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FunTimes Magazine

Street Work

May 28, 2024 12:00PM ● By Dr. Eric Nzeribe, DBA, MS

There's a diversity shift in the political paradigm as Senator Sharif Street sets out on a new vision of uniting Pennsylvania.

As the first African-American Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Senator Sharif Street stands at the forefront of a new political era. He envisions a Pennsylvania that thrives on unity, diversity, and equitable progress. Under his leadership, the Democratic Party is poised to continue expanding its influence by listening to and representing the broad spectrum of voices statewide. In his own right, Senator Street is a force in politics whose star is fast rising. He is the son of a former Philadelphia Mayor (John Street) and nephew of a former Pennsylvania State Senator (T. Milton Street, deceased).

And although his style and personality are more subdued than sassy, it's clear the state Senator has learned well from his familial mentors. Senator Street recognizes that while demographics may differ across Pennsylvania, there's a shared desire for access to quality education, healthcare, and safe communities. "We must acknowledge the commonalities that bind us and the challenges that connect us," he points out. His advocacy for minority communities, immigrants, and working-class families is rooted in this understanding.

Senator Street is committed to ensuring that future democratic leadership is inclusive, bold, and focused on providing Pennsylvanians with the opportunities they deserve.


Breaking Barriers and Representation

Senator Street’s election is a milestone for Pennsylvania politics, and his focus extends far beyond the historic nature of his own journey. His leadership has empowered diverse voices across the state, supporting individuals who might otherwise feel marginalized or underrepresented. As an attorney by trade, the senator often diplomatically says: "Representation matters because the government should reflect the people it serves."

When Democrats took the majority of the House, which happened under Senator Street’s tenure, he says, “We elevated a Black woman to be the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and many people of color or other races became majority committee chairs." As a trusted member of her inner circle, he also supported Cherelle Parker, who was elected in 2023 as the first Black woman mayor of Philadelphia.

Senator Street's term has seen numerous groundbreaking elections, including Austin Davis as the first African-American Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, Summer Lee as the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress from Pennsylvania, and Ed Gainey as the first Black mayor of Pittsburgh. Furthermore, Nikil Saval became the first South Asian and the first Asian male to serve in the State Senate, while Patty Kim is set to be the first Asian woman in the State Senate upon her expected election.

Highlighting the breadth of this progress, Senator Street emphasizes: "We now have the first Black mayor of Upper Darby, Ed Brown. We elected our first South Asian to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Tara Khan, and we elected our first South Asian woman, Dr. Nina Ahmad, to the City Council in Philadelphia. And so, we've made tremendous strides across the board, as people of color are showing that we can lead and represent."

This expansion of diversity is a shift in the political paradigm that Senator Street nurtures. "We now have a Latino Caucus. So, people of color, Black folk, Asians, and Latinos are all advancing, and the Democratic party -- we as a party -- represent the true diversity of this Commonwealth. We make sure that there are opportunities for all people. We remove barriers to entry; we have open meetings; we communicate with people, and we do that to ensure there are opportunities for the average candidate recruitment. As such, I think we're making great strides, and I look forward to making more."



Effective Leadership: Building a Cohesive Party

In steering the Democratic Party, Senator Street emphasizes uniting leaders with varied perspectives under a common vision. "We need to be a party that reflects the hopes and dreams of all Pennsylvanians," he asserts, stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion. Supporting new leaders and strong candidates is fundamental to this vision. He has helped nurture rising political talents, fostering a foundation built on collaboration, effective policy-making, and progressive values. His leadership aims to ensure that the area's Democratic Party continues growing by investing in grassroots movements and strong candidates.

Senator Street advises those seeking to make an impact: "Stay focused on your vision, but be open to learning from every experience." He remains a vocal advocate for taking bold, decisive action while maintaining the humility to listen and learn from others.




Economic Development and Opportunities

One of Senator Street's primary concerns is addressing economic disparities across the state. He has secured millions of dollars for economic development, including affordable housing, expanding healthcare facilities, job creation, and bringing banks to the unbanked.

He has been unwavering in his support for the Mayor's Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs (MCACIA), which addresses the needs of Black immigrant communities in Philadelphia. Having served as a member since its founding in 2005.

He was the first legislator to bring a delegation of African and Caribbean dignitaries to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, highlighting the connection between rural dairy farmers and urban longshoremen unloading $3B in cocoa beans for the chocolate processing industry, which supports 10,000 jobs in PA, demonstrating as he says, “All boats rise on the same tide. We are one Pennsylvania with a single intertwined economy.” It was his advocacy that reopened the PADCED international trade office in Africa.


Career Highlights: While his election to the State Senate is among his notable achievements, Senator Street takes the greatest pride in moments when his work has directly impacted small businesses and individuals. After losing his nephew to gun violence in 2021, he advocated for, and secured, record law enforcement and community violence interrupter funding ($295M) which contributed to more than a 20% reduction in gun violence in Philadelphia in 2023. He has expanded Clean Slate legislation to help people clear their records and move forward with their lives. His ability to listen, understand different communities, and adeptly craft has earned him respect across the state. That respect has served him well as he steadily ascends each strategic step of the political ladder.

 Dr. Eric John Nzeribe is the Publisher of FunTimes Magazine and has a demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry since 1992. His interests include using data to understand and solve social issues, narrative stories, digital marketing, community engagement, and online/print journalism features. Dr. Nzeribe is a social media and communication professional with certificates in Digital Media for Social Impact from the University of Pennsylvania, Digital Strategies for Business: Leading the Next-Generation Enterprise from Columbia University, and a Master of Science (MS) in Publication Management from Drexel University and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Temple University.

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