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 Sigma Delta Lambda Chapter in Southfield, Michigan and did an interview with Blair Ellison 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. Ellison, who is a Field Marketing Representative for Lenovo and the owner of Marketing Company called Ellison Media & Design, has been president of his chapter for a year.
We interviewed Ellison, who is a Fall 2014 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 does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
To be chapter President of a chapter that has such a rich, yet, young history is a big honor. It feels amazing to be the fifth president because it means that Brothers have enough confidence in me to lead us to the next level as a chapter. I am also the youngest Brother in our chapter so knowing that Brothers who are a lot of years my senior thought enough of me to want me to lead our chapter means a lot.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
This year has been tough in many ways. We have had to navigate Covid-19 and tackle what may go down in history as one of the most hostile presidential elections to date. A lot of our initiatives have had to go virtual which has been a challenge, but because of this, we have been able to reach more people than before. We have held our “Your Vote, Your Voice” and “Real Talk: Voter’s Edition” events that fall under Alpha Phi Alpha’s National Program, A Voteless People is A Hopeless People. These programs were created to educate our local community on voting, the proposals that were on the ballot, and most of all, ensuring that everyone was registered to vote. To bring the joy of Christmas to children, we hosted a virtual Santa Claus event so that they were able to interact with Santa and tell him their Christmas wishes. The person playing Santa was our Brother, Bro. Larry Jefferson who was the first black Santa at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Last but not least, we were able to give away $4,000 in scholarships to local, deserving students through our Non-Profit Scholarship arm, The Jewel Continuum Foundation: Non-Profit Corporation.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
I come from a family that is made up of a lot of girls. While I love my family and love the bond that we have, I have always wanted that sense of Brotherhood. So of course, I started to participate in different programs that were tailored toward young men. I would find out later that the mentors that I have looked up to for so long were Alpha Men. I thought to myself, “if these men came into my life and made such a big impact on me and there is an organization that is full of likeminded individuals that represent such a prestigious history, that is something that I need to be part of”. That is how I know that Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated was the only organization for me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
I think the fact that we are the youngest chapter in Michigan and still making sure that people take notice of our work makes us very unique. We have only been around since 2012 and have managed to be a two-time Michigan District Alumni Chapter of the Year. We also have a collection of Brothers that has served at every level of our fraternity. We like to call ourselves “The White Collar Chapter with the Blue Collar Attitude” and we show that through acting on what we call the cornerstone of our chapter; community service.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think alumni chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2021?
Embrace change. Though everything is forced to be digital now, this is something that has been coming for a long time with the evolution of technology. We have the ability to reach people all around the world just by having an online presence. I think it is almost easier to put in the work now because it all can be done from the comfort of your own home. I know it may not seem as easy to create a personal connection with everyone now, but, I think if we stay consistent with our online presence, we will see that a lot of people may prefer this way of interaction.
How is your chapter adapting to navigate the pandemic?
The adaption was tough in the beginning but we have stayed diligent. It’s tough because a lot of our more technically savvy Brothers in the chapter turned support representatives over night! We have all had those long conversations with Brothers to make sure they knew how to get on Zoom, get on social media, and talk about how we wanted to shift our focus to fully digital. We have also had some events in person in which we made sure social distancing was a #1 priority. All in all, we are doing pretty well.
What does leadership mean to you?
To me, the measure of a good leader is in their ability to bring out the best in those around them. Though I am the president of my chapter, I would be nothing without the support of the Brothers around me who thought enough of me to lead them. I always try to make sure that I am available as a resource and I also want my Brothers to know that I am never above criticism. I know that that I may not get everything right, so, I try to look at each situation and accept feedback from multiple Brothers that I talk to on a regular basis and even those that I don’t. Once I receive this feedback, I make sure that I am incorporating it into how I handle chapter affairs.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard is the central hub that we have always needed! I can spend hours on the website or even the Instagram learning about the history of all BGLOs. This vessel has made it not only easy, but fun to see what life was like on different yards not only before I was Greek, but, before I was even born.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
When I think of Brotherhood, I think of a quote that one of my highly respected chapter Brothers says all the time; “If a brother needs me, the question is never about if I can do something, but, what time should I be there”. Brotherhood is a sacred bond that is not easily gained. While it takes a lot of work and upkeep, it is always worth it in the end because of the lifetime commitment that we made when becoming members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We like to make sure that we are in communication with our undergraduate chapters all the time. My chapter has invited them to fellowship with us during chapter meetings, brotherhood events, supported their events on campus, and given financial support to their initiatives. While we don’t have a college chapter that we advise directly, we have a district of 11 college chapters that we try to lend support to when we can.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Blair Ellison for his work as the President of the Sigma Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha.