About 3,500 people nearly filled the spacious Metropolitan Opera House of Philadelphia to witness the inauguration of Mayor Cherelle Parker. The line to enter was still hundreds long well after the ceremony was scheduled to start.
The historic nature of the day was on the minds of many who had acquired tickets.
Janice Sykes-Ross said that Parker’s election is already making a difference for Philadelphians.
“This is our year, as a Black woman, having a woman leading the city of Philadelphia,” she says.
“Having the first African American female mayor in Philadelphia is [a] historic occasion,” said Philly resident Julie, who declined to give her last name. “I definitely want to be here to be a part of that and to cheer her on.”
Cecilia Fernandez told WHYY News the festivities were warranted. “You know, the 100th mayor, the first female mayor, it’s important,” she said. “It’s a good thing to celebrate.”
When asked about why she thought the day was significant, Marlene Olshen replied, “Well, first of all, first woman mayor, second of all, 100 years, and, third, hope.”
Beyond the significance of the day, attendees were adamant they had elected the right person to face the equally significant challenges the city faces.
“There’s a lot of challenges in our marginalized areas,” said Brittany Smalls of Mt. Airy. “There’re housing concerns, crime, education, and those are just some of the issues that I think we need to face head-on and really have a strategy. And her plan is to bring everybody together to strategize.”
Several supporters shared with WHYY News they focused on what they believe to be Parker’s inclusive management style.
“Cherelle is very intuitive, she’s very compassionate and, with the issues that Philadelphia is facing, we are going to need a leader that understands how to listen and how to work with people to make things happen,” explained Linda Fields. “Because if you don’t hear the people, you don’t hear their concerns, you don’t know the issues, and she wants to make sure that Philadelphia is safe.”
“We are such a diverse city so it’s a balancing act, but I think she’s going to be up to the task” added Fields’ companion, Dennis Horton. “Her first 90 days to six months is going to tell the tale but we are here because we are in full support of her and we think she’s going to be great.”
Parker’s first term coincides with the nation’s 250th anniversary and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, a fact not lost on many of her supporters.
“We’re coming on 250 so I think now is the right time for us,” Sykes-Ross said. “I hope that she gets the support that she needs and deserves, and I think it will really unify the city and bring us all together to do what we need to do to make Philadelphia the greatest city in the United States.”
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