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 Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Xi Alpha Lambda in Northern VA, (Prince William County) and did an interview with Rob Blackwell 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. Rob Blackwell is the CEO of CyTech Services LLC (Cybersecurity Firm).
We interviewed Rob Blackwell, who is a Fall 18 Xi Alpha Lambda 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 was motivated to take on the role of alumni chapter president by a strong desire to serve both our brotherhood and the community we’re a part of. Believing in the strength that comes from unity, I wanted to contribute to the collective efforts that propel our fraternity’s vision forward, just as our founders (The Jewels) envisioned. My commitment stems from a genuine willingness to make a positive impact and to honor the values that bind us together.
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, our administration is leading several impactful initiatives that aim to make a difference in both our local community and the broader Black community. To tackle food insecurities in our area, we’re partnering with local churches to provide much-needed support. By addressing this pressing issue, we hope to alleviate a significant challenge faced by many and improve the lives of those around us. In the realm of education and awareness, we’re teaming up with littlelibrary.org to ensure that books containing Black history are accessible to the youth. This effort seeks to counteract attacks on critical race theory by promoting accurate and inclusive narratives that empower young minds with a broader perspective on their heritage. Our commitment to education continues through the Alpha Academy programs. By providing youth with knowledge on interactions with law enforcement and guidance on college selection, we’re equipping them with valuable life skills that contribute to their success and safety. Through our Chapters Ira Dorsey Scholarship Endowment Fund, we’re actively contributing to education initiatives and scholarships for the youth. By investing in their educational journey, we’re fostering a brighter future and enabling them to reach their full potential. Understanding the significance of the upcoming election, we’re fully engaged in executing our fraternity’s national voting program, “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People.” Collaborating with local NAACP and Urban League Chapters strengthens our ability to drive voter engagement, ensuring our community’s voice is heard in shaping its future. Overall, our chapter’s initiatives this year reflect our dedication to addressing immediate challenges, fostering knowledge and awareness, promoting civic engagement, and supporting the aspirations of the next generation.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
I was inspired to join Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. by the remarkable history and legacy it represents. Looking back at the founding of the fraternity, especially in the context of notable events like the Niagara Movement, it’s incredible to see how young Black college men at a time not far removed from slavery took a bold step to establish something that sparked a chain reaction of positive change. This act not only laid the foundation for the Divine Nine organizations but also played a pivotal role in the establishment of vital institutions like the NAACP, National Urban League, and the United Negro College Fund. Reflecting on my own journey and the history of Alpha Phi Alpha, I’ve seen the impact of the fraternity’s principles and contributions in my life. Being from Washington, DC, I had the privilege of being a part of the Bro. Mayor Marion Barry DC Summer Job Initiative, which set me on the path towards a career in Information Technology. Individuals like Bro. Marion Barry, along with countless others, have influenced my life’s trajectory. When I consider the collective contributions of all members, both well-known figures and unsung heroes, I am motivated to join the fight and contribute to the causes that the fraternity holds dear. The rich history and the ongoing impact of Alpha Phi Alpha have shown me that being a part of this brotherhood means standing on the shoulders of giants and actively working towards positive change. This is why I chose to join Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Our chapter stands out for a multitude of reasons, and while our size is an impressive aspect, it’s the remarkable individuals and their contributions that truly define our uniqueness. Brother Chester “Chet” Johnson, a distinguished member of Delta Xi Fall ’54, embodies the spirit and dedication that sets our chapter apart. Brother Johnson’s remarkable commitment is evident through his continuous engagement year after year, reflecting a deep bond with our fraternity. What truly distinguishes him is his connection to history. Being sponsored by Brother Charles H. Wesley, a General President, Fraternity Historian, and President of Central State University, places Brother Johnson in a lineage of leadership that significantly shaped our fraternity’s path. Brother Johnson’s achievements go beyond his own involvement; his influence extended globally. His initiative in reactivating a chapter in Germany, Theta Theta Lambda showcases his commitment to spreading the fraternity’s principles and values across borders. Furthermore, his charter membership in Xi Alpha Lambda underscores his role in building and shaping the legacy of Alpha Phi Alpha. His unwavering love for the fraternity and his continuous contributions highlight the essence of our chapter’s uniqueness. Brother Johnson’s dedication, history, and accomplishments are a testament to the enduring spirit of Alpha Phi Alpha and serve as an inspiration to us all. Our chapter is enriched by the presence of individuals like Brother Johnson, who personify the ideals we hold dear and make us stand out in the fraternity’s illustrious history.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Our chapter is responsible for advising the Iota Alpha Chapter seated at George Mason University (Chapter President: Bro. Darrell “DJ” Green Jr.). Supporting our college brothers is a top priority for our chapter. Recognizing that they are the future of our fraternity, we’ve taken comprehensive steps to ensure their success. Through our participation in the College to Corporate Life program, both within our chapter and across The Virginia Association of Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha (VACAPAF) District, we’re equipping our undergraduate members with the tools they need to transition seamlessly from college to the corporate world. Our approach goes beyond just job placement; we’re committed to fostering long-term success. In addition to helping them secure employment, we provide vital executive skills and training, enabling them to navigate the corporate landscape effectively. Moreover, we understand the importance of financial literacy and estate planning, so we offer seminars that equip them with essential knowledge at an early stage. By offering holistic support that covers job acquisition, professional development, financial education, and forward-thinking planning, we’re ensuring that our college brothers are well-prepared for their journeys beyond academia. This comprehensive approach underscores our commitment to their growth, both within the fraternity and in their future endeavors.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members involves recognizing and celebrating the diverse contributions each member brings to the table. Understanding that each individual’s journey and impact vary, just like the differences between Bro. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bro. Jesse Owens is essential. Despite distinct paths, they shared a common goal. Effective strategies include open communication, where every brother’s authentic self is valued. By meeting alumni where they are and acknowledging their unique strengths, we can weave a rich tapestry of shared experiences that ultimately strengthen our fraternity’s bond.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
To aspiring leaders within our fraternity/sorority seeking roles in alumni chapters, my advice would be to honor the legacy of our respected organizations by keeping the history alive. Embrace the valuable lessons and traditions that have shaped us. Equally important, remain open to the wisdom of those who’ve paved the way before you. Listening to their experiences can provide invaluable insights that guide your leadership journey. In an ever-evolving world, understanding the roots of our fraternity/sorority is essential. Times may change, but the foundation remains crucial. Knowing where we’ve been empowers you to navigate where we’re headed. By respecting the past and embracing the future, you’ll contribute to the continuity and growth of our cherished community.
