For five decades, Lansing’s Kappa Delta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha – the oldest historically black fraternity – has prided itself on serving others.
Now the chapter itself is asking for help.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the chapter is hosting a college scholarship fundraiser for Greater Lansing youth. The Scholarship Ball will be held at 6pm on 4th June at the Eagle Eye Golf Club (15500 Chandler Road) Bath Township. The event had been suspended due to the pandemic and other duties of the chapter. In all, the chapter hopes to fund six $1,000 scholarships for students from the Lansing area.
“Since the founding of this chapter, we have been privileged to be a part of many great things here in Lansing and to provide community service to Lansing,” said James McCurtis Jr., Kappa Delta Lambda chapter vice president.
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The Kappa Delta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1972. Founding members included Michigan State football stars Don Coleman and Blanche Martin, and University President Clifton Wharton. As an alumni chapter, it has no affiliation with any specific college and only requires a degree for membership.
Since then, the fraternity has been a resource for networking and support among black men in the Lansing area. As part of a lifetime membership policy, it’s not uncommon for brothers to leave the fraternity for a period of time and come back later, said chapter president Harold Pope, who has been a member for 37 years.
Its famous members include Dr. Robert Green, who fought housing discrimination in East Lansing and rose to prominence in Michigan; Coleman, whose football jersey was the first to be retired at MSU; Martin, the university’s first black trustee; and Wharton, its first black president. Another brother, Richard Letts, served on Lansing’s Human Relations Commission for 25 years and, prior to joining KDL, oversaw Lansing’s responsibility for hosting one of the country’s first MLK memorial services
“We’re more than just brothers, we’re family too,” said Ernest Cabule III.
A legacy of service to the community
In recent years, the KDL chapter has formed several new traditions. Below: Every Sunday shortly after 7 p.m., the brothers call into a conference call and pray for one another.
The tradition began in March 2020 when Cabule was hospitalized with a severe COVID-19 infection. Doctors had asked Cabule’s family on two separate occasions to prepare for end-of-life care.
“My brothers came in and helped my wife in whatever way they could,” Cabule recalled. “They brought her food and all sorts of things and made sure she was well taken care of because I was in the hospital bed. I couldn’t do anything.”
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This kind of charitable support is at the heart of KDL’s mission. Chapter members have often donated to public projects and initiatives, including $15,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC
The return of KDL’s Scholarship Ball is prompting members to turn to the community for help.
“We’re providing funds for these young people to go beyond high school and using that money to help them in that direction,” McCurtis said.
The amount of scholarship funds that KDL awards has increased incrementally over the years. At the last ball a few years before the pandemic, they raised enough for five $500 prizes.
Glenn Sanders, who runs the nonprofit arm of KDL and organizes the ball, said the event reinforces the chapter’s goal of serving the community.
“As we move forward over the next 50 years and beyond, things will come up and things will align with that foundation as we stay true to that and continue to sow seeds throughout the community,” he said. “We will be here.”
Cabule and other brothers, including Wayne Lynn, serve on the boards of other philanthropic organizations in Lansing. This includes Turning Point of Lansing, a group that matches young black men with mentors to help them transition into adulthood. This organization will hold its annual Rites of Passage ceremony on May 18 when young men graduate from the program.
“Similarly, we have Alpha Squares, another mentoring program where we take our younger generation and show them how to grow up and serve society,” Sanders said.
KDL will gather with other organizations on Alpha Day May 25 at the state Capitol to discuss issues affecting the black community, such as policing, COVID-19 relief and voting rights, McCurtis said.
“We want to continue to be a pillar in our community so that we can serve and intercede for those in need and promote fraternity, scholarship, leadership and family deeds,” he said.
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Contact reporter Krystal Nurse at (517) 267-1344or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @KrystalRNurse.