Members of Knoxville (TN) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Photos by Vickie Johnson

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — The event was compelling, informative, and eye opening for those who attended the Black K.A.R.E. Project held at Vine Middle School in East Knoxville on Saturday the 28th of January. The community event was held for the second year by the Knoxville TN Chapter of The Links Incorporated. During the event which was free and open to the public, medical and health care professionals discussed what chronic kidney disease is, the effects on the human body, and how to slow its progression.

Black a national initiative of The Links to raise awareness and prevention of chronic kidney disease. The letters stand for Kidney Awareness Resources Education. The event shed light on several little-known facts about kidney disease that can be lifesaving including the facts that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for kidney disease, over 37 million have kidney disease and don’t know it., and the two leading causes of kidney disease are diabetes and heart disease. During the event one Knoxville leader shared his story in hopes of saving the lives of others.

Joe Armstrong, owner, WJBE Jamming 99.7 Radio

Joe Armstrong owner of WJBE radio station spoke of his journey to his kidney transplant, speaking of the initial decision to do dialysis after being diagnosed, to the miraculous 3 am phone call that said he was a match for a kidney and the drive to Kentucky to have the lifesaving surgery that changed his quality of life for the better; a life now filled with exercise and walking, eating right and the ability to now play many holes of golf, 

It wasn’t the story of his journey that was the most compelling part of his testimony, it was the lessons he shared that confirmed the information being shared by The Links with the community; about the signs and symptoms he felt prior to his diagnosis, including the effort it took to climb a flight of stairs, the loss of energy he experienced over time, and the need to tell others what you are going through. As an African American and a respected and trusted messenger in the community, his words carried much weight among the attendees.

Black Americans are at a much higher risk for kidney disease as compared to White Americans. This alarming trend has been on the rise for the past few years. Data from the United States Renal Data Service, indicate that while Black Americans are 13 percent of the American population, they are 35 percent of the population suffering from kidney failure and are four times more likely to suffer from kidney failure. Speaking of the importance of getting tested, Armstrong spoke of the reluctance of Black men to visit their doctors and stressed the importance of sharing the important information that the Links event had brought into the community.

Knoxville Links President Jan E. Brown

The Links, Inc is an international not-for-profit corporation that began in 1946 with a mission to enrich, sustain, and ensure the cultural and economic survival of African Americans and others of African ancestry. Now in its fifty-second year, the Knoxville Chapter was established in 1970 with a mission to transform the lives of the underprivileged and underserved in the Knoxville community through their facet programs: Health and Human Services, National Trends and Services, Services to Youth, The Arts, and International Trends and Services.

The Knoxville chapter was one of only 70 chapters selected to participate in the national initiative. In her press release, Jan Brown, President of the Knoxville chapter said, “The Knoxville (TN) Chapter is elated to be a recipient of the Black K.A.R.E. grant. The funds allow us to educate members of the Knoxville community. We will high lite the importance roles diet, and exercise play in the prevention of chronic kidney disease.”

More information about the K.A.R.E. program can be found at