India Fenner wants the world to know that black women matter. And she's starting with Philly.
The 19-year-old Temple University sophomore organized "A March for Black Women" from City Hall on Friday both to protest violence against black women, at the hands of authorities and others, and celebrate black womanhood.
"I've been to plenty of marches for black men who have been harassed or killed by police," she said in a recent interview. "But when I went to one for Sandra Bland, it was very small."
In 2015, Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, died while in police custody after being arrested during a traffic stop in Texas.
And Fenner skipped the big Women's March in January. "I didn't believe it was quite for black women. There were no chants, 'Black Women Matter.' "
Friday afternoon, more than 100 people gathered outside City Hall ready to do just that. They held signs that read "Black Women Matter," "Fight 4 Black Women" and "Black Women Rock."
Fenner's shirt read: "WE OUT.~ Harriet Tubman."
And they were.
The marchers went through the tunnels of City Hall, Fenner in the front drumming alongside her brother James. The group chanted, "Black Girls Matter!" "Black Girls Rock!" and "Black Queens Matter!"
Kelin Spina, a high school art teacher in Phoenixville, was among several white women who came out in support. "I feel like they're uncelebrated, and it's important to come out and show solidarity," she said. "This the very least I can do."
Before continuing down Broad Street, Fenner stopped the crowd so that Shirmina Smith and Kadidja Cisse of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement could recite a piece called "I, Too," titled after the Langston Hughes poem of the same name:
America told white women I look better on them.
America told black men I was the enemy.
But America shouldn't talk with its mouth full.
Shouldn't bite the hand that feeds it.
"This is me represented in a march," Smith said.
The demonstrators then recited the names of black women and girls who have died at the hands of the police or in other anti-black violence: Sandra Bland. Korryn Gaines. Bianca Roberson. Charleena Lyles. Nabra Hassanen.
The marchers continued down Broad Street, some drivers honking in solidarity and some bystanders joining the march.
"You are beautiful!" yelled Tyrell Wallace, 27, who immediately took out his phone to record the march.
When they reached Cecil B. Moore Avenue, their end point, the demonstrators began to dance to the drums. They pulled into the skate park on Temple's campus where poets and musicians performed.
"It was really powerful," said Khanya Brann, 20. "I felt the positivity that comes when we come together. Even if it hurts when we say the names. I feel empowered. I feel warm. I feel like I came together with the community to march."