Friendship and service. Thatâ€™s what brought us together in the first place. We shared the same interest in being a part of an organization that would use friendship as a platform for doing good, especially in a community that continues to inspire us: Harlem. Betty Obiajulu was the Eastern Area Director and Jackie Robinson was the Chapter Establishment Officer. These magnificent ladies initiated us into the protocols, history, and rituals of Linkdom.
Our interest group was organized by Harriette Morgan-Ecton, who was also our first president. From the beginning Harriette believed that this dynamic group of women she had asked to join her could achieve anything we wanted. We called ourselves the Metro-Manhattan Chapter as we wanted our name to reflect the breath and depth of our backgrounds and our commitment to giving service to the island of Manhattan and in particular the Village of Harlem. Two of our early programs were at Harlem Hospital. We refurbished and decorated the Adolescent Day room.
In addition we commissioned a mural depicting African American sheroes and heroes. In subsequent years we provided respite activities including dinner and theater parties for grandmothers who had primary care of their grandchildren as a result of the mothersâ€™ drug addition and/or incarceration due in large part to the crack epidemic. We were very excited and honored when our national office invited us to be one of the chapters to deliver a new program, Project LEAD: High Expectations, whose goals were to prevent teenage pregnancy and drug abuse and to increase self-esteem and educational aspirations among teens. Our entire chapter jumped in enthusiastically to partner with the Girl Scouts and Pelham Fritz Recreation Center to deliver this program.
Over the years our original group of 38 has grown. We have embraced Links from around the country as they have made New York and Metro-Manhattan their home. We have inducted new talented and enlightened women including daughters of Links into our chapter. Our chain of friendship is constantly renewed and enriched by our expanding membership. Supporting emerging artists, exposing youth to the world of art, and using art as a median to inform our community has been a hallmark of our Arts Programs. We have honored the women photographers whose photographs appeared in the book,Songs of My People and provided paid summer internships for African American college students to serve as docents and study art at the City Museum as well as the Studio Museum of Harlem. These internships exposed students to museum careers, an area where there are few African Americans.
Our collective artistic talents were demonstrated by the creation of the Metro- Manhattan Quilt which is on display here tonight. The baton of leadership was passed on to the talented and prepared Martha Cameron who had served as the chapterâ€™s first Vice President.
Our galas became renowned for raising F-U-N-DS while having F-U-N. Our generous supporters and committed gala chairs enabled us to expand our service projects and provide enhanced services to our community.
The supportive leadership of the executive committee continued as Valerie Lancaster Beal was elected the next president. Metro- Manhattan prides itself on being on the cutting edge of addressing the needs in the Harlem community. For almost ten years, the Services to Youth facet has supported the Youth Achievers: Go to High School â€¦ Go to College Initiative. In partnership with Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity we engage a group of African American and Latino high school boys with uplifting enrichment activities designed to teach them the value of education. Our goal is to inspire them to graduate from high school and continue on to college. We help them through mentoring, college admission guidance, career forums as well as etiquette workshops. Upon matriculation to college, we give them new lap top computers and an initial book allowance. To date in excess of 200 young men have completed the program and in excess of 90% of the young men have continued on to college. We are elated that some of our early graduates have now returned as mentors to the next generation of Achievers. The legacy of excellence in leadership continued under the watch of Link Donna Blackwell. Link Donna welcomed our first wave of daughters of Links into our fellowship, heralding the coming of age of our sisterhood.
The chapterâ€™s commitment to service extends throughout the Diaspora. The International Trends and Services facet reached out to the international community of women to raise awareness of the number of African women who die in childbirth and their economic plight. We sent Mama Kits to Africa to improve the sanitary conditions under which children are delivered Continuing our commitment to the women of the Diaspora, a reception at the Schomburg, exhibited the Art of African Women, and introduced two of the African artists who used their art to improve the economics of their families and communities.
Neither rain, storm or hurricane can impede Metro-Manhattanâ€™s commitment to the children of Jamaica. After the first roof funded by the chapter was destroyed by a hurricane, the ladies of the chapter continued to support the village school with infrastructure improvements, clothing and books.
After many years of unprecedented support of the chapter, Link Hazel Dukes ascended to the presidency and guided us through a period of enhanced engagement with our National organization. Our galas continued to be THE hot ticket every other December as we continued to throw great parties to raise money to fund good works. We have supported the 21st Century Foundation, the Millennium Dance Company, Ralph Lauren CancerCenter, as well as the Katrina relief effort, for example.
We cherish our sisterhood with the extraordinary Black Women who continue to be trailblazers in and beyond our community. At our Spirit of Harlem Awards, we honored the great work of women leaders in Harlem. While taking care of our families and our communities, we are reminded that the caregiver must also take care of herself. National Trends has enthusiastically embraced our Go Red initiative, wherein we support the education of women about heart and related diseases.
True to our Godâ€¦. True to Our Native Land. The ladies of Metro-Manhattan fellowship together at a house of Worship and lunch together in celebration of Foundersâ€™ Day.
Heralded by the First Lady of the State of New York, Metro-Manhattan is a partner with the District 5 School District in encouraging our families to exercise and eat healthy to change the tide of obesity in our community.
The Arts facet addressed the need for organ and tissue transplants in the African American community by producing the film, â€œA Gift of Lifeâ€, funded by a substantial grant from Johnson & Johnson under the direction of a budding young female filmmaker, Andrea Williams. The film features organ transplant recipients, donor families, medical experts, and a religious leader, all addressing the human experiences, myths and fears, and medical issues of organ transplantation. This award winning film has been shown in film festivals and distributed to Links chapters and other non-profit organizations throughout the country.
Our sisterhood has seen many changes in the past twenty years.
- Babies born during our first days, Blair Ecton and Erica Beal are now young ladies attending college.
- Members have come and gone.
- We have had marriages, Cynthia Badie ; Valerie Kennedy
- and deaths Carter Wansley.
We have tried to remain true to our heritage and history – friendship and service, because after all, no matter what happens in this world, friendship and service to others are timeless.