NewsBlack History Month

The Links, Inc: A women's volunteer service organization enriching African American culture

Posted at 5:11 PM, Feb 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 09:20:22-04

Links Incorporated is an impactful non-profit organization. Founded in 1946, it is the largest nationwide service organization of Black Women in America with more than 300 chapters, six of which are here in Metro Detroit.

WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford asked, “a lot of people don't know about the Links, tell me why?”

“You can't walk on a college campus and talk about the Links, so I think that that's a lot of the mystique behind it, it's not one of those organizations where we're not advertising for members at all,” said Marlin Williams, President Great Lakes Chapter of the Links Inc. & founder of Sister's Code.

Prominent members include Vice President Kamala Harris, Misty Copeland, and the late Betty Shabazz who was married to the late Malcolm X.

“It's now blossomed into an international organization with more than 17,000 members across the country and in many places throughout the world,” said Diane Reeder, Charter Member Great Lakes Chapter of the Links, Inc.

Founded in 1946 in Philadelphia by Sarah Strickland Scott and Margaret Roselle Hawkins, The Links has grown far and wide with a two-fold mission of service and friendship.

Locally, The founder of The Great Lakes Chapter is a well-known educator in Detroit, Dr. Ella May Stapleton, who is now dead. She recruited women with an eye toward creating mother-daughter combinations.

“That mother-daughter combination really created a bond and a real inter-generational feel to our group which we really appreciate,” said Reeder.

The issues the Links touch are far-reaching.

“We just feel that it's important for women like ourselves to make an impact on our people in terms of equity and diversity in terms of addressing the challenges that we face due to racism,” said Reeder.

Community service is a primary focus for all chapters.

The Great Lakes Chapter led an award-winning national town hall series with a focus on intergenerational discussion.

They also took part in a National Book Challenge donating hundreds of books to the Greater Grace Head Start program.

They also work with COTS Peggy's Place by helping homeless women and children.

“We work with these wonderful high school young women empowering them to believe in themselves and we provide them with great opportunity,” said Williams.

For the last decade, all six Metro Detroit chapters of the Links have joined forces for a collaborative effort with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), teaching students job skills and giving them a pathway to earn college scholarships.

Their core mission of friendship and service continues to inspire generations to come.

“I would say for Black History Month the Links uplifted other links so we could be who we are in the community we uplifted other women in the community maybe not links so it's all about that uplift,” said Williams.

The Great Lakes Chapter of Links Inc. will celebrate 50 years of friendship and service this year in May.