The legacy of The Philadelphia Links is the story of The Links, Incorporated. It is also the story of the Eastern Area. What began as the Philadelphia Club in 1946, along with 13 other clubs created in its own image, was reborn as National Links in 1949.
In 1954, when the Links decentralized into four geographical Areas, the Philadelphia Chapter became the anchor for the Eastern Area. The Eastern Area is comprised of 76 chapters in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. At the 1949 national meeting, the Executive Council named coordinators to supervise chapters in defined boundaries. In 1952, each Area held an Area meeting and elected a director. Eastern named Madeline Broadus from the Central New Jersey (NJ) Chapter as the first Eastern Area Director, and it subsequently chose 16 others, including the recently elected Area Director, Natalie H. Fant, Arlington (VA) Chapter.
Programming has always been the heart of the Eastern Area, as reflected in the stellar initiatives the Area has conducted. The Links’ National Association for the advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Life Membership project, the first national program effort, was the brainchild of Eastern Area member Daisy Lampkin, Pittsburgh (PA) Chapter. For the Non–Governmental Organizations’ forums held as part of the United Nations’ Decade for Women 1976–1985, Eastern Area Links participated in and were leaders in all four, beginning with the Mexico City meet. Individual Area Directors have pushed a variety of programs. Sixth Eastern Area Director (1973–1979) Thelma Hardiman, Buffalo (NY) Chapter, stressed the importance of friendship. Rating Her service, Hardiman said, “… to have the opportunity of carrying out our purpose by giving Link Sarah (Strickland Scott) the love and friendship that she so aptly deserves is a very satisfying accomplishment.” The Eastern Area Historical Facts booklet was released during her tenure. Seventh Eastern Area Director (1979–1983) Mignon B. Johnson, Arlington (VA) Chapter, pushed the African Water Wells Project to improve children’s access to clean water in African villages. She encouraged support through a number of incentives, including the establishment of the Paragon Award given to chapters that exemplified the best of Link programming. Ninth Eastern Area Director (1987–1991) Betty Obiajulu, Greater New York Chapter, chose a programmatic theme of “Renewing Our Heritage in the Black Family.” Obiajulu established the Hardiman–Johnson Award, introduced the concept of area suites at Area conferences, and conducted the 1st Leadership Enhancement Leadership Workshop in 1992. Tenth Eastern Area Director (1991–1993) Barbara Dixon Simpkins, Prince George’s County (MD) Chapter, focused on “Strengthening The Black Family through Friendship, Love, and Service.” Simpkins visited a record 91 percent (65 of 71) of chapters to encourage and assist chapters in programming and sisterly relations. She also installed three chapters and composed the Eastern Area Conference theme song. “Serving Up Success” was the theme for Cecelia B. Henderson, Buffalo (NY), 11th Eastern Area Director (1995–1999). Chapters responded with what Henderson called “programs that were strong, viable, and meaningful.” Henderson created the 50th Anniversary quilt and released a video of success, “Do Some Good Each Day.” Additionally, chapters of the Eastern Area ranked first in volunteer hours, charitable contributions, Blankets of Hope contributions, and NAACP Life Memberships. Henderson also initiated the idea of the Eastern Area Archival Repository. Alethia L. Spraggins, Washington (DC) Chapter, 12th Eastern Area Director (1999–2003) established the P.A.L. project—a divisional leadership assistance program. Spraggins set-up the first Eastern Area website (eastlinks.org) and designed CLONES (Connecting Links Offering New Experiences to Sons). Under her leadership, life–sized models of Co–Founders Margaret Roselle Hawkins and Sarah Strickland Scott were installed in the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Spraggins also secured a repository site for the Eastern Area’s archives at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and she authored “Living Treasures: 30 Years of Area Stars,” a booklet chronicling the leadership of Eastern Area Directors. Joyce C. Lowe, Boston (MA) Chapter, 13th Eastern Area Director (2003–2007), adopted the theme, “We are the power of many.” Declaring, “We can, we will, we must light the way to touch