Power is Rising in Philly as hundreds of Black women tackle issues at conference

The conference provides an opportunity to discuss and find solutions for the issues Black women face, and to empower and inspire the next generation of leaders.

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Cherelle Parker speaking at a podium

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker spoke to attendees of the Power Rising conference on February 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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It was a meeting of the minds.

Hundreds of Black women from across the country came together in downtown Philadelphia to attend the Power Rising conference taking place this weekend.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker delivered a speech that commanded a round of applause as she shared her story of the challenges she faced while rising to the city’s top political spot.

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“It took a village of educators, a community that came together that said despite the fact the life for this little black girl ain’t been no crystal stair(case), we’re going to make sure that she has everything she needs to survive,” shared Parker as the crowd began to erupt in applause.

Her message resonated with many women in the audience.

Cherelle Parker speaking at a podium
Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker spoke to attendees of the Power Rising conference on February 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Parker is the first woman and first Black woman to be elected mayor in a city where, in 2023, Blacks made up 43 percent of the city’s population compared to whites, who made up 33.9 percent, according to data from census.gov.

Despite the high population of Black residents, Parker shared she still faced some challenges during her run for office and even now as Mayor.

“99.9 percent of the people may agree with you,” said Parker as she told the crowd the remaining percent may not.

She also said that for those people who don’t agree, it can sometimes feel like they are ‘throwing shade’ to darken a person’s mood.

She advised the crowd, “As you are realizing that our power is rising, do not let anyone throw shade on your shine.”

Other speakers discussed the struggles Black women face in the workplace and in life, but also shared various approaches to address them.

Political strategist Symone Sanders-Townsend, Massachusetts’ first Black female Attorney General Andrea Campbell, civil rights activist Tamika Mallory and in a video message, Vice President Kamala Harris all shared their experiences and delivered the message that despite the obstacles Black women may face, they are not alone.

Some issues considered during the conference included the increase in maternal mortality rates, pay disparities, inequity in healthcare, the elimination of diversity, equity and inclusion positions and how systematic racism is often coded into artificial intelligence.

Rev. Shavon Arline-Bradley and Andrea Joy Campbell
Rev. Shavon Arline-Bradley, president of the National Council of Negro Woman and CEO of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions (left) and Andrea Joy Campbell, Massachusetts Attorney General (right) on a panel discussing critical issues affecting Black women at the Power Rising conference in Philadelphia on February 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Attendees shared that while it’s admirable that Black women are more frequently advancing to high-ranking positions in positions previously dominated by white men, many of those women face constant and undue scrutiny.

South Jersey native and President of the National chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, Shavon Arline-Bradley, has been coming to the conference since it began. As a panelist on “The State of Black Women: critical issues, critical action” session she said, “It means a safe space and it’s an inclusive safe space for every black woman’s experience and a place for empowerment.”

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“It will help you go out into the real world and experience what does it mean to be a Black woman who is bold who is beautiful and who knows what she wants.”

First-time attendee and Philly educator of some 30 years, Nancy Campbell, says she came to the conference to see how education can be improved to train the next generation of leaders.

Nancy Campbell
Nancy Campbell, an educator and the founder of NWC Edunomics LLC, attended the Power Rising conference in Philadelphia on February 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“We have a lot more power than we think we do in a lot more places than we think we do,” said Campbell. She continued, “Sharing with women who are looking to make an impact not just (women) who just talk. Now that you leave what are going to do, how are you going to have an impact on your neighborhood and in your community.”

Temple University student Nadia Chichester, who is currently the student President of the collegiate chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, shared that sentiment. Chichester enjoyed attending Power Rising for the first time with her chapter members. She said she hopes to find ways to help the communities around her campus, “We in Philly see the disparities especially with black women right outside of our campus. I feel like this is an educational issue, economical issue, and this is also an issue of classism.”

three women posing in the conference hall
West Chester University students Natalie Campbell (left) Udodirim Onyemachi (center) and Alexis Varner (right) attended the Power Rising conference in Philadelphia on February 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Just as the future may look dim, it also shines bright as Chichester says she hopes she and fellow members of her collegiate chapter of the NCNW can use what they learned at this conference to rise to the challenge and empower other Black women when they return home.

“We need to be proactive in our environments with Black women and all women and continue to be a force to be reckoned with in our education and policy making,” said Chichester.

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