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2020 has been a year like no other. We have all been impacted in one degree or another by an unprecedented health emergency, the most divisive election of our lifetimes, and a nationwide reckoning with the ongoing legacies of racial injustice. However, even amid the uncertainty of these days, there is one thing GLIDE’s community can rely on come November: A chance to once again gather at the Annual Holiday Jam—a much-anticipated evening of celebration, storytelling, music and beloved community benefitting GLIDE programs and services. This year, in keeping with the times, the Holiday Jam will be going virtual! And while we won’t be gathering in one physical space, you can bet it will still be a night of powerful connection and a night to remember.

2020 Annual Holiday Jam Logo

Here are 7 reasons why you should join us to Rise Up for Change at the 2020 GLIDE Holiday Jam!

1. It’s for a good cause! Attend this year’s Holiday Jam and you’ll show your support for an organization that has been transforming lives for nearly 60 years, showing up every day for the most vulnerable in our community. GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program is among our most well-known, offering three free meals a day to anyone in need. But did you know that GLIDE operates a whole range of integrated support programs? We provide daily access to healthcare and harm reduction resources, offer counseling to those struggling with substance use or violent behavior, and operate a center dedicated to the needs of vulnerable children and families, to name but a few of our additional services. As one of the premier human services agencies in San Francisco, GLIDE is a cause worthy of your support!

Staff at the free COVID-19 Tenderloin Community Testing Site

2. GLIDE has continued to offer vital services throughout 2020 and needs your support now more than ever! In the face of the upheavals and uncertainties of the last 10 months, GLIDE has repeatedly stepped up, adapting services to reach more people in need, and expanding advocacy efforts to drive the systemic change that strengthens our communities. Since March, GLIDE has provided up to 15,000 meals a week. We’ve also increased mobile outreach—providing meals, water, health information and screenings, hygiene supplies, and harm reduction services to unhoused and extremely-low-income people at encampments and through partnering community-based organizations across the city. Since July, we’ve offered free COVID-19 testing on site twice a week to help ensure the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable community members. Join us on November 19 and support an organization that truly Walks the Walk, even in the most desperate of times.

Vernon Bush, the GLIDE Ensemble and special guests perform in 2019

3. The Holiday Jam will be a party to remember! GLIDE will welcome an incredible array of musical artists to the 2020 Holiday Jam for a night of brand-new and best-of performances. Between them, our artists boast a huge haul of Grammy Awards and nominations, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, Gold and Platinum records, and multiple top ten–selling singles and albums! Join us as we groove to the powerhouse talents of India.Arie, Joan Baez, Lisa Fischer, Michael Franti, Goapele, Tom Johnston, Ledisi, and D’Wayne Wiggins. And of course the renowned GLIDE Ensemble and The Change Band!

Holiday Jam Performers

4. The Holiday Jam is part of San Francisco’s rich history! Friends and supporters have been gathering to raise funds for GLIDE every November for over 20 years. It has become a San Francisco tradition for Co-Founders Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, and more recently President and CEO Karen Hanrahan, to welcome a host of artists, poets, comedians, and political changemakers to the Holiday Jam stage—while GLIDE family and staff enjoy the show, dining on GLIDE’s famous fried chicken and sharing in the spirit of unconditional love and community. Past attendees include Robin Williams, Maya Angelou, and Bobby McFerrin, to name but a few!

Holiday Jam Attendees
Holiday Jam Performance
Holiday Attendees including Janice Mirikitani and Rev. Cecil Williams

5. Watch the GLIDE Ensemble perform for the first time in 10 months! For six decades the GLIDE Ensemble and The Change Band have brought together those with disparate spiritual paths and life circumstances to sing of liberation, truth-telling, love and hope. Serving as one of the most elemental pillars of the GLIDE community, they have been a feature at every Holiday Jam, and this year will be no exception! Adapting to current public health protocols, the GLIDE Ensemble have recorded a brand-new song, virtually, and will premiere it on November 19! You won’t want to miss this special moment!

6. Post-election, join us for the perfect opportunity to reflect, recharge, and reaffirm our commitment to a more just and equitable world! In one of the most polarizing elections of our time, in the midst of a dark period defined by divisiveness, struggle and fear, millions of voters took to the polls to choose a new path. While it is clear that distrust and divisions remain across our polarized country, it is also clear that we must come together, irrespective of our differences, to begin the restorative and hopeful work of healing. We have much to do to reach that light at the end of the tunnel and there is hard work required in order to reconcile communities, restore social trust and to make meaningful and lasting progress on racial justice. Now is the time to come together to voice our shared values, to celebrate this time of renewal, and to Rise up for Change!

