During the month of May, GLIDE celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage. In this story, we highlight the Glidettes, a delightful group of Asian-identifying seniors and performers who embody GLIDE’s mission to create a loving and inclusive community. 

“For me, dancing is beautiful,” said Li Sucui, “It opens my heart like a flower, and it makes me happy.” At a spry 73, Li is a founding member of the Tenderloin Glidettes that come together each week to share in the delights of dance and song. Comprised mostly of GLIDE’s elder clients, the ensemble has garnered a reputation in the neighborhood for their spirited performances of both traditional Chinese dances and Western jigs. After an extended hiatus during the pandemic, the group is eagerly returning to in-person community events. 

Known in the community for their endearing dance and song, the Glidettes are eager to resume performances after two years of pandemic isolation.

The Glidettes formed four years ago out of a series of monthly “senior socials” held at Freedom Hall and led by Client Advocate, Tina Huang. “When I started working for GLIDE, I always fantasized about organizing a group that would represent Chinese culture,” said Tina. “I wanted to feature dancing – Not only traditional, like Chinese Lion, but also feature types from Western culture.” Hailing from Guangdong, just outside of Hong Kong, Tina came with her family to the United States in 1993. Six years ago, Tina came to learn about GLIDE and started as a volunteer.  

GLIDE serves a diverse community, with those who identify as Asian and Pacific Islander making up 16% of our clientele. Tina’s knowledge of Taishanese, the principal language of the Yue Chinese, comes in handy in connecting with clients. “When I came to GLIDE, and saw the homeless outside, it was difficult for me. But I really wanted to do something and be of service. I am always thinking about how much more our city can do to help those who are less fortunate and faced with tough times in their life,” said Tina. 

Tina, pictured left, dances with Li, center, at a senior luncheon in 2017.

Li, also from Guangdong, has been a resident of the Tenderloin for the past eight years, having arrived in the United States more than two decades ago. GLIDE first came to Li’s attention in 2016 when she visited 330 Ellis Street for breakfast as part of GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program. She later ventured inside GLIDE and observed a group of seniors playing Bingo; she felt drawn to the welcoming environment and inspired to cultivate deeper connections with the community. She met up with both Tina Huang and Meals Navigator Diane Truong and the idea of having a senior group for dancing and singing was born.  

Li took part in traditional Chinese dance back in Taishan and, like Tina, she wanted the group to expand its repertoire by learning movements from other cultures. “We worked together to create this group dynamic that was not only respectful of safety but used slow movements so everyone could take part. YouTube was a great teacher,” Li chuckled. One of the oldest Glidettes, Menyi Wong (87) has her son ship over dance outfits so that the group can dress up for performances. 

The Glidettes returned to in-person events in April, putting on a special performance at the Tenderloin Sunday Streets.

The Glidettes have performed at various city functions over the years and while the pandemic may have slowed down their schedule of appearances, the group recently returned to the stage in full GLIDE orange regalia for the Tenderloin Sunday Streets event in April. For the Glidettes, a resounding theme of happiness permeates among the group and it is the reason they keep coming together. “It improves our quality of life. It feels good, both mentally and physically,” said Tina. “And when we dance and sing, we are in our moment of joy.”      

GLIDE Voices is highlighting Filipino American History Month. We asked Lanie Igtanloc, Director of Family Youth and Childcare Center, what GLIDE value resonates with you this month and why?

“One of the GLIDE values that resonates with me most is the value of For the People. At FYCC we welcome everyone; we help everyone regardless of who you are or what circumstances you have in life. FYCC will work with families no matter what; we are here for them. One of the best examples of this was during COVID, when we closed our Childcare and Afterschool program because of the virus. One of the things that we did following our site closure was call the families and children. We asked if they were okay, what they needed, and how we could help them through this crisis. Our teachers – together with our Family Resource Center thought to distribute food among our parents and families. We did this not only for our parents enrolled in our Center but for the entire Tenderloin community. FYCC became a food distribution site. This is what the value For the People is all about. We always think about our families, parents, and children. 

I grew up in the Philippines, in the Visayan region. As a Filipino coming here to the United States and sharing my culture here at GLIDE, I share similar values. Being ready to help each other is inspiring and enough to feel proud to be a Filipino. Beyond resilience, adaptability and courage are important to have in facing very difficult times, as well as always being ready to help anybody in need.  

What I love most about working at GLIDE is that you make a difference in the lives of children and families.” 

