treated me as family and that it what sparked my interest in the organization . Also, it did help a little that my favorite color was already blue.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
What makes my chapter so unique is that we are a predominately younger alumni chapter. The average age of our membership is 39 years old. We have a saying that we are bringing “new energy”. We love our surrounding chapters in our surrounding areas and in our state. However, each brother in our chapter was looking for something slightly different and we are that different chapter. Another saying we have is “boots to the ground.” We want to make sure that we are visible in the communities that we serve, so we have challenged ourselves to hold at least 2 programs/events a month.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Our High Point University chapter was chartered Feb 21,2023. With them being a new chapter we have helped them with service ideas and provided financial assistance to help get them started. We also show up on campus for them to show our numbers and demonstrate the brotherhood that Phi Beta Sigma holds. The 1st and 2nd Vice President of my chapter also does check in calls with our new undergraduate brothers. It is our goal to support them however we can, in hopes that when their undergraduate journey is over they are ready and excited to join an alumni chapter whether it is our specific chapter or not.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
It is my personal belief and I tell my chapter members all the time. I need each and everyone of them. Every single member of the chapter is valuable and has a skill or talent that we need. Everyone’s voice is heard. We have also started a chapter check in. Every member on my e-board has a certain number of brothers that we are to check in on periodically. It gives us an opportunity to add a more personal touch to our membership. Alumni brothers don’t want to feel like all we want is their money or their time. Brothers also want someone to be there to share in the ups and the downs of their lives and that is what we strive to do. One vision I gave this year at our E-board retreat, is to focus on brotherhood this year. We have proven we can do community service projects, and a lot of them. But we also need time, as men, to simply fellowship with one another and not do any work.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Sometimes you never know what you’re capable of until you’re asked to do it. If you see a need and have a passion to fulfill that need than you should step up to the plate and take a swing. I would be remiss if I did not public thank my executive board. It is a team effort and I have the absolute best team supporting me. I could not do anything without them and I appreciate all of their dedication and hard work. You need people who you trust and will work with you and strive for the same goals.
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 helped me become more confident in who I am as a person and a leader. There have been brothers throughout my Sigma journey that I have been able to confide in and learn from. I absolutely have to shout out my line brothers Damien Hammie and Notable Bro. Kelley Woodley (NC State Director). My 1st Vice President, Bro. Rashad Beard; my 2nd Vice President, Bro. Darryl Leflore; and Notable Bro. Richard Boone (Southeastern Regional Director). Also, Bro. Timothy Foster, Bro. Pastor Kevin L. Maxwell, Bro. Burley Spinx, Notable Bro. Duane D. Lewis (International Director of Sigma Beta Clubs), and my father Bro. Marzettis O’Neal, Sr. These men have served as mentors to me, but I also have to thank all my chapter brothers as well, who teach me different things and help me grow as a leader.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Black Greek letter organizations are an integral part of Black history and have been instrumental, if not crucial to the advancement of African-Americans. We stand for the rights of our people and are advocates for the communities that we serve. Watch the Yard shines a bright and powerful light on the positive aspects of black Greek culture, when others would wish to tear us down. It shows how important the D9 is to our communities and our culture. Watch the Yard helps connect members of the D9 connect all across the world, while also bringing important topics and issues to light.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love what Phi Beta Sigma stands for. This organization has helped mold me into the man I have become. Not only are my brothers and father Sigma men, but also I have made friendships that will last a life time!
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Simply put, brotherhood means to have someone who genuinely cares about your wellbeing. Someone who is their to support you in your ups and downs. Someone who will correct you when necessary, but still desiring the best for you. A brother is a lifetime friend.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Marzettis O’Neal, Jr. for his work as the President of the Tau Epsilon Sigma.
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