Wednesday, June 10, 2009

State Rep. Cherelle Parker awarded honorary doctorate from Lutheran Seminary

“Like Langston Hughes said in his poem ‘Mother to Son,’ my life ain’t been no crystal stair…I’m not supposed to be standing here. It is nothing but the hand of God in my life that moved people to help create my village that made it possible.”

Those moving comments by State Rep. Cherelle Lesley Parker of the Commonwealth’s 200th Legislative District, came as she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree recently during the 145th commencement exercises of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP).

Parker, in thanking LTSP for the honor, told the seminary community of graduates-to-be, alums, faculty, staff, and friends, including mentors and family members, that she was brought up “by a teenage mother and grandparents, who needed to secure public assistance to raise me in an environment of drugs of any kind imaginable, [where] the odds were against my success.” She told the gathering she feels her mission as a political leader in today’s challenging time is to “close the gap between the haves and the have-nots” in part by remembering what it once was like to be a have-not. She closed by recalling a remark attributed to Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, which she read from the writings of pioneering African American U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm: “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living here on earth…” She said she believes her debt is “paid up” and she urged the seminary’s present and future leaders “to make sure yours is paid up too.”

Parker was elected in 2005 as the youngest African American woman ever elected to the Pennsylvania State House, representing some 60,000 citizens of her district, which covers portions of Northwest Philadelphia. Her committee assignments include Appropriations and Labor Relations. Parker’s other intensive efforts are on behalf of handgun control, energy conservation, and the special needs of youngsters whose parents are incarcerated. She has actively supported local and state economic development legislative initiatives, including renewal of the Germantown Avenue and Wadsworth Avenue business corridors, and The Brossman Learning Center and William Allen Square on the seminary campus.

A graduate of Lincoln University, Parker serves on numerous boards, including Lincoln’s and the National Congress of Black Women. She earned a Certificate from the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University in 2008 and participated in the University of Virginia Emerging Political Leaders program in 2006. Lincoln named her an Outstanding Alumna in 2007, and she was named one of the Most Influential African Americans in Philadelphia the same year by The Philadelphia Tribune.

Rep. Parker and LTSP President Philip D.W. Krey before commencement

Rep. Parker receiving academic hood (left to right: LTSP President Philip D.W. Krey,
LTSP Dean J. Paul Rajashekar, Rep. Parker, LTSP Board Chair Dr. Addie Butler)

Rep. Parker speaking after receiving Doctor of Divinity degree


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