Life has never been easy for women of color — but they’ve always persevered.
From the pillars of progress like Rosa Parks to mathematician Dorthy Vaughn and present-day giants — Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé and Serena Williams — they’ve overcome insurmountable odds to make their mark on history.
But strong African American women aren’t only found on the national stage, they are the fibers within the fabric of communities across the country. That’s certainly true of Brunswick.
Locally, one group has been a driving force in service and leadership — the Brunswick Links Inc. The organization, founded more than 50 years ago, is part of a national sisterhood, “linked in friendship,” who formed in 1946.
It began with homemakers — dressed to the nines — meeting in their parlors, sharing tea, cakes and conversation. Over time, they broadened their reach. Today, the national Links organization, as well as its individual chapters, focus on service in an effort to benefit their respective communities. Its membership consists of more than 16,000 professional women of color in 288 chapters located in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United Kingdom.
Jackie Bryant, current president of the Links Inc. of Brunswick, said that the group focuses on working for the betterment of Glynn, McIntosh and Camden counties.
“We have five facets of our service work — youth services, the arts, national trends and services, international trends, and health and human services,” she said.
Each year, the organization takes a moment to honor those within its membership who embody these important facets. This year, they will continue a tradition the group began a couple of years back, hosting a tea to honor standout members.
This year’s tea will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel’s Grand Dining Room. Guests will enjoy an afternoon tea served in five courses, a silent auction and musical selections by the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra.
“We are extremely excited this year as we are honoring five influential women who are making a difference through their contributions and commitment to the five facets of our organization and their respective communities,” Bryant said.
Tickets are $65 per person and may be purchased by calling 912-262-6847.
The Women of Influence Honorees to be celebrated this year include: Dawn Bryan, teacher at Mary Lee Clark Elementary School in Camden County, who is being honored for services to the youth; Serena Hall, artist, of Darien, for services to the arts; Capt. Angela Smith of the Brunswick Police Department, honored for national trends and services; Diane Smith, P.h.D. and RN, the medical missions project coordinator for Helping Hugs Inc., who is being honored for the international trends and services category; and Katrina Howard, communicable disease specialist at the Georgia Department of Health, who will be honored for her work in health and human services.
Orah Reed, event chair, said the tea, which is in its second year, allows the group to celebrate the important work these women do. It also helps to gather funds to further that mission.
“By holding a fundraiser, such as this tea, it gives us the opportunity to embrace the community and to show our appreciation for the honorees’ work and the collaborations with our partners,” Reed said.
While the honorees work is impressive and important, the whole of the Links Inc. organization gets involved in making a difference.
One of their annual initiatives is helping facilitate medical teams’ trips to Haiti.
“One of the programs we do, which comes under international trends and services, is a partnership with the Southeast Georgia Health System. Doctors and nurses go to Haiti to serve the underprivileged there,” Reed said.
“We put together survival kits with things like toothpaste, shampoo and socks … anything that they can use.”
But Links members are involved with other programs with the Southeast Georgia Health System.
“We have a program Feb. 21, that is our Red Dress Luncheon where we try to make women aware of heart disease,” Reed said.
“It is free and open to the community. We will have different speakers who will talk about different health issues.”
For Reed and Bryant, all of these programs and partnerships are a way for members to give back in gratitude for all that has been given to them.
“The Links is made up of different women of all different professions who come together for community service. It’s our goal to provide service and give,” Bryant said.
“I think that we are all blessed in certain ways and any time we can give back to the community in which we are a part of, to people who may not have the same advantages … that is important.”