Editor’s note: The following is one of the first articles to appear in Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s recently re-launched student newspaper.
Editor’s note: The following is one of the first articles to appear in Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s recently re-launched student newspaper, The Campus Lantern. It is a feature interview with Cherelle Parker, Democratic nominee for Mayor of Philadelphia and an SCH parent, and has been edited for length and clarity.
In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than seven to one, Mount Airy native and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy mom Cherelle Parker – who won the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor in May – was very likely to win the post as of press time on Tuesday.
Parker – who served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Philadelphia City Council – was poised to break two glass ceilings on election day Tuesday, as she would be both the first woman and the first Black woman to run the city.
Parker, who still finds time to volunteer at her son’s school – said the historical significance of this election is not lost on her.
“That I could even be this close to this opportunity is humbling. I’m extremely grateful,” she said.
Governor Josh Shapiro said he thought she’d “be great” at the job.
“I love Cherelle because she’s a GSDer – you know, a get stuff done-er,” said Shapiro, who served with Parker in the Pennsylvania Statehouse from 2005 to 20212 and is a close ally. “She knows how to build consensus. Now more than ever in government, we need people who can find ways to work together to get stuff done.”
A single parent who became a community organizer in her Northwest neighborhood, Parker is no stranger to hardship.
“My biological father wasn’t a part of my life. My mother was a single teenage mother, and I was raised by my grandparents. I was eleven when my mother died, sixteen when my grandmother died,” Parker said. “I became a community organizer because I felt such a great responsibility when I was so young. There’s a quote by Langston Hughes, ‘Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair’ that’s always resonated with me. Because my life ain’t been no crystal stair, I’ve always had this feeling of responsibility that comes from the people who helped me along my journey.”
Parker believes that youth participation and involvement in local communities can make a difference.
“Even if you can’t vote, if you want clean streets and quality education and human rights, and home ownership and reducing violence, volunteer,” she said.
To be an effective politician, public speaking is a necessity. Luckily for Parker, she has been training since high school, when she won a citywide oratory contest.
“I was terrified because I had never done it before,” Parker said, adding that she now practices “almost every day of the week.
“When I was in school, I’d take my lunch and go practice speaking to myself in the mirror. I learned a lot about my body language,” she said. “That’s the most important thing, you’ve got to project confidence.”
At an early age, Parker discovered a love for English. “Langston Hughes (a famous Black poet, author, and social activist during the Harlem Renaissance) was probably what hooked me on [that subject]. That’s why I named my son Langston.”
Langston, her son, is currently in fifth grade at SCH.
“I can remember coming in and going through the interview when (Langston) was applying for Pre-K.,” she said. “[The teachers] were just so good with [my son]. I love the entire SCH family, the entire SCH community.”
A former English teacher, Parker said she seeks to make “Philadelphia safer, cleaner, greener with economic opportunity for all,” and sees education as a way to achieve that vision.
Lower school teacher Gerri Allen, who described Parker as a “friendly and all about business” kind of parent, said she agreed with her focus on education. “For me, as an educator, I just want people to start putting more emphasis on education in our city.”