Project Alpha LA Inc. is gearing up to present the 4th annual L.A. Derby Day on May 4. Louisville, Kentucky may be a long way from Los Angeles, but the Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. are bringing Churchill Downs to California with a live stream of the Kentucky Derby along with live jazz and R&B, a soul food buffet and a “best hat” and outfit contest with celebrity hosts and judges.
This year, L.A. Derby Day is moving to the Rose Garden at the historical Pasadena City Hall. The beautiful location is more than suitable for a day dedicated to “The Run for the Roses.” The fundraising event was founded four years ago by Project Alpha of LA, Inc. — an organization founded in 1980 under the Mu Sigma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
“We thought, why not have a party, with a band and music,” says Raymond Kyser Jr. chairman of the L.A. Derby Day event. “It’s our largest fundraiser. It’s an event where you get to look good and actually have a good time. It’s an opportunity to stand out and show your style. The brighter and bigger, the better.”
Kyser says this event is about more than the horse races and a good time. The event funds scholarships and programs through Project Alpha of LA including the Alpha Junior Gents — a mentoring program that primarily works with Black and Latino young men.
“They just need someone to be there for them – to listen,” says Kyser of the young men he mentors. “These streets are rough and they need a role model. We want them to see guys like us, on a straight path.”
When it comes to the culture of the Kentucky Derby, African Americans are no novelty to the sporting event. What has always been revered as an elitist, white sport was in fact pioneered by African-American men – 13 of the 15 riders in the first Kentucky Derby were Black. L.A. Derby Day celebrates the legacy of those African-Americans who played that vital role in what is known to be the longest running sporting event in the United States.
“So, something like L.A. Derby Day while it’s a really great event, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be great to dress up, but it also sparks us to have a better understanding of our own culture and history,” says Darren Dickerson, publicist for the Mu Sigma Lambda chapter.
This year’s L.A. Derby Day is expected to sell out. In addition to the hat and outfit contest, live music, a full bar and a lunch buffet served by Dulan’s, there will also be a livestream of the races, an app for attendees to place bets, and gaming tables with roulette, blackjack and craps – all of which proceeds go to Project Alpha of L.A.
“It’s about giving back to the community and that’s why we work so hard at this,” says Kyser. We want this to be a destination every May if you’re on the west coast, come to Los Angeles for derby day. That’s our goal.”
General admission tickets are still available for purchase. For more information, visit laderbyday.com.