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As we wrap up a month dedicated to celebrating the historical contributions, culture, and excellence of Black America, I want to pause to reflect on this unique moment in our nation’s history. 

Recent media stories are touting a Black Renaissance. Comparable to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, today’s movement emerges from a foundation of racial justice activism. We’ve watched Amanda Gorman succeed as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. History. Stacey Abrams was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for driving historical political change by organizing Black voters. And the Black Lives Matter movement, also a candidate for the Nobel Prize, has been commended for its mobilization of people worldwide to fight racial injustice. Collectively, these and many more cultural and social justice advances, rooted in the Black community, indicate a potential to move this nation forward. 

Parallel to these bright indicators of progress are stark warning signs of an economic stall out, if not a complete reversal of progress. We see reports of the declining Black middle class. More and more young Black families are falling into poverty because of inequities and racist policies brought into the light by Covid19. The pandemic is wreaking havoc. Not only is it disproportionately infecting and killing Black people, but it is inflicting socio-economic harm, resulting in higher rates of unemployment, lost income, and business closures. The combination of the pandemic and the recession have exponentially exacerbated the preexisting conditions of income inequality, lack of health care, and food insecurity in Black communities and other households of color.  

Every day at GLIDE, in the shadow of billion-dollar tech companies, we see the results of generations of inequity, racist policies in housing, health care, policing, and mass incarceration. Thirty-seven percent of San Francisco’s homeless identify as Black or African American while making up only 5 to 6 percent of the city’s population. At GLIDE we see a much higher percentage, with all groups identifying as Black, Indigenous, and people of color making up about 75 percent of the clients we serve.

Yet, in the face of these disturbing indicators, we have an exceptional opportunity to make a historical change. There is a collective alignment of the drivers of progress. Political and widespread demand for change is now aligned with an unprecedented commitment of public and private resources flowing into the fight against systemic racism. As I write this, the Biden-Harris administration is developing new policy solutions for inclusive economic growth, criminal justice reform, and other efforts that can drive systemic change and permanently lift more Black Americans out of poverty. 

We have never before seen this level of diversity, engagement, and alignment towards demanding and creating racial justice. We must recognize the precariousness of this moment and harness the political will and commitment across government, health care, education, and industry, and align public, private, and philanthropic resources to create sustainable solutions. This is how we will disrupt cycles of poverty and bring about lasting change. 

As we celebrate and champion Black history and excellence, let us remember that our collective action today determines how this moment will go down in history. We have a chance to make a lasting impact on our nation’s next chapter. We must train our focus on the work necessary to ensure a beloved community and a more equitable future for all people. At GLIDE, we are committed to this, not just in February but every day. 

In Solidarity,

Karen J. Hanrahan
President & CEO, GLIDE

An Unconditional Kind of Love

On this Valentine’s Day, GLIDE Memorial Church can only do one thing — Celebrate Unconditional Love; Love our loved ones, love our resilience, love the work we have done, and always, always, Unconditionally Love ourselves. To help you celebrate Unconditional Love today, we have curated three Valentine’s Day Playlists for you: Love Music, Love Resources and Love Cake! 

Valentines Playlist Sunday: The Love Music 

(click image above to access playlist)

Valentines Playlist Sunday: The Self-Love Resources 

Mental Health:

Suicide Help Line: 800-273-8255 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (click link)

QTBIPOC Resources (click links below)

National 

Local 

GLIDE Resources (click links below)

Harm Reduction 

Free Meals 

Walk-in Center

Women’s Center

Family, Youth, and Childcare Center

Men in Progress 

Unconditional (Legal Clinic)

5 Keys Charter School

Recovery Circle 

Order In for Valentines Day (click links below):

Bay Area restaurant deals part 1 

Bay Area restaurant deals part 2

Start moving your body! (click links below)

GLIDE Yoga- every Tues/Thurs at 6, Saturday at 10:00- email churchgroups@glide.org to sign up 

Breathe Together Yoga 

Start moving your Mind! (click links below):

GLIDE Congregational Life Groups 

SURJ Bay Area 

Valentines Playlist Sunday: Cake Love

Sri Lankan Love Cake (click for recipe)

Persian Love Cake (click for recipe)

Persian Love Cake (Gluten Free) (click for recipe)

Persian Love Cake (Vegan) (click for recipe)

Pumpkin Love Cake (click for recipe)

True Love Cake (click for recipe)

German Love Cake (click for recipe)

Strawberry Love Cake (click for recipe)

Lemon Love Cake (click for recipe)

The Red Velvet Cake Recipe that Minister Marvin Loves to Bake! (click for recipe)

Four years in, GLIDE Church’s congregational life group devoted to “courageous conversation” across the divides has learned a thing or two

