Black History Month is underway, and a local women’s service group will honor black men from Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley area who have been an inspiration to others and have served as role models and mentors for community youths.
The organization is called The Links Inc., founded nationally in 1946. According to its website, the membership consists of more than 15,000 professional women of color in 288 chapters located in 42 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United Kingdom.
It is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women who are committed to “enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and other persons of African ancestry.”
The Youngstown Chapter of the Links will host its Black Diamond Leadership Brunch at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 at The Embassy Banquet Centre, 5030 Youngstown-Poland Road.
Valley businessman Herb Washington will serve as honorary chairman, and Nathaniel Jones, Youngstown native now living in Cincinnati and a retired judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will receive the 2019 Black Diamond Legacy Award. A total of 54 men and youths will be honored.
Yours truly will serve as the celebrity master of ceremonies.
The local Links chapter has been around for more than 60 years and has invested its time and resources to improve the quality of life of its members and its community. Its motto is “Linked in Friendship, Connected in Service.”
This year, the Links has launched its “Give from the Heart Campaign” to change the narrative of college access and retention opportunities for black youths, especially the Valley’s black men.
I am going to state the obvious. Despite what is seen on television and reported in newspapers, not all black men are irresponsible, criminals or a threat to our society.
As stated by Marge Staples, chapter president, in a news release, “So often the image of what black males are doing is portrayed as negative and lack of purpose. This is an opportunity to say we value the contribution of all members of our community, and today’s special focus is on black males.”
In 2016-18, the chapter launched the grass-roots program named Black Diamonds Leadership.
The organization says the term “black diamonds” is symbolic. It refers to the men who have demonstrated “a highly successful collection of leadership, achievements, community service and demonstrated compassion to serve others.”
The community was encouraged to submit names of youngsters and men, primarily in Youngstown, who are role models, successful in school and achieved good grades, nurturing fathers and those successful in business and other endeavors.
The diamonds are placed in three categories – diamond chips (age 8-18), rough diamonds (age 19-40) and polished diamonds (age 40 and older).
The Black Diamonds Leadership program received the attention of the national organization and presented the local chapter with the Legacy Award as the most “outstanding community endeavor” among all the Links programs nationwide from 2016-18.
Event proceeds will benefit the “Give from the Heart Campaign” to provide opportunities and expose Valley high-school and community college students to the campuses of historically black colleges and universities, two of which are in Ohio (Wilberforce and Central State universities, both in Wilberforce, near Xenia).
Students on these tours can expect to get a taste of college life, receive curriculum information, admission requirements and find out about financial aid and scholarship availability.
The local chapter says evidence shows 44 percent of the students who go on the tour enroll at a historically black college or university.
Also, HBCUs award 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by black college students nationwide.
Tickets for the brunch are $30. For information, call 330-518-1127, go to the Links Facebook page, www.facebook.com/youngstownohchapterofthelinksincorporated, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ruthie D. King is Black Diamond chairwoman.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at email@example.com