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Women’s group is a friend to deserving students

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by Larry Muhammad
Courier-Journal

With college tuition rising faster than inflation, according to education statistics, The Girl Friends Inc., a national black women’s group, relies on a tested remedy: scholarships.

“We’re losing so many of our children because they can’t afford to go to college,” said Patricia H. Beckett, president of the group’s Louisville chapter.

So helping worthy students financially is the purpose of “Celebrating Generations of Friends,” a Friday luncheon at the Galt House Hotel & Suites that will benefit The Girl Friends scholarship fund.

Although open to the public, it is part of The Girl Friends 73rd National Conclave to be held here Thursday through Sunday.

With 45 chapters nationwide and 1,600 members, The Girl Friends Inc. has given out 60 scholarships nationally to men and women since 1995 — two of them $1,500 awards to current University of Louisville students Shanise Shepherd and Shellese Stemwell.

One of America’s most prestigious black women’s groups, it was incorporated with the help of Thurgood Marshall, the civil-rights lawyer who would become the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. One of its founding advisers was Bessye Bearden, mother of famed artist Romare Bearden.

More than 600 members are expected at the convention. The program includes “Celebrating the Greatest,” an opening reception at the Muhammad Ali Center; the “Hat Affair and Luncheon” at Churchill Downs on Millionaire’s Row; and “The Red Rose Gala Dinner Dance” in the Galt House.

Other activities will include a visit to Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky., a luncheon at the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center and a walking tour of historic West Main Street.

Founded during the Harlem Renaissance and originally organized around friendship, The Girl Friends members assist homeless people, support women’s shelters, work in drug treatment programs — and, of course, provide college scholarships.

“What we’re trying to do is continue what we have a long history of doing,” Beckett said, “and that’s lifting up and encouraging our children. College scholarships are part of that encouragement.”

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