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 Alpha Alpha Lambda in Newark, New Jersey and did an interview with Frederick E. Davis Jr., J.D., CPA 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. Davis, who works as a Attorney/CPA, is a newly elected president of his chapter.
We interviewed Davis who is a Fall 1983 Xi Psi 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?
The Bible states in Proverbs 13:22 that a good man provides an inheritance to his children’s children. Within the Alpha Alpha Lambda Chapter, a collective of over 100 accomplished and steadfast brothers, I have the esteemed honor of working with amazing doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, public officials, corporate executives, and public servants. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to harness the collective brilliance of these leaders and ignite a transformation felt far beyond Newark, New Jersey, and leave a legacy that impacts not only the next generation but generations to follow. The prospect of leaving an indelible mark on our community has energized me to find the time to lead such an auspicious group of leaders.
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?
In the upcoming year, the Alpha Alpha Lambda Chapter is committed to fostering positive change and empowerment within our community. Through our national program Project Alpha, we’re excited to partner once again with three remarkable middle schools-Louise A. Spencer and South 17th Street Schools in Newark, and Maplewood Middle School in Maplewood. Through this program, we’re dedicated to equipping the next generation of Black men with important life skills and insights including leadership, financial literacy, time management, personal presentation, mental well-being, cultivating healthy relationships, overcoming challenges, and the art of goal setting. In October, we’re also partnering with the Montclair Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. to host a Breast Cancer Awareness Panel at the esteemed Newark Museum. This event serves as a platform to uplift and stand by our black and brown women during Breast Cancer Month. Additionally, we’re participating in a Breast Cancer Awareness March, passionately rallying to increase awareness and male allyship around this critical issue. We will also sponsor several community service projects with the St. John’s Baptist Church food and clothing distribution center located in Newark. We will also continue to engage with legislators and supporters to ensure they are aware of our stance on critical issues such as the need for affordable housing, the prevention of racial profiling, the protection of voting rights, and the need to close the digital divide within black and brown communities.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
In college, attended a meeting hosted by an administrator to provide information about the suspension of an African-American male student by the school after an altercation during a basketball game. The two white male students involved in the altercation were not suspended even though they were alleged to have instigated the incident by numerous accounts. From that day on, I knew I wanted to help fight for underrepresented and marginalized people. | decided to look to be part of an organization whose ideals matched mine. As I searched, I came across a few fraternities that were a part of the Divine 9. In my freshman year, one of my best friends pledged Kappa Alpha Psi. His journey inspired me to do more research on the Divine 9. I attended an informational for Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi during my freshman year. Once I learned the history of Alpha Phi Alpha and that the brotherhood included legendary members such as Justice Thurgood Marshall, Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Honorable Dick Gregory, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr, New York City Mayor David Dickens, and other notable men, I knew pledging Alpha was inevitable as I found the organization matched my ideals.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
One key characteristic that sets our chapter apart is the exceptional membership we have cultivated that uniquely positions us to drive tangible change and empowerment within our community including the Mayor of Newark, Bro. Ras Baraka and three Newark City Council members, Bro. Patrick Council, Bro. Dupre Kelly and Bro. C. Larry Crump and the great American film director, Bro. Benny “Boom” Douglas. Alpha Alpha Lambda’s uniqueness is defined not only by the caliber of individuals who make up our chapter but also by the collective dedication to fostering positive long-lasting change and addressing pressing community needs. For 25 years, we have hosted an oratorical contest for 6-8th graders in Essex County, NJ during Dr. MLK Jr. weekend. We have also raised nearly $500,000 to build a community center in the Central Ward of Newark, consistently raised funds to support March of Dimes’ March for Babies, and during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we donated more than 20,000 facemasks to families in the city of Newark through our partnership with American China Public Affairs Institute and St. John’s Baptist Church. Also, we partnered with Fresh Direct to donate 2,000 bottles of water to the residents of Newark during the lead water crisis. Our current focus on education and advocacy, addressing pivotal issues impacting the black and brown communities in New Jersey, further distinguishes our chapter. From addressing the digital divide through the “Internet for All” initiative to championing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and advocating for equitable change such as fair appraisal, the George Floyd Racial Profiling Act, reparations, the Jury Service Bill, and affordable housing, our chapter’s unwavering commitment to justice and empowerment is what truly makes us stand out.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Alpha Alpha Lambda Chapter advises three undergraduate chapters (lota Rho, Phi Eta, and Phi Theta Chapters). We budget $950 per chapter to pay for various general organization events and fees incurred by the chapters to host and travel to events. We invite these chapters to attend our monthly chapter meetings and in fact host our alumni meetings at each of their schools to support their efforts, promote the great work of Alpha Phi Alpha on their respective campuses and allow the undergraduate brothers to network with alumni brothers. Also, each undergraduate chapter is encouraged to provide a report for our monthly meetings to highlight their planned activities so alumni brothers have an opportunity to engage and support. Through financial aid, ongoing engagement, and collaborative platforms, we’re shaping an environment where our undergraduate chapters thrive, contribute, and evolve as empowered leaders within Alpha Phi Alpha.