Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby strode to the podium in the Loews Hotel's Commonwealth Room in Center City Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. It was reminiscent of when she announced in May the indictment of six Baltimore police officers in connection with the controversial death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
This time, Mosby was set to deliver the keynote speech at the Women in NAACP (WIN) Summit, a brunch that was part of this week's NAACP annual convention. Her vigor was the same Sunday, as she demanded that African American women "get off of the sidelines and into the game of progress."
Mosby urged women to push past self-doubt, saying that "failure is not fatal."
Mosby, who made national news for her decisiveness in deciding to charge the officers in Gray's death, did not mention the man or the ongoing criminal case in her inspirational speech. Instead, she focused on female empowerment.
"Every great movement toward progress started with warrior women unafraid to challenge the status quo in pursuit of justice," she said. At 35, Mosby is the youngest chief prosecutor of a major city in America.
After Mosby's remarks, Thelma Daley, director of the 10-year-old WIN, said women's voices had been suppressed far too long.
"Most organizations have been dominated by men, but the women are doing the work, raising the money, and cooking the food," Daley said. "Men have dominated, but women have the strength."
That strength resonates through courage to lead, influence, and be resilient, she said. For Diane Cruthfield, 68, of the New Orleans branch of the NAACP, it is also the courage to love.
"Women have that love that they can reach out more to young men and women," Cruthfield said after Mosby's speech. "What we taught will fade, but love will abide."
Most of the women who heard Mosby speak were in their 40s or older. Daley said the NAACP needs to reach out to young women in a "definitive and assertive" way.
Speaking before Mosby, Janice Brooks, WIN's honorary chair, said: "We aren't bossy, we're leaders. We're not aggressive, we're confident. We're not ladylike, we're queenlike."
Whether it's Mosby; Loretta Lynch, the first African American woman to serve as U.S. attorney general; Bree Newsome, who illegally climbed the flagpole to take down the Confederate battle flag in front of the South Carolina State House in June; or Serena Williams, who won her sixth women's singles tennis title at Wimbledon on Saturday; Daley said black women's self-confidence was ever present.
"It's not just women you see in the newspaper," Daley said. "But there are layers and layers of great women in every community, whether it's a rural community, whether it's a hamlet or a big city. When you look, who is doing the work? The women are doing the work."
Mosby told the audience that the tragedy of her 17-year-old cousin, shot to death on her doorstep by another 17-year-old, "turned my pain into my passion to reform the criminal justice system." Mosby was 14 at the time and had been close to her cousin.
The prosecutor, who took no questions from the audience or reporters, said she was "told over and over that now was not my time" when she considered running for state attorney. She recalled being told she was too young or lacked the financial backing, and she said she remembered asking herself, "If not me, who? If not now, when?"
"I decided I would not pass my grandparents' fight to my children's children," she said.
At the end of Mosby's speech, Thomas Humphrey, 76, jumped to his feet in applause.
"Oh!" he shouted. "That's a powerful woman!"