7. The GLIDE Holiday Jam is FREE to all attendees! We want to spread the joy of the Holiday Jam far and wide this year, so we are throwing open the virtual doors and making this incredible program FREE for all! All we ask is that you RSVP ahead of time by visiting out www.glide.org/holidayjam. Of course, we would also gladly accept donations and sponsorships in order to fund our vital work! The dollars you give go directly to providing services for individuals and families in dire need.

The 2020 GLIDE Annual Holiday Jam: Rise Up for Change will take place on November 19, at 7:00 pm (PST). Visit www.glide.org/holidayjam to RSVP today!

On the first day of Black History Month, we are delighted to feature and honor Ernestine Nettles, who this Christmas celebrated 50 years of service—not only to GLIDE, but to her community in Oakland, the Civil Rights Movement, gender equality and voting rights.

Ernestine Nettles with Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani
Ernestine Nettles with Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani.

Ernestine is a beloved pillar of the holiday feasts GLIDE organizes for its community. In fact, Ernestine is well known among holiday volunteers for being the first person to arrive on Thanksgiving morning, usually around 5:30 am. A couple of years ago she discovered that some of the younger volunteers had started a competition among themselves to see who could beat Ernestine to GLIDE on Thanksgiving Day!

Jennifer Gentile, a Holiday Volunteer Captain for 16 years, has many fond memories of working with Ernestine.

“I have extraordinarily strong feelings about Ernestine as a person, as my friend, and as the first person I see every Thanksgiving morning because she is our team’s early bird anchor. She is a phenomenal woman who truly has dedicated her life to serving others and fighting for civil rights, racial justice and gender equality.”

Jennifer mentioned that despite Ernestine’s years of working at GLIDE, this was the first holiday that she had her photo taken with Jan and Cecil.

“She’s very humble, and generally avoids any attention and certainly the spotlight, but 50 years of volunteering? That’s something!” says Jennifer.

A local justice hero

A committed activist and changemaker immersed in the Civil Rights Movement, Ernestine began volunteering with GLIDE in 1968 after meeting Janice Mirikitani and Rev. Cecil Williams while they were campaigning for the right to vote for 18-year-old Americans, and for girls’ and women’s right to wear pants to public school.

To have a cause that has stood the test of time and remained true to the initial dream is truly a blessing in these days.

“Cecil worked vigorously with the youth. Of course, he himself was young at the time! We got the legislation passed for the 18-year-olds’ right to vote, and we also went through the school boards and got the girls’ right to wear pants,” she says.

Due to their overlapping work, Ernestine has many recollections of Janice and Cecil over the years, and great insight into the trajectory of GLIDE’s programs.

“One day, Cecil and Jan were at my parents’ house and my dad said to Cecil, ‘Young man what is it you really want to do?’

“Cecil’s response was that he wanted GLIDE to be a place where anyone in San Francisco could come and get a decent meal and not have to go to bed hungry. That was his dream. And needless to say, the dream has come true.”

“In his quest to do that, everything else has happened—all the social services developed—and that was because of his ability to use funds for what they were meant for. To have a cause that has stood the test of time and remained true to the initial dream is truly a blessing in these days. I think that everyone has gravitated to GLIDE because it has always done what it said it would do and it was always a welcoming community.”

GLIDE Co-Founder Janice Mirikitani recalls working alongside Ernestine during pivotal social justice campaigns.

“I remember her having an enormous amount of energy. She was a firecracker! And very committed to justice issues. It wasn’t enough for her to just talk about it. She did a lot of work around the causes that she believed in. I’m really happy that she believed in GLIDE,” Janice said. “She put so much energy and time into volunteering for us. She is a very compassionate and giving individual.”

One of the things I tell young people is that when you’re looking at the issues and you’re looking at those candidates, make sure they have the right consciousness.

Besides her consistent volunteer work with GLIDE, Ernestine is highly involved in her local community. She is currently a Contract Compliance Officer with the City of Oakland, where she works to make opportunities available to small and very small local businesses. But creating opportunities and paving the way for others is not just her profession; it is truly her life’s work.

“I’ve always been a part of social justice movements; back then we called it civil rights! I’ve always worked in equal opportunity programs.”

She is one of the Vice Presidents of the Oakland League of Women Voters; one of the largest leagues in the country. Ernestine registered voters at the Women’s March and is passionate about transparency and responsibility when it comes to political fundraising.

