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2023 July Mag

June 27, 2023

Noted publisher and civic leader Sylvia Perry, has a very special mantra that she shares with audiences, “excellence is the fine line between what you can do and what you’re capable of.” Sylvia Perry

Image of beautiful black woman smiling in front of a white draped background wearing a cream colored suit jacket and a large green stone pendant with gold chain on a Cerese D magazine cover

Choose to Lead

While some may choose to follow or turn their head at destiny, Sylvia Perry chose to lead.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of an entertainment executive turned publisher found treading in her mother’s footsteps a natural progression. She served as Student Council President in high school, and in college worked alongside famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to elevate Florida State University’s Black Student Union to unparallel heights.

“Those days were crazy. Ben was the BSU president and I was the communications director. We created the BSU’s first newspaper and challenged everything. That was before the age of the internet so our publication was a hot commodity. I am so proud of what we both did and what we are doing now.”

Professionally, she is the publisher of the Free Press of the Jacksonville Free Press, a 36-year-old weekly newspaper serving the African-American Diaspora of Northeast Florida. Her responsibilities include the overall production of the weekly newspaper including procurement and assignment of articles, representation of the newspaper throughout the community, selection and assignment of photos, quality control and maintaining industry standards.

Trying Times

She maintains that yes these are trying times for her industry, especially in the age of social media. But while there remains a thirsty customer base, the publication will continue. For Perry, her service to the community doesn’t stop with educating the masses.

Image of beautiful black woman smiling in front of a white draped background and sitting on white chain wearing a cream colored suit and a large clear beaded necklaceWhile Crump is making waves throughout the country fighting for the underserved, Perry has made her mark just completing a four-year term in The Links, Incorporated as its Southern Area Director. Armed with degrees including a B.A. in Mass Communications, Masters’ in Organizational Leadership and a Jurist Masters, she utilized her business savvy and communication acumen to lead the Links’ southern region.

With so much going on in the world and pulls for attention, how does one choose to be committed to one in what seems like a full-time job?

“It’s been said “to whom much is given, much is required,” said Perry. I live a good life and am blessed to pay it forward through a historic well-respected entity like The Links, Incorporated. 

Passion for Productivity

You can walk into any room Links occupy and you smell the passion for productivity. Whether it be a luncheon, town hall meeting or community forum, the like-minded sisters of color all have something in common – making a difference.

Representing seven states and The Bahamas in one of the oldest women’s service organizations in the country allowed her to continue her dedication to service throughout the Southeast.

Under her tenure, the area’s 84 chapters received over $1 million in funding. She also introduced the Southern Area (and open to the country at large), to a series of  Virtual Town Hall Meetings as an innovative approach to community programming in the pandemic.

“The pandemic was rough. We had to pivot to stay on our mission and create content that was interesting and motivating to the community,” she shared.

Under her leadership, the organization’s award-winning program team presented a series of social justice virtual town halls with nationally recognized leadership with topics such as Justice or Just Us, Thriving, Surviving and Mobilizing in the New South, and Moving Beyond Our Kind of People.”

She selfishly admits one of the best parts of the job is being able to visit and see members while sharing how a difference can be made.


“I adore hanging out with my sisters. The sister circle always make you feel good as we trade war stories on everything from our personal and private life to fashion. I can always look around and see one thing in common. You recognize successful looks will always include a piece of Cerese D jewelry.”

As the look of success is the tie that binds so is the commitment to community investment.

In alignment with the organization’s national agenda. Perry created several initiatives for chapters to apply to their grassroots communities. Healthy Homestead, Closing the Gap, Artist Noir, Links in Pink, SA Links Love HBCUs and Connecting Threads were all implemented with guidance toolkits and grants enabling chapters to make a difference.

“Whether your chapter’s advocacy agenda was breast cancer awareness, arts exposure, HBCUs, or even STEAM, we had something that could be done. My team took the excuse out of making a difference,” said Perry.

“Even in the pandemic, all of these programs were able to be implemented virtually to keep the underserved at the forefront of the agenda.”

The result exposed thousands in Southern communities to benefit from the opportunities Links chapters had to offer. To celebrate the end of her tenure, the Southern Area established an $85,000 HBCU scholarship.

Community Engagement

While presenting stellar service in Links’ leadership, Sylvia continued her professional work on the home front as a newspaper publisher.  Her community engagement includes having served on numerous civic boards and committees including Planned Parenthood, Jacksonville Urban League, Leadership Jacksonville, and more. Over the years the Free Press has received awards from prestigious organizations including the NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sickle Cell Association, Girl Scouts, Clear Channel, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the Onyx Award among others. Her travels as a seasoned journalist have taken her to locations such as Libya, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Sudan and The White House.

In addition to owning a boutique PR firm and a property management company, she maintains that continuing the legacy began by her mother over 36 years ago is “something that she has to do.”

Now that her Links’ tenure is over, Perry said it’s no need to wonder what she will tackle next.

“I can say thus far it has been an interesting, charmed life full of opportunities. And while this juncture has come to an end, what I’ve learned and experienced will take my contributions of service to the next level.”

What that “level” will be – who knows, but one thing is for sure, following and getting out of the way has never been an option.

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