Learning from The Past, Building on the Future: A Century of Service and Impact

By Charles K. Dodson, Jr.

Few things say more about an organization’s success and impact than its level of sustainability. The Gamma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., knows a thing or two about sustainability, the chapter will soon commemorate 100 years of existence. A century ago the chapter joined the ranks of Alpha Phi Alpha in the city of Detroit. Through the years Gamma Lambda has devoted itself to serving the Detroit Community ceaselessly. These accomplishments will be celebrated at The Detroit Alphas Centennial Gala, “Celebrating 100 Years of Service to The Detroit Community” this October 19, 2019 at The Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center.  

Gamma Lambda has the distinction of being the third alumni chapter chartered just 13 years after Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1919. The founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity expected the new Detroit chapter to create and foster a positive impact in Detroit. Fortunately, Gamma Lambda has been successful in meeting and exceeding those expectations. Throughout the course of the last century, the chapter has been at the forefront of influencing Detroit. Chapter President, Al Elvin Jr., declared, “Gamma Lambda has had a profound impact on the city of Detroit that transcends all landscapes.”  

The Gamma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has many notable members including the Late Judge Damon Keith. Judge Keith upheld and championed the aims of Alpha Phi Alpha, “Manly deeds, scholarship, and Love For All Mankind” in his commitment to bring forth justice, equality and civil rights in his rulings. He will be honored posthumously with the Man of The Century Award at the gala in October. Other honorees include:

  • Dennis W. Archer – Former Mayor – City of Detroit
  • Ted Colbert – Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President, Information Technology and Data Analytics – The Boeing Company 
  • William F. Pickard – Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Author 
  • Mark S. Tillman – 34th General President, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.  

These men of Alpha Phi Alpha have not only impacted Detroit, but also the world.  

Gamma Lambda continues to serve Detroit through community service initiatives such as Meals on Wheels, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society Relay For Life, UNCF Walk For Education, Coalition on Temporary Shelter, Gleaner’s Food Bank and many other non-profit organizations. The chapter has also partnered with several schools and organizations in the city to bring about positive change. Additionally, the chapter has an award-winning mentoring program, Alpha Esquire Mentor Program of Metro Detroit  

In efforts of illustrating Gamma Lambda’s strong commitment to education and community progress, Elvin stated, “Over the last six years, Gamma Lambda has awarded over $70,000 in scholarships to deserving metro Detroit students.” 

Each year, members of the chapter provide a back-to-school fair with free clothing vouchers, back pack giveaways, school supplies, and educational programming for parents and students. Furthermore, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the chapter hosts the “MLK Day on, Not a day off” at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, thousands of people attend each year to engage in historical presentations, community discussions, presentations on financial literacy, voter engagement, and college readiness. 

When asked about how the chapter plans to continue building on its legacy, “We are about brotherhood and service,” Elvin expressed. “Service is what we do, and service is who we are. We plan to continue carrying the mantle of service and plan to address the challenges of the next century.” 

To honor the chapter’s history and legacy, the chapter will host a Centennial Gala. The commemorative gala will be held at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, 400 Renaissance Dr. W, Detroit, MI, 48243, on October 19, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. EST. Tickets are $100. Black Tie attire. The event will be emceed by Veteran Anchor Huel Perkins and consist of: dinner, a short program, and afterglow. The event is open to the public.  

For members who want to connect or reactivate with the chapter, visit www.DetroitAlphas.org. They can also be found on Facebook and Instagram at “Detroit Alphas”.  



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