“One of the things I tell young people is that when you’re looking at the issues and you’re looking at those candidates, make sure they have the right consciousness. Because doing the work that Cecil and Jan have done and that those at GLIDE do on a daily basis is a consciousness. It’s not something you do for money, per say, and I think everybody should make a decent living doing what they do, but you have to have the right consciousness.”

I think everybody should be responsible for some one who is less fortunate than them at some point along their journey. Like GLIDE and Cecil preach, we can’t be judgmental.

Additionally, Ernestine helped the late Mrs. Ethel Bradley, wife to Tom Bradley who was the first Black mayor of Los Angeles, build the Tom and Ethel Bradley Foundation. She works with Charles Blanchard in the National Association of Black Veterans, and she has worked closely with former Mayor of Oakland and House Representative the late Ron Dellums. In fact, Ernestine was Dellums’ very first intern in Washington D.C. She is also still connected with one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s aides, JT Johnson, of Atlanta, and this past summer she joined JT and his wife on a trip to Alabama.

“I had never walked across the bridge in Selma. It meant a lot to me to have that experience with JT. I flew into Atlanta, we went to Selma, and then to Montgomery, where we went to the lynching museum.”

Still more, she is involved with the MLK Jr. Freedom Center at Merritt College, and sponsors children to play Little League Baseball in Oakland. Ernestine at one point also took in a homeless couple, after seeing the numbers of unhoused people in Oakland rise year after year.

“I gave them a place to stay, I gave them a job. When they left my home, they went to another home, and now they’re sustaining themselves. I think everybody should be responsible for some one who is less fortunate than them at some point along their journey. Like GLIDE and Cecil preach, we can’t be judgmental. When I look at people who are homeless or who have substance use issues I always say, ‘Except for the grace of God, there could go I.’”

Ernestine speaking at GLIDE Church during Christmas Celebration.

Paving the way

When asked about her life of service, Ernestine emphasizes the knowledge that every-day people have the ability and the duty to challenge unjust laws, and her belief that “to whom much is given, much is expected and required by God.”

While her family was not wealthy, she says her parents taught her that you can make a difference by sharing what you have with those around you who are in need.

“When I was a child, there was a family that lived in our neighborhood that had just moved from Tennessee. The father was having trouble getting work. That Saturday my mother and I went shopping and my mother put two boxes in the trunk of the car. When we were going home we stopped at our neighbors’ house and asked the mother to send one of her sons out to get a box of groceries. The lady was standing on the porch crying, holding her youngest child in her arms. She called my mother later and thanked her and said, ‘You know, if it hadn’t been for you we didn’t know what we were going to feed our children tonight.’

“My parents taught me that every generation is there to make it easier for the next. I have no children, I’ve never been married, but I feel I have an obligation to do something to make it a little better for those who come behind me.”

GLIDE’s blend of meals, celebration and social justice adds up to a delicious holiday feast for the community

When Rabbi Michael Lezak joined GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice last year, one of his main goals was to connect broader Bay Area Jewish communities to GLIDE’s dynamic work. And what a year it’s been! Michael has brought in hundreds of community members from local synagogues and schools to serve meals, engage in proximate justice training courses, and, with the help of a steady volunteer group and our Daily Free Meals team, bake challah to give out to GLIDE staff every Friday morning on the principle that “you need to feed the people who feed the people.”

Continue reading “Challah for Christmas!”

The great Grocery Bag Giveaway is a huge event in more ways than one. It is one of the most anticipated events of GLIDE’s holiday programming: hosted each year by GLIDE Co-Founders Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani and attended by thousands of community members, many of whom line up before dawn on streets closed to car traffic for several blocks around in expectation of receiving a free grocery bag containing all the fixings for a Holiday banquet for four. It is also a mighty logistical challenge, involving months of planning and fundraising and, on the day of the event, the pre-dawn mobilizing of most of GLIDE’s staff along with literally hundreds of community volunteers (including a ready-to-roll posse from key supporter GAP, Inc.). Finally, given the spirit of celebration that is always a key ingredient of the proceedings, the day carries an outsized impact on the holiday season for many participants (including volunteers) who might otherwise find these days hard emotionally and/or materially. Thanks to an amazing citywide team effort, GLIDE’s Grocery Bag Giveaway is huge in scale, and huge in heart.
Continue reading “Hold the Judgment: GLIDE teams up with community partners to deliver food and choice to those in need”