Lanie Igtanloc, FYCC Director

Dear GLIDE Community, 

Celebration is a cornerstone of our values at GLIDE. Seeing our national leaders align to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is a joyful moment. This historic step forward represents progress towards a new vision of American inclusivity. It reflects a new ownership of our collective history. It is an important step forward towards our nation’s growing awareness, acceptance, and honoring of our diversity. It also recognizes our collective history of the enslavement of people of African descent.

Juneteenth isn’t just part of African American history; it’s American history. It’s a day for inspiration and recognition of the foundations of our society. What we celebrate as a country – and what we choose not to celebrate – reflects our national values, our worldview, and our cultural priorities. Juneteenth is a day to recognize the lived experiences of African Americans, a journey through oppression marked by the Middle Passage, chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws, and mass incarceration. It is a day to honor and celebrate the triumph of Black genius, courage, resilience, family, faith, love, and artistry, along with the profound impact Black people have in shaping this nation.

For those of us who have been working on systems change for decades, it is encouraging to see forward progress, unprecedented investments, and efforts to remedy longstanding racial inequities across sectors. Every step towards justice and equity counts.

Still, much more must be done. At GLIDE, we are focused on the critical work necessary to address a legacy of systemic racism. We continue to build on our history of fighting for the people and advocating for policies and investments that address the consequences of racial injustice, including homelessness and intergenerational poverty. Our racial justice and reconciliation programs deepen understandings of systemic racism and build empathy in private and public corridors of power to transform lives as well as institutions and to drive systemic change.

As we commemorate Juneteenth in America, together, we also look forward to a future when the Federal holidays of this nation truly reflect the diverse nature, values, and people of this country. This is an important step; taking the moment to celebrate gives us strength to keep going. Every day at GLIDE, we work to advance this vision. This is what we do. At every level. We embody the spirit, the vision, and the purpose of Juneteenth.

In love and solidarity, 

Karen J. Hanrahan 
President & CEO, GLIDE

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today, feeling acutely the burden of the collective heart. Across this country, there is an increase in alarming reports of antisemitic hate crimes, assaults, and harassment. Of course, GLIDE condemns these actions that are born out of deep-seated bigotry, intolerance, and blame. There is never a justification for hate crimes. And there is also something deeper to address. 

Scapegoating of many shades has long been a precursor to violence and harassment in our nation, all proliferating from the common roots of fear and shame. Roots that are hard to bear. When we examine the collective history of our nation, we find narratives brimming with antisemitic hate crimes committed by individuals, groups, and government officials. We recognize the patterns and cannot be silent witnesses to a new wave of religious scapegoating and violence that targets a community that has suffered from centuries of oppression. History and our values demand more of us. 

GLIDE’s role has always been to bear resounding witness to this collective trauma, to shine a light on those bare roots, and to bring people together in shared humanity to forge solutions. We are both heartbroken and angry at the increasing scale and depth, and magnitude of scapegoating. Let me touch again on the burden of the collective heart – isn’t this ache a call to awaken to the larger task ahead of us? 

We know, at GLIDE, that America is at its best when we come together to support each other. This is our vision of what this country might be. May is Jewish American Heritage Month. Our nation is made stronger by the resilience, history, and cultural contributions of American Jews. Let us join together in recognition and celebration of this truth. 

We are mindful that the meaning of the Hebrew word Shalom means both peace and also wholeness. We work every day on the ground here at GLIDE to help and support everyone to feel safe and whole. We want to affirm, as always, that American Jews, like all of us, deserve to feel safe and secure in who they are, and deserve to feel Shalom wherever they might be. 

As a nearly 60-year-old social justice organization rooted in radical inclusion and unconditional love, GLIDE has always stood firmly with the Jewish community. We all are in this together. GLIDE is for the people. Always. 

L’ shalom,

Karen J. Hanrahan 
President & CEO, GLIDE

GLIDE Voices is highlighting Asian American & Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Month. We asked After School Program Manager Selina Ng what GLIDE values resonate with you this month and why?

“The GLIDE value that resonates the most with me is being radically inclusive. GLIDE’s Family Youth and Childcare Center after-school program is a brilliant example of how both staff and clients coexist amongst each other despite coming from different backgrounds. As the after-school manager, one of the most important aspects of my job is to ensure that our clients are able to grow and learn in an environment that is respectful, loving, and safe. Having that as a GLIDE value, we are empowering our clients to celebrate diversity, acknowledge differences, be aware of social injustices and learn to coexist.

I am a first-generation Chinese American who grew up with immigrant parents, and I am incredibly fortunate to bilingual in Cantonese. To this day, I still help my parents translate into English. Many of our clients are first-generation as well, with a few who are actually immigrants, and they are bilingual and, like me, must translate for their parents. I see my parents in the families of the clients I serve, the hopes and dreams they have for their children—much like mine had for me.

