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 Rho Psi Sigma Chapter in Okinawa, Japan and did an interview with Christopher Robertson 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. Christopher Robertson, has been in the position of President for 10 months.
We interviewed Robertson, who is an Okinawa, Japan, Fall 2021 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 wanted to take the chapter to new heights it had not been to before and I knew that with a vision and a hard-working Executive Board it could be done. Being in an alumni chapter overseas that is predominantly military usually brothers are only stationed here for 2-4 years so the turnover rate is high, and the learning curve is very steep. I crossed in Fall 2021 and when I attended my first Chapter meeting I was voted in as the Chapter Secretary for 2022. After that year I had plenty of ideas and connections. I wanted to utilize those as much as possible during my short time on this island. My main goals for the year are pouring into community involvement focusing on recruitment, keeping a healthy amount of funds in our account, and making new business connections in the community. As an officer in the United States Air Force leadership is ingrained in my day-to-day duties so I make sure to take care of the brothers however I can.
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 we are focusing on supporting black businesses. In Okinawa most of the Americans here are either currently serving in the military or retired veterans. This means that if they choose to open business, whether they be home business or brick and mortar establishments outside of military bases, they must compete with local Japanese businesses in order to stay relevant. The brothers take great lengths to ensure the longevity of black businesses in Okinawa. We know our support goes a long way so we make sure to put our time and dollars into their businesses.
2023 is a special year for the Rho Psi Sigma Alumni Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. because it is the 5-year anniversary of our Charter Day. Back in 2018 our Chapter was charted on August 14th and I took on the responsibility of planning a 5 Year Charter Day Anniversary Ball to celebrate the Chapter. We had black businesses supporting the event and representation from every organization in the NPHC. I awarded 3 members of the community that embodied tenets aligned with the fraternity’s three of our international programs: Bigger & Better Business, Social Action, & Education. I also awarded three founders awards to brothers in the Chapter who excelled in their duties as Sigma Men, members of the military, and members of the community.
One last effort we are working on is revitalizing our Sigma Beta Club. For the past few years, we have been limited in what we were able to do with the youth and now those restrictions are lifted and the brothers are ready to help mold the next generation. It will be tough to wipe the dust off the continuity and build a new blueprint but I am excited to get involved. On Kadena Air Base alone there are 4 schools of all levels, so the opportunities are endless for the Sigma Beta Club. I think it is important to give young black men role models especially in an overseas military community where we are a minority in more than one aspect.
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
Sigma men on island have a bond like no other organization I had seen before, and it was one of the first things I noticed about them. They welcomed me in with open arms initially and made sure I earned my letters the right way. The brothers mesh well and have diverse mindsets which is something that I value on a personal level. I also noticed that the Sigmas were one of the most active chapters on island when it came to doing community service, putting on social events, and having a good time. Although I attended a PWI and was not privy to Greek life during my college years, it was a positive realization that it was not too late for me to get involved. Once I got linked up with the Sigmas it was clear that it was the only organization for me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Okinawa Sigmas are a unique group when it comes to the experiences we go through. We ensure that the pledging process is challenging and that initiates earn the right to call themselves Sigmas. As a neophyte in the Rho Psi Sigma Chapter chances to lead come early in your experience due to the high turnover rates and military moves. The brothers also have the opportunity to link up with other chapters in the Pacific region when they go on work trips, which can happen often in the military.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
The island of Okinawa is an extremely busy one for military members. We are on the frontline of the conflict with China so we usually experience similar periods of increased operations. I tend to use this as a conversation piece and offer guidance wherever I can to brothers who go through similar struggles. We are very much a work hard, play hard group of individuals. Aside from the military operations side of the house we bond over current events, sports, and other happenings in the world around us. We try to host a brothers only social event once a quarter which can be tough with everyone’s busy schedule. We also have a weekly stroll practice to refine our skills and come up with new dances. Good fellowship and being there for the brothers when they need it is always an effective strategy in my experience.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
It is common to hear when you cross that “the real work begins now” and that is 100% true. Do everything you can to learn more about your organization. Make sure to ask your prophytes questions and seek collaboration opportunities with other organizations. Get involved early and as much as possible. Another strong asset to have as a leader in an alumni chapter is a long list of contacts to include leaders of other D9 orgs and local businesses so when it comes time to get everyone together or host an event you already know who to reach out to. Don’t be afraid to apply for a leadership position, you are more ready than you think.
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 is an extremely important aspect of success. One of my mentors in the Air Force is D9-affiliated. He has helped me with navigating the Air Force and opportunities to look out for. I hope that one day I can fill a mentor role for other Sigmas in and out of uniform. Having a seat at the table is important but it is also imperative to bring others up with you whenever you can.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard is an awesome resource to stay plugged in to the NPHC, especially for us overseas. Most times we don’t have the opportunity to attend the events in the states unless it is approved by our chain of command well in advance. Watch the Yard allows us to stay current on trends within the NPHC while reporting on various successes and positive stories in Black Greekdom which I always enjoy reading up on.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a Sigma because no two Sigmas are the same and the diversity of the organization fosters different mindsets. There isn’t a standard “look” or profile for a Sigma man and the organization prides itself on its members from all walks of life. I enjoy the three tenets of brotherhood, scholarship, and service. Each of those mean something to me and I can tell that they mean something to every brother I have come in contact with. Being a Sigma has afforded me with opportunities I would have never imagined.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood is the attitude of caring, compassion, and fellowship among the men of Phi Beta Sigma. It is making sure that you have your brothers back when needed. It requires open and honest communication and trust in one another. As brothers we share membership in the world’s greatest fraternity, and we must hold other up even when we are frustrated with each other. There may be disagreements from time to time but making sure to come to resolution and continue being there for each other is what it’s all about.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Christopher Robertson for his work as the President of the Rho Psi Sigma which has a legacy that spans back to 2018.
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