By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
[email protected]

More than one thousand women flocked to the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia, donning various styles of fashionable fiery red dresses; however, while the ensembles may have been show-stopping looks for celebrations, the reason for the large gathering was serious business.  

The 12th Annual DMV Links Red Dress Event was held on Feb. 7 to educate on the number-one killer among women- heart disease.

The Mount Rose Maryland Chapter of The Links Incorporated. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) heart disease accounted for about one in five female deaths, killing 299,578 women in 2017.  The term heart disease refers to a range of heart health challenges including coronary artery disease and heart attack.  Despite all the information available on heart disease, and useful resources to help lower the likelihood of fatalities from it, it remains the leading cause of health-related deaths in the United States, and The DMV Links are working to change that tragic statistic.

“Girl, stop playing.  This is serious business,” said President of the Arlington Chapter of The Links Diane Harley.

While the event was a good time to catch-up and network, the importance of the evening was clear.  As soon as attendees finished registration, they were ushered into a large lobby area full of booths and vendors geared toward women and their health.

After getting the opportunity to interact with the vendors and health care professionals present, the DMV Links hosted an entertaining and educational forum and panel focusing on heart health.

The 12th Annual DMV Links Red Dress Event was held on Feb. 7, featuring a distinguished panel of health experts. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

The mistresses of ceremonies were award-winning journalists Andrea Roane and Jennifer Donelan, both of whom are members of local Links chapters.  Donelan, who is currently the Chief spokesperson for Prince George’s County Police and EMS Department, shared how the event particularly resonated with her.

“I experienced a heart attack in my 30s.  I was 36, and I am now proud to say I am 46” Donelan said, garnering a big applause from the audience.  “You will never see me be shameful of my age. I say it loud and proud because everyday is a blessing. Trust me.”

Hundreds of women taking in the health panel at the 12th Annual DMV Links Red Dress Event on Feb. 7 at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

The event also emphasized the need for total body health in caring for the heart- from mental, to physical, to even oral healthcare recommendations.

Panelists for the information sessions included: Dr. Reginald Robinson with MedStar Cardiology Associates; Dr. Sakiliba Mines, an Integrative Family Physician; Dr. Iris Jeffries Morton, interim chairman of Oral Diagnosis and Radiology at Howard University College of Dentistry; Dr. Keisha Mack, co-founder and COO of The MECCA Group, a private psychological and rehabilitative services practice and consulting firm; Germaine Williams, a celebrity beauty, wellness and nutrition expert; and Tasha Cooper a fitness professional.

Guests told the AFRO why the 12th Annual DMV Links Red Dress Event is so important.

Shirley Watkins Bowden, former president of the Arlington Links Chapter, shared the history of the 12th annual event, and how all the DMV Links got involved in combatting heart disease.

“We invited the other chapters in the DMV to join us so that we could really, really spread the word across the DMV, because it was so critical to us for all Black women to understand the number-one killer is not breast cancer, it’s heart disease,” Bowden said.  “And you can prevent this, there’s things you can do to take care of your health and eat right, and changing that whole thought process, which has helped us and encouraged other women to help their families and their young children understand what this means and what heart disease means.  It’s just been amazing.”

Donni Turner, a member of The Prince George’s County Maryland chapter shared why she came back for the 2020 Red Dress Event.

“I think what I learned last year is that, there are a lot of African American women who are encouraging each other and helping each other to be healthy, and that was motivating and inspiring last year and made it fun. It’s not just, ‘eat your vegetables, do your exercise,’ you can partner with your Links sister or with a friend and do something heart healthy that’s good for everybody.”