Being radically inclusive also means that we must understand that being inclusive goes beyond gender, sexual orientation, and race; it also means we accept and help others despite their status and as a product of immigrant parents and see their struggles with a language, system, and culture that is so different from ours. It is my obligation to support and be a resource to the very clients and families they serve because I know my parents and countless others like my parents would have wanted a similar support system.”

Selina Ng, FYCC After School Program Manager

GLIDE Voices is highlighting Asian American & Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Month. We asked Clinical Director Roderick Penalosa what GLIDE values resonate with you this month and why?

My family and I migrated from the Philippines to the United States in search of equitable opportunities. The benchmark of success for many immigrants like myself is to thrive in America unscathed and to earn the privilege of American citizenship. The journey towards achieving the American dream comes with social, environmental, and political values that can stifle and oppress our voices and visibility in this country

My race has always been the most prominent marker of my identity, and for an Asian-American who came here as an adolescent, I was incessantly entrenched in the model minority myth – stereotypes that perpetuate the characterization of all Asians as the ideal persons of color to emulate because of our perceived natural capacity to comply, obey, excel, and succeed. This mythical belief is detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing because it takes away our right to be included, counted, and supported, particularly in times of crisis, due to the assumption that we are not susceptible to socio-economic and psychological stress. Many of us in the AAPI community suffer in silence because of the social stigma and shame that comes with help-seeking behaviors.

As an Asian-American, I resonate deeply with the GLIDE values of truth-telling and unconditional compassion. I’m a strong proponent of social justice advocacy that starts with self-responsibility. The courage to show up every day in our most authentic selves, in all circumstances, is a healing form of conveying our truth and an unconditional expression of self-compassion.

Revealing my true nature, even in my helplessness and most vulnerable moments, is an affirmation of my identity as a proud gay Filipino American immigrant man who belongs and deserves to be heard, seen, and recognized in America. Owning my authenticity and capacity to love myself and others is the truth that I share deeply with GLIDE and with humanity. In my role as GLIDE’s Clinical Director, I aspire to redefine the meaning and value of trauma-informed service that is healing-centered and culturally compassionate.”

Roderick Penalosa, PhD, LMFT
GLIDE Clinical Director

Dear Friends,

Throughout May we celebrate and honor the rich culture, contributions, diversity, and resilience of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. It is a special month at GLIDE. And it is also every day at GLIDE, where we embody the opportunity for healing and unity through our diversity.

So much of the GLIDE community is comprised of people of AANHPI heritage – our leadership, our staff, and clients, our donors and volunteers, our friends. All are fundamental to who we are and how we transform lives across San Francisco. Our heritage is rooted in the legacy of GLIDE’s co-founder, Janice Mirikitani, whose legacy of love, strength, and healing for all people is also rooted in her personal experience overcoming abuse and injustice.

The lived experiences of the AANHPI community resonate daily within and around GLIDE. From accomplishments on the national stage in leadership, social justice, business, and philanthropy, to the heroism and ingenuity of our staff, volunteers, and community partners who assist those in need across San Francisco. Throughout GLIDE’s nearly 60-year history, we have celebrated members of the AANHPI community, because they are us and we are them. Together we are the beloved community.

Yet, echoes of historical injustices against the AANHPI community sound again as hate crimes increased with the rise of COVID-19. These acts of violence are a chilling reminder of the consequences of political scapegoating and our nation’s long and systemic history of erasing and denying our patterns of stereotyping, silencing, exploiting, and perpetuating acts of brutality against the AANHPI community.

It is time to end this violent history and to carve new paths for healing and justice. We must begin by shining a light on the realities of the AANHPI experiences in our country, by exposing the travesties of history, speaking out loudly against violence, and demanding accountability. This radical truth-telling is a prerequisite to progress, an essential step for any nation to move out from under and beyond hate crimes and racial injustice. Once we lift up the truth, we must take action that fosters accountability, compassion, dialogue, and, eventually, reconciliation. GLIDE is doing this work. As we publicly condemn the violence and call for accountability, we are also leading initiatives that build pathways to empathy, trust and reconciliation. Our innovative work with police, healthcare workers, companies, and our own diverse community is changing how people see themselves and each other.

When we come together in these ways, with resilience, lifting each other up and embracing and cherishing our diversity, we build a better future that is bigger than the sum of the parts. GLIDE has stood for and with the AANHPI community. We always have, and we always will.

With love and in solidarity,

Karen J. Hanrahan
President & CEO

During May, GLIDE Voices is highlighting Asian American and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator Meilani Meleisea, “what GLIDE values resonate with you this month and why?

