For five decades, Lansing’s Kappa Delta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha — the oldest historically Black fraternity — has prided itself on service to others.
Now, the chapter is asking for help itself.
To celebrate its 50th birthday, the chapter is hosting a fundraiser for college scholarships for Greater Lansing youth. The scholarship ball will be held at 6 pm June 4 at Eagle Eye Golf Club (15500 Chandler Road) Bath Township). The event had been on hold due to the pandemic and other chapter duties. All told, the chapter hopes to fund six $1,000 scholarships for Lansing-area students.
“Since the founding of this chapter, we had the privilege of being a part of a lot of great things here in Lansing and providing community service for Lansing,” said Kappa Delta Lambda chapter Vice President James McCurtis Jr.
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The Kappa Delta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1972. Among the founding members were Michigan State football stars Don Coleman and Blanche Martin along with university president Clifton Wharton. An alumni chapter, it has no affiliation with a particular college, requiring only a degree for membership.
Since then, the fraternity has been a resource for networking and support among Black men in Greater Lansing. Operating under a lifetime membership policy, it’s not uncommon for brothers to leave the fraternity for a period and come back later, said chapter President Harold Pope, a member for 37 years.
Among its famous members are Dr. Robert Green, who fought housing discrimination in East Lansing and rose through the ranks at Michigan State; Coleman, whose football jersey was the first to be retired at MSU; Martin, the university’s first Black trustee; and Wharton, his first Black president. Richard Letts, another brother, served on Lansing’s Human Relations Commission for 25 years and before joining KDL led the charge for Lansing to host one of the country’s first MLK commemorations
“We’re more than just brothers, we’re also family,” said Ernest Cabule III.
A legacy of service to the community
In recent years, the KDL chapter has formed some new traditions. Among them: Every Sunday just past 7 pm, the brothers call into a conference line and pray for one another.
The tradition started in March of 2020, when Cabule was hospitalized with a serious COVID-19 infection. Doctors had told Cabule’s family on two separate occasions to prepare end of life care.
“My brothers came in and helped out my wife as much as it could wherever they tried,” Cabule recalled. “They brought her food and all sorts of things and made sure that she was well looked after because I was laid out in the hospital bed. I couldn’t do anything.”
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That type of charitable support is at the core of KDL’s mission. Chapter members have often donated to public projects and initiatives, including $15,000 for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, DC
The return of KDL’s scholarship ball has members reaching out to the community for help.
“We’re providing some means to these young people to go beyond high school and to use this money to help them in that direction,” McCurtis said.
The amount of scholarship money KDL gives away has climbed incrementally over the years. At the last ball a few years before the pandemic, they raised enough for five $500 awards.
Glenn Sanders, who presides over KDL’s nonprofit arm and organizes the ball, said the event reinforces the chapter’s goal of service to the community.
“As we go on in the next 50 years and beyond, things will come up and things will be aligned with that foundation if we stay true to that and we continue to plant seeds throughout the community,” he said. “We will be here.”
Cabule and other brothers including Wayne Lynn sit on the board of other philanthropic bodies in Lansing. Those include Turning Point of Lansing, a group that pairs young Black men with mentors as a way of helping them transition into adulthood. That organization will hold its annual ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremony, when young men graduate from the program, May 18.
“Similar to that, we have the Alpha Squares, which is another mentoring program where we take in our younger generation and show them a way of growing up and being of service to society,” Sanders said.
KDL will join other organizations for Alpha Day May 25 at the State Capitol to talk about issues affecting the Black community such as policing, COVID-19 relief and voting rights, McCurtis said.
“What we want to do is continue to be a pillar in our community so that so we can serve those and advocate for those who are in need and promote brotherhood, scholarship, leadership and family deeds,” he said.
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