The Links, Incorporated are celebrating 75 years of service to the community. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

While a lot has changed since nine Black women in Philadelphia decided to give back to their communities in 1946 and began The Links, Incorporated, the need to uplift and address issues in the Black community has remained. For the past 75 years, The Links are still busy working to make a change and positively contribute to the lives of those in the African Diaspora, except now it’s far more than nine women.

“It was pretty audacious, for to say we’re going to get together with the Philadelphia club, and then we’re going to bring other clubs on board across the Eastern seaboard. So now who we are is an organization of 292 chapters in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United Kingdom.  We have over 16,000 members, we have members all over the world- Germany, we’ve had a Chapter in South Africa.  We are a group of extraordinary women from all walks of life, of African descent, who really are committed to the tenets upon which we’re founded, of Friendship and Service.  We log over one million service hours annually. When we talk about Friendship and Service, we’re not just talking.  We do it,” said The Links President Dr. Kimberly Jeffries Leonard.

“We just are women, amazing, phenomenal women who serve, and really are working to transform our communities,” the organization’s President added.

Though they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty with their many service projects, The Links are a group of successful women from all walks of life.

“Kamala Harris is an honorary members, we have members in Congress, we have CEOs who are breaking the glass ceiling every day, but at the crux of this, are women who believe in friends, being friends who serve, and making an impact in our community, one step at a time, by engaging in, we have program areas, what we call ‘facets,’” Leonard, who is the organization’s 17th President, explained.

The service projects that the women do vary, but all intended to make a difference.

“We have services to youth, the arts, national trends and services, international trends and services and health and human services.  And you’ll see the work that we do, through our chapters, through our partners, are in one or all of these areas.  And we really are making a huge difference,” Leonard said.

Service to the Black community is not new to The Links, it’s true to their mission and founding. 

“In our 75 years, we have worked with the NAACP, one of our co-founders started encouraging all of our members to have life memberships in the NAACP so we can be on the cusp of social justice.  So you can imagine what things looked like then.  We’re still there, we’re still fighting for social justice,” the organization’s President explained. “I’m so proud that we were one of the early signers of the {Crown Act} (legislation to end hair discrimination) and putting our weight in other things, but we have given legacy grants to organizations over the years.”

“Our newest legacy grant will be the Obama Center,” Leonard added.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic still persisting, The Links President explained that the members will still be celebrating their Diamond Jubilee in a major way.

“The Diamond Jubilee is virtual,” she said.  “We’re still in a pandemic.  People are still dying from COVID.  We’re seeing all kinds of residuals.  We’re hearing different information.  The science is moving, but our goal is to protect our members, and our communities, and our members’ families.  So this year is virtual. Our members will engage virtually as we have done since March [2020].”

Even before the 75th celebration, The Links continued their mission of Friendship and Service virtually.

“I can proudly say that because of our leadership and our members, we did not panic, we pivoted.  So we did not miss a beat.  We had the very first virtual assembly, which is our national gathering.  And our service has been just as impactful virtually as it has been in person.  We have not seen a significant decrease in our service, because we all log service hours every year, and our members have been so creative in addressing how we are going to support our communities in this pandemic,  from a virtual, socially distant, safe manner.  We’ve identified what the needs are, from food insecurity, all the way to students having the kind of WiFi and equipment they need to manage virtual learning, masks, supplies, supporting our first responders, supporting our essential employees.  Our chapters have done it all,” President Leonard said. “So we have not let the pandemic- while we all have been touched, or either have lost someone, had COVID, understand the mental health challenges that this kind of isolation brings- our members have stepped up and ensured that we’ve not missed a beat as an organization.  And I’m so proud of that because you don’t often see that.”

For more information about The Links and the organization’s events and initiatives , visit www.linksinc.org.

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!  Join here! 

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor