“Remembering Janice: A Divine Poetry Rite”
This year on July 30th, Glide Memorial Church held a Sunday Celebration in honor of Glide’s late co-founder, Janice Mirikitani, who died in 2021.
Janice co-created much of the early vision and the roots of GLIDE’s impact. Her work touched many areas in the Church and on the streets in the Tenderloin and in San Francisco. She took deep pride in serving the most marginalized communities, including women and children, education, recovery, mental health care, job training, and housing.
Janice Mirikitani survived her family’s internment during World War II and played a key role in establishing the Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC) in 1999. She served as San Francisco’s poet laureate and helped shape GLIDE’s identity as a social justice organization at the forefront of fighting poverty.
The celebration of Janice’s life featured Antoine Hunter and Zahna Simon of Urban Jazz Dance Company; Poet and Playwright, Ramona Laughing Brook Webb; and Minister of Celebration for GLIDE Memorial Church, Marvin K. White. Cecil Williams, GLIDE’s co-founder, along with their children were also in attendance.
The service began with the poem, “Who Is Singing This Song?” written by Mirikitani and recited by Minister Marvin K. White.
The famous GLIDE Ensemble dressed in all white attire and led the congregation in song with, “The Presence of the Lord is Here” and “Love Lifted Me”.
Minister White proclaimed “ We have to release Janice to be the ancestor. She is meant to be for all of us.” Throughout the celebration Minister White continued to celebrate Janice with the poetry she wrote throughout her lifetime.
Poet and Playwright, Ramona Laughing Brook Webb, began her moment with a land acknowledgement. to pay homage to our Native American ancestry. Webb was a friend of Janice and spoke about their first encounter, and what she learned from Janice throughout her lifetime. Webb said, “Janice has always been an incredible voice of transformation [for me]…”.
Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, followed Webb. Davis dedicated a song to sing in honor of Janice after stating to the congregation “She saw the needs of people and looked even deeper beyond that”.
After other melodies from the GLIDE Ensemble, Minister White welcomed Poet John Carpentier to the congregation. Carpentier was a friend of Janice during her life and read “We The Marvelous”, a poem he wrote that was inspired by Mirikitani.
Congregants were treated to a video montage from Janice reciting her original poetry, “You Did Not Come Here to Be Silent.”
A testimonial by witness Jeannine Kay and a special guest performance by Antoine Hunter of Deaf Woke followed.
The daughter of Cecil Williams, and stepdaughter of Janice, Kim Williams, spoke to Janice’s memory. She recited six self-written haikus in honor of Mirikitani.
The ceremony ended beautifully with words from Reverend Cecil Williams, Janice’s husband, and co-founder of GLIDE. Williams said with all his might and in perfect silence from the crowd, “I am still looking…and will always be looking for somebody who will stand up for change.” The GLIDE ensemble followed him with the song, “We Shall Overcome”.
Janice Mirikitani, with Unconditional Love, rest in perfect peace and infinite power.
— Recording of full service can be found here.