Alpha Phi Alpha shines light on the River Parishes

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

LAPLACE — Chartered in LaPlace on January 15, the newest chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has a mission to develop leaders, promote brotherhood and academic excellence, and provide service and advocacy to River Parishes communities.

“Bridging the gap” was the theme of the Omicron Psi Lambda chapter chartering this past weekend at Petra Restaurant.

Alpha Phi Alpha District Director Rodney Welch explained LaPlace and surrounding areas have received a spark of service from graduate chapters in New Orleans, Slidell, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Now there is an opportunity for greater impact.

“As of January 15, 2022, LaPlace will not need a glimmer from these chapters. From now on, LaPlace will have its own light of Alpha from the Omicron Psi Lambda Chapter,” Welch said.

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was started December 4, 1906 at Cornell University in New York by seven founders, known as The Seven Jewels: Henry Arthur Callis, Charles Henry Chapman, Eugene Kinckle Jones, George Biddle Kelley, Nathaniel Allison Murray, Robert Harold Ogle and Vertner Woodson Tandy.

More than 290,000 men proudly wear the Alpha letters across the globe, from London England to LaPlace, Louisiana. It was the first Black-led Greek letter organization and now stands as the largest predominantly African American intercollegiate fraternity in the nation.

Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Other prominent Alphas have included Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Ernest “Dutch” Morial, the first Black mayor of New Orleans; Paul Robeson, activist and scholar-athlete; Jesse Owens, Olympic gold medalist; Dr. Norman Francis, former president of Xavier University, and many others.

The newly inducted members of the Omicron Psi Lambda chapter are President Jorandal M. Watson, Vice President Trebor S. Smith, Alton Preston, Brian Carter, Joseph K. Byrd, Lance McCormick, Reginald Starks, Brooks Wallace, Charles Tyson Brown, Clossie Chaisson Jr., David Sampson, Greg Cooks, Jabar Rodney, Jerome Washington, Kernell Jupiter, Michael Bradley, Mitchell Stevens, Rahn Bailey, Torrey Eubaire and Wilford Jones.

Watson has been a member of Alpha Phi Alpha for 31 years, and he most enjoys the opportunity to form lifelong bonds with brothers from all walks of life.

Coming into the River Parishes community, the Alpha brothers look forward to mentoring the youth and supporting efforts for voter engagement.

“There is a concentration of brothers who live in this area and commute to the city. They felt the need to do some type of service and advocacy for the community that they live in,” Watson said. “There is a void inside this whole area, from the River Parishes to Houma, Hammond, Metairie, all the way to Gonzales where there is no representation from Alpha Phi Alpha. We think by developing this chapter, there’s a lot of good we can do to uplift the community.”

Prior to the chartering, the Alphas assisted in clean-up efforts across St. John Parish. The chapter also expects to partner with community food drives and Christmas toy drives.

Alpha Phi Alpha supports a variety of national programs including March of Dimes, Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, Peace Corps and Habitat for Humanity. Alphas are also at the forefront of education and social movements through the “Go to High School Go to College” and “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People” programs.

“The fraternity is bigger than one person. The one thing that has inspired me and motivated me is the brotherhood,” Watson said. “There’s a lot to live up to, being an Alpha.”

Saturday’s chartering ceremony saw participation from current Southwestern Regional Vice President Jermaine Netherly. Past Southwestern Regional Vice President Tarrynce Robinson served as the keynote speaker.

Robinson said Omicron Psi Lambda presents an opportunity to bring change through goodwill.

“Bringing a chapter to the River Parishes wasn’t easy…I had to realize as a leader whether there was a need or just a want. We can put a chapter anywhere we want, but it has to benefit the area that it resides in,” Robinson said.

As he considered the current political climate, including educational, social and health disparities related to the COVID-19 pandemic that affect the River Parishes and the country at large, Robinson saw the need a new chapter.

He urged the chapter to establish a relationship with the superintendent to support students struggling with virtual learning platforms.

Netherly added, “There’s definitely a need, and there’s opportunity to make the community better where brothers can be more involved in the community. We already have brothers living here and working here, so it only makes sense for us to have a formal chapter here instead of having them drive to other areas.”