Meilani Meleisea, Annual Giving Manager

My name is Meilani Taumaia Marie Meleisea. I was raised by parents who hail from both Apia in the West of Samoa and the village of Taputimu on the Island of Tutuila in the East of Samoa. To be of Samoan Heritage and to have been raised by both my family and larger community has shaped the values I currently hold, many of which GLIDE upholds as well. Of GLIDE’s central values, I resonate most with being “For the People,” and continuously being “Loving and Hopeful”. As a child, I was taught by my parents to be giving and to be kind. I was also taught to always strive to leave someone better than I met them.

To be Pacific Islander is largely to know that all that who you are, is not all of your own doing. I recognize that I have villages and family everywhere, by way of the vastness of our oceans and the fortitude of my people, who have served me and poured immeasurable value into my life. It is in recognizing this, that I have learned and continue to learn how to best serve my community with humility, compassion, and strength. GLIDE similarly exhibits genuine and humble service for their communities in everything they do, whether it is serving meals at 7 am in the morning or staying after hours to ensure a community member has all they need for the evening ahead. GLIDE stands for all people. To be loving and hopeful is a value I have come to cherish in my work with Pasifika communities near and far.

Being a Pacific Islander in the United States can feel both strenuous and isolating. Throughout all of my schooling, I was the only Pacific Islander in any of my graduating classes. Throughout my life I have felt like the only Pacific Islander in everything I have done, which can be extremely lonely sometimes. Nevertheless, I have found friends and colleagues along the way who share my love of our Pasifika communities and my passion for equitable representation of NHPI peoples. It is in these experiences that I learned to root my cultural advocacy work in love rather than resentment and hope rather than fear.

To be at GLIDE is to emanate love and to do so unconditionally. GLIDE receives folks who come from all walks of life and meets each one with the same love which works to inspire the hope that there are people who love other people, and that all people are deserving of love.

Manuia le Masina AANHPI. 

Alofa Tele! 

­­­— Meilani Taumaia Marie Meleisea

During May, GLIDE Voices is highlighting Asian American and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We asked Annual Giving Manager Sunil Prasad, “what GLIDE values resonate with you this month and why?

Sunil Prasad, Annual Giving Manager

This month, which is very significant on so many levels, the GLIDE values that continue to reverberate the loudest to me are unconditional love and eternal hope. We are all in recovery and as a community we have such a long way to go to heal together and bridge the divides that exist: without love and hope we cannot do this.

I am from the Fiji Islands. Many know it from ‘postcard images’ with white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and lush green rainforests. Sadly, we have also had a long history of political coups. I have lived through six such events before moving to the US about ten years ago. I joined GLIDE at the beginning of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic started dominating the headlines and our lives.

Before the pandemic hit, I was already going through so much. I had lost someone very dear to me to fentanyl-related accidental overdose. When that happened I had to step away from a lot, from people and my job, to heal and accept my loss. At that time GLIDE’s compassionate and judgment-free work in harm reduction shined like a beacon to me.

I feel elated to be part of an organization that provides so much for others in need. From nutritious meals to health screenings, from crisis intervention services to resources that empower survivors of substance use disorders and partner violence. From supporting individuals to supporting families to fight for equity for all within our community. All of this with open hearts and arms. Without judgement.

In Fiji, food is considered very sacred. It brings the whole community together whether the occasion is celebratory or somber. Food breaks every cultural and traditional boundary to provide a sense of togetherness and love. And at GLIDE, we open our doors to everyone so that we feed the body and the soul.

May 2021

GLIDE Voices is highlighting Asian American and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We asked Deputy Director of Programs Lillian Mark, “What GLIDE values resonate with you the most this month and why?

Lillian Mark, Deputy Director, Programs
When my grand-uncle passed away, I had the honor of delivering his eulogy. His daughter wrote out his life story, parts of which even she and her five siblings did not know until they started tracing it.

I did not know until I held the draft in my own hands that my grand uncle was a “paper son” which explains why he had two different names; one was his given name, and the other name was the one on the “paper” that my great grandfather had purchased for him to come from China to the United States. Even in this moment, I feel anxious acknowledging this part of my family history. The stories of where we come from have been buried because of fear, shame, and hurt. We continue to struggle with telling our story because we are told that we still do not belong. But even so…

I am my family’s story.

I am a constant, persistent manifestation of my family’s history – in my spirit, in my speech, and in my stride.

I am, as we say in GLIDE’s Terms of Faith and Resistance, telling the world my story. Unstoppable.

— Lillian Mark