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 Iota Iota Lambda Chapter in Ithaca, Corning and Cortland, New York and did an interview with Omar Stoute 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. Stoute, who is a Title IX Deputy Coordinator at Ithaca College, has been president of his chapter for a year.
We interviewed Stoute, who is a Spring ’19 Ithaca, NY 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 the chapter president is to be the conduit for servant leadership. The president of the chapter has the privilege of facilitating connections between brothers and the community, while always keeping in mind the strategic mission and longevity of the chapter, the region, and the organization as a whole.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
This year the chapter plans to unveil a Leadership Academy focused on mentorship and scholastic preparedness to continue preparing our young black men for the struggles they may face.
What made you want to pledge Phi Beta Sigma?
I went to a predominantly white HS, where at 13 I faced daily microaggressions and sometimes blatant prejudice. As if that wasn’t enough, I quickly learned how daunting a task it is to navigate a system that wasn’t designed for black bodies. No one understood why my grades dropped, why I began to hate school – except for my friends of color who were experiencing everything that I was. Overtime we learned to lean on one another, to make success our destination and the ignorance of our peers our fuel.
When the time came to consider college, I told myself that I’d have to develop a similar BIPOC support network to help navigate this system, if I were going to continue to be successful at that level. On my first college tour, by pure chance, I met men of Alpha who were not only all pursuing careers in medicine but playing football at a Division 1 school. It became apparent that they weren’t just friends who lived together, played the same sport, and attended the same classes: they held each other accountable, motivated and supported each other through obstacles on and off the field. It was those men who sparked my interest in the fraternity. They shared with me the history of the fraternity’s inception, it’s mission and aims.
It was comforting to learn that there were seven men, seven black men, who had walked this path before, felt the isolation that I had, and taken steps to prevent young black men who would follow after them from feeling the same isolation. From that day, I knew I wanted to be a part of this illustrious organization, to do my part to make the world a better place for those who follow after me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Iota Iota Lambda sits in the birthplace of our fraternity. We share this privilege with the Alpha Chapter seated at Cornell University and hold this responsibility dearly. Our members hold prominent positions within the community and the higher-education institutions in the Ithaca area and surrounding region. It is through these networks that we preserve the legacy and uphold the mission and aims of our Fraternity.
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?
My mind immediately goes to the importance of brand management: it goes without saying that there are stigmas surrounding Greek life and misconceptions of Black Greek Lettered Organizations and how they differ from their white counterparts. In this age of instant communication, we must pay attention to what we put online and who has access to it. As eager as we are to post our strolls and steps, we must be equally eager to post our work and successes within the community. Most importantly, we need to hold each other accountable for the preservation of our shared brand and the advancement of our people.
How is your chapter adapting to navigate the pandemic?
We’ve shifted to remote methods of communication to promote the safety and wellbeing of our brothers and the community. We’ve also begun to redesign our in-person programming for operation on virtual platforms.
What does leadership mean to you?
As a leader I have the privilege of promoting the will of my brothers: we set goals together and we achieve them together. As a leader it’s my responsibility to highlight the strengths and talents of my brothers, help navigate obstacles, and ultimately guide the chapter to accomplish its goals.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Let me first say thank y’all for what you do. The work you all do in promoting and celebrating the excellence of Black America is the medicine we didn’t know we needed. But perhaps more importantly, you utilize your platform to display timely and accurate information that informs, educates, and empowers the Black Greek Community to mobilize.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
One objective of my fraternity reads: “To prepare them for the greatest usefulness in the causes of humanity, dignity and freedom of the individual”.
Whenever I hear that it reminds me that brotherhood is accountability. I hold my brothers to the highest standard and vice versa. My brothers share common values and together we have the goal to be the best form of ourselves and the best representation of Alpha. That accountability – that brotherhood – makes us a phenomenal force. Which is why we have stood at the forefront of the African American fight for civil rights.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We provide a formal advisor to our undergraduate chapter. Additionally, brothers are always happy to offer guidance and mentorship to undergrads.
That said, sometimes the best thing we can provide is simply getting out of their way and allowing them to make their own path in Alpha and the world.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Omar Stoute for his work as the President of the Iota Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha.
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