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 undoubtedly been a driving force in shaping my journey to where I am today. The notion that it takes a collective effort to nurture and guide young minds resonates deeply with me. I was fortunate to have a dedicated father who embraced this philosophy, instilling in me valuable life principles such as “do it right or don’t do it at all” and “you reap what you sow.” His unwavering guidance laid the foundation for my growth. Within our fraternity, I owe immense gratitude to several individuals who have left an indelible mark on my life. Bro. G.C. Murray (Tau Delta SPR 06), Bro. Rob Dash (Beta Gamma SPR 84), and above all, my Line Brothers (Xi Alpha Lambda Fall 18: Wayne Martin, Antonio Hurley, James “JT” Thomas, Michael “Sturdy” Sturdivant, Byron Bagby, Jamarcus Daley, Maurice Hines, Terrell “TO” Benns, Jermaine Williams, and Shueyb Ali) have played pivotal roles. Their mentorship and camaraderie have been instrumental in my development. My Line Brothers are more than just friends; they’re my pillars of support, consistently holding me accountable and offering steadfast encouragement. The bond we share is unbreakable, as we navigate challenges together, always having each other’s backs. In reflection, mentorship from my father and my fraternity mentors has sculpted my path. Their wisdom, guidance, and unwavering support have propelled me forward, reminding me of the profound impact a strong support system can have on personal growth and success. I am truly blessed and deeply thankful for every individual who has contributed to my journey.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard holds significant importance within the Black Greek community due to its unapologetic celebration of black culture and achievements. As a dedicated platform, it serves the Greek community in multifaceted ways, fostering a sense of unity, pride, and representation. One of the most vital aspects of Watch The Yard is its spotlight on black excellence within the Greek community, spanning both collegiate and alumni members. By showcasing the achievements, initiatives, and impactful work of individuals and chapters, the platform highlights the positive contributions made by Black Greeks. This visibility not only reinforces the essence of unity within the Divine Nine organizations but also serves as an inspiring model for others to follow.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
Looking back, my love for being a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has only deepened over time. From the moment I expressed interest, a wise brother shared that this journey would heighten my awareness of the world around me. This insight has proven true in more ways than I could have imagined. The bond of brotherhood within Alpha Phi Alpha is unparalleled. The genuine connections and unwavering support from my fellow members create an unbreakable sense of unity. Additionally, our shared mission, rooted in uplifting communities and promoting leadership, resonates deeply with me. The work we’ve already achieved, and the promising future ahead are a testament to the impact we can make as a collective. Quoting the poignant lines from the poem House of Alpha by Bro. Sidney P. Brown, “Goodwill is the Monarch of this House” and “The School for the better making of men,” captures the essence of why I cherish my affiliation with Alpha Phi Alpha. The fraternity’s commitment to fostering goodwill and personal growth aligns with my values and aspirations. This journey has not only enriched my life but also amplified my ability to contribute positively to the world around me.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood, to me, encapsulates a bond that surpasses ordinary connections. It’s a profound and enduring relationship built on trust, support, and shared experiences. Reflecting on the words of the poem “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother” by Bro. Freeman Montague, Jr., the line “When asked ‘Why weigh yourself down with the load of another?’ I simply smile at them and say, He ain’t heavy, He’s my Brother!!!” resonates deeply. This quote beautifully captures the essence of brotherhood. It speaks of willingly shouldering one another’s burdens without hesitation, embracing the challenges and triumphs together. Brotherhood means being there through thick and thin, standing side by side no matter the circumstances. It embodies a sense of responsibility, empathy, and camaraderie that transcends mere friendship. In essence, brotherhood is the embodiment of unity, where each member becomes an integral part of a collective whole. It’s a relationship marked by genuine care, selflessness, and the understanding that together, we can navigate life’s journey with unwavering support.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Rob Blackwell for his work as the president of the Xi Alpha Lambda Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1981.
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