tomorrow today,” Lowe developed and distributed a booklet on programs throughout the Eastern Area. As a result, umbrella programming increased across the Eastern Area, and collaborations and partnerships became common for all program facets. Lowe also improved the content, substance, and the flavor of the Eastern Area Conference by increasing the proliferation and diversity of program workshops, offering 21 program workshops. Bishetta D. Merritt, Washington (DC) Chapter, 14th Eastern Area Director (2007–2011) acknowledged that under her leadership, chapters are “making permanent footprints” to reach goals outlined in Merritt’s Mission Statement: “… enhance the quality of life for the Black child, promote the cultural contributions of our people to American society, foster economic development of our communities through our Foundation, and contribute to the creation of public policies that reflect the impact of the 21st century on the communities we serve.” The array of programs includes the National Cares Mentoring Movement, designed to mobilize community mentors and advocate for young people in a proven way. Merritt also created Cares Circles, opportunities for community leaders to share best practices for turning underserved schools into successful, safe learning environments. Dianne S. Hardison, Old Dominion (VA) Chapter, 15th Eastern Area Director (2011-2015), with her motto “Leveraging the Legacy of Friendship & Service,” championed robust programs in all of the five facets during her term as Area Director. Her frequent leadership summits held within the Area greatly enhanced the abilities of officers and key appointees fortifying her second motto of “Leveraging the Treasurer of Leadership.” Other worthy efforts include the “Links Go Green in the East” poster art contest, an initiative to encourage young people to envision health and wellness messages for use in their daily lives and to practice “green” conservation. Additionally, the Area fostered Education Across the Miles by sponsoring visits to the National Assembly for two students enrolled in Link South African schools funded by Eastern Area chapters. It also has a public policy newsletter to expand knowledge on foreign public policy issues.
Pauline Maloney (3rd)
Pauline A. Ellison (6th)
Dolly Deselle Adams (8th)
Barbara Simpkins (12th)
Prince George’s County (MD)
Gladys Gary Vaughn (13th)
The imprints of many other Eastern Area members have also been etched into the national structure. Lula Lang–Jeter, Arlington (VA) Chapter, served as National treasurer and also served as treasurer of The Links Foundation; 3rd Area Director Bessie Hill served as National recording secretary; 4th Area Director Beatrice Butler served as the first National recording secretary and National treasurer; 6th Area Director Thelma Hardiman served as National vice president; 11th Area Director Cecelia B. Henderson served as National recording secretary, and Marjorie H. Parker, Washington (DC) Chapter, served as National archivist and wrote the first two editions of the history of The Links. Others holding office on the National level include Barbara Stokes, Delaware Valley (PA) Chapter, archivist; Myrtle Manigault Stratton, Philadelphia (PA) Chapter, recording secretary; Lottie Dinkins, Central New Jersey (NJ) Chapter, vice president; Dorothy Reed, Greater New York (NY) Chapter, treasurer; Janet Jones Ballard, Richmond (VA) Chapter, parliamentarian; Nan Johnson, Annapolis (MD) Chapter, director of the National Headquarters; Mary P. Douglass, Prince George’s County (MD), chief administrative officer; and Mary E. Clark, Reston (VA) Chapter, interim director of The Links, Incorporated. Also playing key roles were Flavia R. Walton, Prince George’s County (MD) Chapter, director of Project LEAD: High Expectations and chair, Strategic Planning; Thelma Daley, Annapolis (MD) Chapter, chair, Strategic Planning, and NGO Alternate; and Etta Phifer, Baltimore (MD) Chapter, first chair of the Constitution Committee.
Members of the Eastern Area elected Area Director.
Betty Obiajulu (9th)
Greater New York (NY)
Cecelia B. Henderson (11th)
Alethia L. Spraggins (12th)
Dianne S. Hardison (15th)
Old Dominion (VA)
Merritt, B. (2008). The Eastern Area. Seattle, WA:The Links, Incorporated.
Parker, M. H. (1992). A History of The Links, Incorporated (2nd ed.).
Washington, DC: The Links, Incorporated.
Spraggins, A. Living : 30 Years of Area Stars.
Stokes, B. (2007). Eastern Area Historical Facts (Vol. 1): The Links, Incorporated.