May. 7, 2018

Remembering John Slade, The Black Blogger

It seems that every brother in Iota Phi Theta Fraternity has a personal story to tell about an encounter or a relationship with one of our fraternity’s 12 Founders, John Slade. I would like to share my story which stretched over decades but ended in a magnificent moment for myself and our fraternity. First off let me state that yesterday, May 6, 2018, John D. Slade transitioned from this life to an eternal life of peaceful rest. He joined Iota’s Alpha Iota Omega Chapter joining our fellow founders Barron Willis, Webster Lewis, Charles Gregory, Albert Hicks, Elias Dorsey and Charles Briscoe amongst the many Iota Brothers who are also members of this our most cherished chapter. 


My story of John Slade begins in the late winter months in 1974 while I was an Iota Phi Theta Fraternity pledgee on the campus of Morgan State College. While online of this then fledging organization it has just celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1973. We as pledgees were obligated to learn the history of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity. The history wasn’t that difficult because it basically revolved around the Founders' names, the founding date, and the shield construction. At that time knowing the John Slade along with the other 11 Founders names was a pathway to a lesser degree of physicality.  John Slade wasn’t a person to me at that time nor was the other Founders he was simply an image amongst 12 other images. Black men who were at most a decade older than me but truly invisible to my day to day existence while pledging.  I simply had to learn their names in order to avoid being put into the hole. I didn’t meet any of the 12 Founders during that 8 week period that I was online. 


It wasn’t until much later in my experiences with Iota Phi Theta that I met my first Founder who I believe was Lonnie Spruill. This is not meant to denigrate any of the Founders because these men were busy raising families and building careers. I’m sure that some of those Founders didn’t even know that Iota Phi Theta Fraternity existed past the period they had left Morgan State College. I believe I first met John Slade in Norfolk, Virginia during a conclave. I remember how distinguished he seemed to be. John Slade seemed to command and demand respect when he entered the room. He was symbolic of Iota Phi Theta’s motto at the time, It Takes A Man. 


Some time had past but along the way, I had become a distributor of Amway Products. You may ask now what does Amway Products have to do with John Slade and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity. If you can believe it a great deal. You see while evening while I was presenting the Amway Plan on the campus of Howard University. I met a young brother named Kenyatta Slade, who I knew was John Slade’s son. I asked a young Kenyatta Slade that evening if he was planning to pledge his father’s and my fraternity. Kenyatta was a splitting image of how you would’ve imaged a young John Slade to be. Kenyatta told me that evening that Howard University had no chapter at the time. So no, he was more concentrated on his studies and living the life of a college student. I didn’t hook Kenyatta Slade that evening on either Iota or Amway but I cataloged the evening as a success because I believe I lit a flickering flame.


Fast forward to 2012. I was working with my line brother Reggie Williams, and Brother Byron Blanchard on a project that would honor the Fraternity, and would also honor each of the 12 Founders with a Black History Founders Calendar. I had the opportunity to talk to each of the living Founders during the time I was managing the project. It was during a conversation with Founder Slade that he discussed his dream of having his Kenyatta become a member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity during or before the 50th Celebration of Iota’s Founding. John actually tasked me with the responsibility of making that happen.

It was my extreme pleasure to make those contacts to ensure that during the 50th Celebration and the 31st Conclave that Kenyatta Slade became a brother in his father’s and our fraternity.  It was one of the highlights of my fraternal life to be in the room during the crossing ceremony of Kenyatta Slade and witnessing the initial fraternal handshake between father and son. You see what I envisioned when I was 26 on the campus of Howard University came to past when I was 59. So, remembering John Slade for this brother is an experience that has lasted over 4 decades.