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We start with brotherhood first. Since the pandemic began in March/April 2023, our chapter created a prayer group that has lifted the spirituality of our chapter and has strengthened the bond shared among the brotherhood. Every Saturday morning, 25 to 35 brothers participate in a monthly prayer call and brothers place their requests on the throne as one of our praver warriors intercedes on our behalf. Other brothers provide testimonies of breakthroughs that have occurred since we started to pray. Brothers who have been in the fraternity for over 40 years have testified that this weekly prayer call has been the most impactful event they have attended as brothers. A strengthened brotherhood dispatches willing warriors energized to uplift our communities. Also, our younger brothers have created a stroll team that met over the summer on a regular basis. This effort has been further enriched by the active involvement of our seasoned brothers, who have generously shared their experiences and insights. Through this endeavor, we’re building a stronger brotherhood that seamlessly integrates the wisdom of our seasoned members with the energy and enthusiasm of our younger brothers, resulting in a cohesive and empowered fraternity. By nurturing this blend of spiritual alignment, intentional support, and collaborative initiatives, we’re cultivating a brotherhood that is invigorated and connected.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
I believe the most valuable advice I can give to aspiring leaders is “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. It is important to meet with your leadership team on a regular basis, to write out your plan and share with brothers, and to be transparent by sharing how your success measures against your plan to ensure vour chapter is meeting expectations. Strategic planning, effective communication, and transparency will not only guide the chapter’s growth but also empower future leaders to lead with purpose and impact.
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?
The brothers of my undergraduate chapter were leaders on campus and were very encouraging to me during my college journey at Hofstra University. Many years later, they are still great motivators and now I sit on the board of trustees at Hofstra University. I would not be there without them. Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors? Yes. Two brothers have been great mentors during my Alpha journey. First, my best friend who we lost in 2011, Brother Gerard Burnett, Sr. While we were the same age, he was a leader from an early age. He crossed into Alpha a year earlier than and he was a very successful entrepreneur as an owner of one of the largest African-American funeral homes in Long Island called Carl C. Burnett Funeral Home. He taught me how a very successful businessman can also be the most giving of his time and resources and how he can navigate their membership in Alpha to help others as a collective to have the most impact. My other mentor in Alpha has been Brother Jesse Branson Sr. Brother Branson pledged Alpha in the ’60s and has remained active. He ran the Chapter’s oratorical competition for years and engaged every year more than 40 6th- 8th grade male students to speak about “What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say about the world today?”. These speeches are inspiring and uplifting. Bro. Branson’s drive to create an impactful program was extraordinary. His commitment to excellence was unmatched. He encouraged me to take on leadership roles within the chapter and now I am leading this great group of brothers.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Jewel Brother Henry Arthur Callis once stated, “Because the half-dozen African American students at Cornell University during the school year 1904-1905 did not return to campus the following year, the incoming students in 1905-06, in founding Alpha Phi Alpha, were determined to bind themselves together to ensure that each would survive in the racially hostile environment.” These 7 college students came together to create an organization that eventually led to 8 other organizations making up the Divine 9. Watch the Yard brings together the excellence of these 9 great organizations for the public at large to understand the significant contributions that each has made and continues to make to our community’s social, economic, and political achievements.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I pledged in 1983 and crossed the burning sands on December 22 at 2:42 a.m. Our line name is “The Legacy Line”. The Legacy Line” was a Jewel line (meaning, 7 men crossed into Alpha matching the number of our founders that we affectionally call the” Jewels”). Five sons of the Legacy Line became Alphas between 2017 and 2019. All five are in their 20s and are college graduates from prominent universities. Alpha has been good to me personally and has been a way of life for my family. We all give back to uplift our community in various ways. To join the best brotherhood known to mankind and to serve our community with my sons and fraternity brothers is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling activities I could have ever dreamed of. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “What is the most persistent and urgent question of today?”. What have you done for others? Alpha has given me more than I could have expected. My sons, Freddy and Wil, are active and impactful Alpha men who have hosted programs and now are officers in my administration. Our chapter continues to bring in successful men in their chosen field of work and our members are engaged to make a difference in the lives of others.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
In defining what brotherhood means to me, I quote in part Jewel Brother Robert Harold Ogle: “We have learned that the greatness of any group of men lies not in the fine buildings they erect, or the numerous air castles planned but never erected, but rather in service to God and your fellow brothers, whether it can be in the fraternity house, on the street, on the school campus, at a public gathering or in your own home.” At its core, brotherhood means the service we provide to our fellow brothers. It is about inspiring, uplifting, encouraging, and serving each brother so he is prepared, committed, and inspired to serve others. In essence, brotherhood is a lifelong journey of selfless service, empowerment, and unity that transcends time, place, and circumstance.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Frederick E. Davis Jr., J.D., CPA for his work as the President of the Alpha Alpha Lambda which has a legacy that spans back to 1926.
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