Valuing friendship and service, The Links, Incorporated, organization responds to the needs of the African American community.
Those values led member Mattie Compton, a retired federal prosecutor, to join The Links in 1985. When she came into the organization, she knew some of the members as her elementary school teachers who invited her into membership.
“That really makes an impression on you, that people that have taught you think enough of you to want to have you join them,” Compton said.
She said that she has enjoyed the organization so much because she doesn’t have sisters, and Links gave her these sisters to support her when she was going through difficult times after her father and brother died.
“They also congratulate me when I have won an award of some type and to just be there on a day-to-day basis, somebody to talk to and to be friends with,” Compton said. “It has been wonderful because I’ve gotten to know these ladies.”
Origins of The Links, Incorporated
The original idea of The Links goes back to 1946, when women of color were fighting for equity after the end of World War II. This year, the national organization celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Women of The Links are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of the African American community and to other people of African ancestry.
- The Fort Worth chapter was established Dec. 5, 1959, by 10 friends.
- Currently 47 members and 11 alumnae members.
- They can only have 60 active members.
- DOAL (Daughter of a Link), they are not included in those 60 active members so some memberships are more than 60.
The Links’s motto is “linked in friendship and connected in service,” and members try to uphold it through their community work.
They have members from all types of professions such as physicians, attorneys, educators and principals.
Beatrice Self, a retired accountant, is president of the Fort Worth chapter. She said her job is easier because women come with not only a wealth of knowledge, but a wealth of experience.
“Since our organization as a whole is based on friendship, when a member brings in someone to our organization, then we trust that member is bringing in a friend,” Self said. “When she brings a friend in, that friend automatically is a friend to the rest of us so in that respect when we think about the sisterhood and the friendship that the organization is built on.”
How to join
Membership is by invitation. The organization meets on Zoom because of COVID-19 but usually meets at The Fort Worth Club once a month.
Contact email: email@example.com
Contact number: 504-717-5548
Current community work
When Self came into the organization 17 years ago, it had one charter member still living, Marie Brooks, who still was able to participate in activities.
It was a big moment for Self when she met a charter member.
“I’m always very proud that I got a chance to know and got a chance to talk to an actual charter member of a 62-year-old chapter, so that is especially dear to me,” she said.
The Links has five committees: the arts, services to youth, national trends and services, international trends and services, and health and human services.
The arts program aims to uplift African American artists, whether they are visual or performing artists. It also focuses on people involved in culinary arts and African American writers and designers.
Within the Fort Worth chapter, there are three programs focused on young people.
The first one is called NSBE juniors (National Society of Black Engineers). There is a NSBE junior that helps kids to start becoming active in science technology, engineering and math.
This program exposes children to people who have careers in those fields who look like them, and activities that embrace the idea that they can become a mathematician or even a scientist.
“They learn how to feel and be competent in working within those fields,” Compton said.
Their other program is Links2Leadership, and that program is currently being conducted at Morningside Middle School where they work with Girl Scout Troop 3950. They are part of the Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains and within this program they are teaching middle school girls and giving them scouting leadership experience. The Links brings speakers in who may talk about something that is related to them getting a Girl Scout badge.
Last year, state Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, also one of The Links’ members, talked to the girls about the process of being engaged in the right to vote, how to become eligible to vote, how to help their parents and anyone that they know who was old enough to vote, and how to register to vote, Compton said.
The third program the organization has for youths is called “Leadership and Beyond.” This program is being conducted virtually because of COVID-19, but they have entered a partnership with Tarrant County Community College, South Campus, to identify high school students for young women they would work with.
TCC has a program where students can acquire their associates degree and their high school diploma at the same time. They work on identifying world issues and teach them how to speak, be advocates and recognize how world issues are impacting them.
Another one of The Link’s programs, national trends and services, focuses on issues such as making sure people are aware of how to handle their money.
“We are having an association with Dress for Success, where we help women to re-engage; let’s say they got a divorce, been a victim of domestic violence or abuse. We are able to help them to learn how to get back into the marketplace, how to conduct themselves and be successful in reentering society,” Compton said.
Last year, The Links worked hard to make sure all communities, particularly people of color, would complete the census and be counted, Compton said.
“We also focus on Black Lives Matter, so we work on programming where we engage with cities and governmental bodies to talk about how our young people and adults can safely interact with law enforcement,” Compton said.
As they engage with cities and governmental bodies, they teach what children should do if they get stopped by law enforcement and within the program they are trying to change the outcomes that have occurred as a result of the killings in Fort Worth and nationwide of unarmed African American people, she said.
The international trends and services program works toward helping abate the level of human trafficking.
“We engage in activities that will help our young women to learn how to work in a global economy, focus on things like helping when there is a situation, like the last earthquake in Haiti for example,” Compton said.
A program most recently established by The Links is health and human services. This has been a focus because of the pandemic. Members are making sure people are aware of accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine, how to protect themselves, and encouraging people in the community to get it.
At the end of September, The Links had its Walk for Healthy Living virtually. Members walked with their families in their houses, backyards, and some open spaces where they socially distanced. The walk helps promote physical activity.
The Links milestones
With most of the chapter’s work being done with Morningside, last year’s members gave 20 girls laptops to help aid and allow them to be able to get on Zoom for their program meetings and schoolwork.
“It has been a really good rewarding program,” Self said. “We have had girls graduate from the program to go on into high school. We’ve got several girls still with us whether they are in high school, and so we’re very proud of that when you work programs and the kids tend to want to stay with you.”
As some of the girls have gone off to high school, they help with the younger girls.
“We try to make sure that the girls we work with are girls that don’t have the privilege of being exposed to things such as families where the income is larger,” Self said.
Other milestones for the chapter is donating to Bass Performance Hall, where a marker recognizes The Links as a donor.
As an organization, they are still improving their chapter and have many goals.
“Our goal now is to improve among our facet programs,” said Self. “During COVID times we’re not allowed to go out and meet in public so everything is done on Zoom so we’re continuing our work as well as making plans and doing an assessment of each one of our programs so that we can come up with what can enhance these programs.”
In another 75 years, Self said, she thinks the organization will be at its limit of 60 members and will continue to grow in the community to better serve those who don’t know about The Links now.
Compton thinks The Links will be a go-to organization in the community for growth, expansion, diversity and equity.
She hopes the organization can get the funding for the home at 1201 E. Terrell Ave., which is where the Fort Worth chapter was chartered.
“I’d love for us to have this as a Links house because it is in the heart of an African American community,” Compton said.
Fort Worth Report fellow Lonyae Coulter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.