The Sisterhood-Sit-In Trolley Tour is back, visiting businesses owned by Black women in the City of Brotherly Love

Eight Philly businesses owned by Black women are highlighted on the Sisterhood-Sit-In Trolley Tour.

The Sisterhood Sit-In Trolley Tour’s guide, Starfire, poses with Philadelphia’s 40+ double dutch team on the bus on March 9, 2024.

The Sisterhood Sit-In Trolley Tour’s guide, STARFIRE, poses with Philadelphia’s 40+ double dutch team on the bus on March 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Jeannine Cook launched the Sisterhood-Sit-In Trolley Tour four years ago. And now, it’s becoming a cherished tradition in Philadelphia.

“Although Black women were opening businesses at a rapid pace, our businesses were closing at an equally rapid pace,” Cook, who is also the owner of Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown, said. “And so here is the tour, which says to people during Women’s History Month, no better time to support the women in your communities.”

Jeannine Cook poses for a photo
Jeannine Cook is the owner of Harriett’s Bookshop. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Harriett’s Bookshop is named after Harriet Tubman, a 19th-century social activist who escaped slavery and dedicated her life to the abolition of slavery as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Cook said after Harriett’s Bookshop opened in February 2020, she began receiving threatening emails. Her response was to organize a Sisterhood Sit-In.

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“We really wanted to come up with methods to protect and serve one another as women in the community,” she said.

Soon after, the Sisterhood-Sit-In Trolley Tour was launched.

Four years later, the Trolley Tour has become so popular it now takes place on a full-sized bus, and the tour guide is the bright, energetic STARFIRE.

“I love being the conductor, the voice, stopping traffic yelling, ‘The sisterhood is here, we’re here, make way for the sisterhood,’” she said. “It’s theatrical, it’s performative, it’s intentional and it just facilitates joy.”

STARFIRE tells stories about the businesses along the route. Sometimes, fellow passengers get a shout out.

“My job is to make sure that you have the best time ever, and also be the voice, tell the stories of these businesses, be the connector that is just the overall conductor of each space,” they said.

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The Sisterhood Sit-In Trolley Tour’s guide, Starfire, speaks to tour-takers on the bus
The Sisterhood Sit-In Trolley Tour’s guide, STARFIRE, speaks to tour-takers on the bus on March 9, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

STARFIRE, who has a theater-arts background, said connections made on the three-hour tour can last a lifetime.

“It’s a time when you can come together, relax, celebrate your sisterhood-ness,” they said. “I like to say we’re doing the sisterhood shimmy cause we’re sitting pretty, and the brotherhood bounce — it’s a time for commerce, connection and community.”

The trolley tours take place at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays for the rest of this month, throughout April and possibly into May as well.

This year’s tour includes eight different businesses owned by Black women, including Harriett’s Bookshop, the Yowie Boutique, Modest Transitions, Trunc, Amazulu Collections, Juiced by B, Coffee, Cream and Dreams and Sweet Nina’s, owned by Nina Perry Bryan.

“We are excited about being a part of this tour,” Bryan said. “Philadelphia is a wonderful city to visit, this is the month for women and there are so many African American businesses out there.”

People browse books in Harriet's Bookshop
The Sisterhood Sit-In Trolley Tour participants browse reading selections at Harriett’s Bookshop before the tour. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

STARFIRE stressed the Trolley Tour is not just for Black women.

“Everyone can come in and enjoy it, it is an inclusive experience celebrating sisterhood, celebrating Black women-owned businesses, but everyone will get into this joy,” she said.

Tourgoers will have ample time for shopping at each location.

Cook said last year’s Sisterhood-Sit-In Trolley Tours included people of all different colors and backgrounds from 72 different zip codes.

“It means that some people get to see Philadelphia who have never seen the city,” she said. “Some people are returning home, and others see a part of Philly they’ve never seen before.”

Tickets for the morning and afternoon tours are $50. Reservation information is available online. You can get information by emailing, especially for reserving a large group.

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