by Jordan Bell
In a sea of black and gold at The Hotel Roanoke, the men of Alpha Phi Alpha held their 80th Virginia Association of Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha District Conference. In January 2023 the Roanoke chapter will celebrate 95 years. On Thursday evening, November 10th the first night of a weekend of business and celebration the men of Alpha held a forum centered around community and children.
The conversation was based on “Taking Back Our Community While We Take Care of Our Children.” Roanoke City School superintendent Verletta White, Roanoke City Police Chief Sam Roman, Retired Pastor Loudon Avenue Christian Church Reverend Dr. William L. Lee an Alpha Phi Alpha man, and NAACP Virginia State Conference secretary Karen Jones were the four panelists during the discussion. Jerry Fitz of Richmond, also an Alpha man moderating the discussion.
All panelists agreed that a multi-layered approach needed to take place to repair Roanoke communities. Chief Roman said, “in the collective, we can be more impactful.” The first question asked to panelists was the question of, “What has been the biggest challenge?” Superintendent White said, “the National Center of Educational Statistics in a recent report in May 2022 shows that 87% of schools reported that mental health issues are going unnoticed.” Oftentimes what is a mental health issue is handled as a behavioral issue.
Throughout the discussion, solutions were given about how the men of Alpha would take this discussion and put it into action. Jerry Fitz was able to tie each question and answer into a plan of action. Each panelist was able to weave each of their answers into the respective fields that they work in.
Reverend Lee spoke about the importance of “redefining” parenting. He said, “some parents are doing the best they can with what they have been given.” This tied into the discussion that was based on the different types of trauma that we see in our children today. Karen Jones added that “parents need to be comfortable seeking help” and “that just because you do not have children does not mean you are not a parent.” Closing the discussion for the night a challenge was given to the men of Alpha Phi Alpha to go back into their communities with the information shared and put it into action.
At the beginning of the forum, Roanoke’s very own Mayor Sherman Lea was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for nearly 50 years of membership and his community service work throughout the State of Virginia. Also, Jeffrey Powell and Ryan Bell both of Roanoke were awarded certificates for their assistance in planning the public forum.