WOMEN: Our Time to Make History

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COUNCILWOMAN Cherelle Parker

March is Women’s History Month, and the theme for 2019 is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” The theme honors “women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society.”

With this theme in mind, as I reflect on the importance of this month, I want to highlight local women from all walks of life, who have led the charge against various forms of injustice through politics and community organizing. These are the shoulders on which I stand.

Women such as: Dorothy Parker, Viola Reed, Augusta Clark, Marian Tasco, Mary Hurtig, Gerri Walker, Karen Warrington, Jeanette Jimenez, Onah Weldon, Edwina Baker, Emma Chappell, Joann Bell, Linda Miller, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, Cheryl Harper, Joan Howell, Kathy Huggins, Phyllis James, Cornelia Brown, Mary Hughes, Gwen Campbell, Letty Thall, Asenath Talley, Dr. Constance E. Clayton, Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre, Shirley Dennis, Charisse Lillie, Donna Cooper, Lisa Crutchfield, Karen Coates, Ahmeenah Young, Melonease Shaw, Frances Jones, Faatimah Gamble, Margaret Graw, Thera Martin, Patty Jackson, Lisa Collins, Sacaree Rhodes, Donna Cooper and Estelle Richman, just to name a few.

Each of these women, in their own right, deposited something into my life. With great fortitude and perseverance, they made it through time and time again, despite every obstacle, setback, or failure!

That grit and persistence has been instilled in me, and I am proud to follow in the footsteps of these dynamic women. Since first being elected to office in 2005 as a state representative for the 200th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House, the legislative initiatives that I prioritized can be traced back to my support for working families, children, and retirees. That focus has continued since I was elected to City Council in 2015, where I have championed issues such as PHLPreK, community schools, retirement security for private-sector workers, housing preservation and neighborhood stabilization, and diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

I am also proud to have collaborated with Community College of Philadelphia to create Power Up Your Business, a free training program that offers neighborhood-based small businesses the tools they need to grow and thrive. Since launching in 2017, Power Up has helped hundreds of small businesses in every Council district and nearly every zip code. So far, 120 businesses have completed the 10-week peer-based cohort. More than 84% of those participants have been people of color, while nearly 71% have been women. An analysis by Econsult Solutions Inc. estimates that after 10 years, those businesses are 50% more likely to be in business and have annual revenues 50% higher than non-participants.

Furthermore, I have consistently championed legislation that would provide all Philadelphians with a family-sustaining, living wage.

Just last month, I introduced legislation that would put the “Fight for Fifteen” – the fight to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to $15 an hour – on the ballot in this year’s primary election. If the minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour, over a quarter of a million Philadelphians – nearly half of the local workforce – would be affected by the wage increase. Raising the minimum wage would increase incomes, reduce poverty and income inequality, and shrink the reliance on governmental social safety nets, thereby narrowing the gap between the haves and have-nots.

I highlight these issues to demonstrate how, although the issues may have changed slightly over time, our fight to eradicate economic, racial, ethnic, and gender injustice is as important now as ever. I am extremely proud to be among the scores of women, locally, nationally and globally, who have taken up this mantle to use our voices to advocate for the voiceless. The urgency of the moment reminds me of a quote from noted author Helen Keller, who said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

To all my sisters, I say let us continue to lift up the women who have inspired us and resolve to never lose sight of the vision they shared with us to build pathways towards equity for all people.”

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