By Colette Panchot
The Links Incorporated is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations committed to enriching and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other people of African ancestry. In 1946 nine female visionaries in Philadelphia set out to respond to the needs of Black women in new ways. They formed The Links, whose motto was simply friends transforming the community through service. They met in each other’s homes during a time when people of color could not safely gather in public, and this practice of meeting in members’ homes continues today.
The Links serves 17,000 members in 299 chapters worldwide, including two Kansas City area chapters. The Links Jackson County, headed by President Dr. Nicole Price, has 43 members and as many alumni, and the group has benefited the local community for nearly 42 years. The chapter is limited to 60 active members, and membership is by invitation to distinguished Black female community achievers.
On March 7, more than 200 online participants engaged in conversation with legislators about laws and policies important to the Black community. Their topics included education, voter engagement and access to voting, and health care access. The group explored maternal health disparities given that Black women in the U.S., regardless of wealth or education levels, are more likely to die in childbirth. The participants also discussed the pros and cons of legal marijuana, its implications in the workplace, and the need to re-evaluate the criminality of marijuana now that its medicinal and recreational use recently became legal in Missouri for those age 21 or older. During election season, the group recently hosted virtual and in-person candidate forums on current issues such as redistricting in Missouri.
“We hope our members will find a topic they are impassioned about and to get involved as an advocate. We are trying to drive long-term change for all,” says Dr. Price.
Black K.A.R.E. is an ongoing initiative that focuses on health and prevention. On April 5, 2023, from noon-3 p.m. at Soiree Southern Cajun Fusion Steakhouse at 1514 E. 18th St multiple Links chapters will host a forum to raise awareness about chronic kidney disease (CKD) and its warning signs. Black Americans are three times more likely to experience CKD and kidney failure than White Americans, and the leading causes are high blood pressure and diabetes. Dr. Price points out that the tool used to test for kidney function does not accurately test those in the Black community.
Education is a big part of The Links’ work. The Jackson County chapter actively supports area youth through art, working in partnership with area theaters to expose children to live productions. In addition, young people will again take part in a private juried poster competition. Their work will be showcased April 29 from 2-4 p.m. at the Black Archives of Mid-America at 1722 E. 17th Terrace in Kansas City. The event will be open to the public.
Funding the “Link With Excellence” scholarship program for Black students is one of the chapter’s longest-standing commitments. Over the past four decades, Jackson County Links has given $500,000 in college scholarships, according to Dr. Price. The program is unique because the students are eligible to renew the scholarships annually throughout their college tenure. Currently eight students are receiving scholarships funded in part by the chapter’s annual major fundraiser. Brunch en Blanc, a celebration of the arts, will take place August 27, 2023, at The Austin, an event space in the Crossroads Arts District.
The Links’ volunteers contributed more than 1 million documented hours of community service nationwide in 2022. Dr. Price, who has been a Links member since 2015, is part of a long and proud tradition of service and abiding friendship among Black women.
“This is Women’s History Month, and I am inspired when I think about what a group of women who are determined and working together can do.”