At GLIDE Memorial Church, we practice unconditional love. More than a mere platitude, unconditional love is an ethics. It teaches us that difference does not make someone fall out of the boundaries of beloved community. Unconditional love says difference is what will allow us to cover more creative, spiritual, philosophical, and political ground. In Different Together conversation circles, progressive and conservative, Republican and Democrat, learn to listen without judgement or losing ground of their beliefs. Instead, the participants dismantle the walls of racial, social, economic, and political histories that have kept people separated into ideological enemies. The work of Different Together creates a space of vulnerability and truth. It’s okay to be affiliated, enlisted, or a member of the winning or the losing party. It’s not okay to launch from that win or loss, into hate. Whether online or in-person it’s the “Together,” of “Different Together,” that brings people into proximity to all of humanity and back from the brink of our mutual annihilation.

Marvin K. White, Minister of Celebration

The following conversation with Different Together co-founders and facilitators Chris Collins and Winne Fink was conducted by Rob Avila and Casey Zhao from the communications team in December 2020. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Different Together (originally called Bridging the Divide) is a congregational life group at GLIDE Memorial Church that formed after the last election in 2016. How do you describe the project and what are some of the foundational texts or guideposts you use?

Chris: I say that we create opportunities for courageous conversation between people who might not otherwise interact or might avoid each other. Much of that is the progressive and conservative divide, but it doesn’t necessarily stop there. That does not fully capture what our divisions are. Our divisions are also across race, across class, across religion. We try to be mindful of that and bring that in as part of our focus and our conversations. 

Was there one book or source that served as an initial framework for the group?

Chris: There are several books. One was by a sociologist named Jonathan Haidt called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. There’s one [by Jason J. Jay and Gabriel Grant] called Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized WorldRoadmap to Reconciliation [by Brenda Salter McNeil] was another book that I consulted. So there have been a few that were instrumental. 

While you bring up books: I was also looking for a book that could help guide me through all this and I wasn’t really finding the one that I felt I really needed, so I’ve written my own. It’s actually being published in January. Hopefully, that will be a foundational text for other groups that want to do similar work across the country. I talk a lot about GLIDE in it and how GLIDE was a perfect place for a radically inclusive community to also be radically inclusive to people across the political divide as well. It’s based on my experience and the collective experience of the group, which I try to share. 

Winnie: We did start with books and we started with a workshop format for GLIDE-only folks, having discussions by using a particular author’s approach/theory. And I’m smiling because leading an in-depth discussion of a formal theory is not as comfortable for me. So when Chris said we’re going to workshop, Winnie, we’re going to use the Righteous Mind. I was like, Oh Lord. So that was learning for me. But I think we’ve also just evolved by realizing what people have really liked—when we do topics like gun control or taxes, those have been successful; the one we did on health care was really hot. That was probably our first one that was particularly contentious. We had a lot of on-the-ground learning about how to deal with that.

How do you deal with a contentious issue like that?

Winnie: You know, we do this thing on social media where you just one-dimensionalize the other side. They’re an asshole. It just becomes that simple. We’ve really tried to do a lot to get people to use empathy and turn it around. The interesting thing for me doing this project at GLIDE is that, yes, we say we’re inclusive, but it’s really been about people who are struggling the most. Right? We’ve not necessarily made a lot of effort [to reach] people who might have privilege the other way, or who might not be the ones that care in the same way or in the way that we think is enough or right.

Shirley from Bridging the Divide

Tell me about the meeting that you held the day before Election Day?

Chris: The idea came about that the night before the election is going to be one that was going to be anxiety-filled for everybody, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. Especially for us on the progressive side, we don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s probably not going to be pretty. No matter what the outcome of the election is, there are a lot of unknowns. Unlike any other year. So we wanted to have some sort of event where we can come and be grounded as we enter Election Day. 

We developed this conversation that would have an arc to it. Just to give you a sense of the structure of how we do this: We have a group of 33 people, we have some opening remarks, we present a question, we break up into small groups of four, come back as a big group. There’s a little bit of a debrief, and the next question, then you’re in a new group. We did that for a series of questions. What gives you anxiety about what’s to come? What has given you hope over the last few years?  

Winnie: We’ve been doing this enough where one of us, usually it’s Chris but I will also facilitate, we just sort of take it, we own it, we have a conversation, and we go. With this one we were extra thoughtful, careful. [Minister] Marvin opened us. David Fredrickson, he teaches mindfulness and compassion, he did a closing for us. As we return to the big group, we have people react in writing. We’ve learned that the more we can interact, and the more modalities we can learn, the better the experience is for folks. The idea is really getting people to be thoughtful and hear from each other and realize what I’m worried about is also what they’re worried about, and they think totally differently than I do. Get people to put their curiosity and empathy hats on, which is what the whole project is. Just very simply: be curious, be kind. It’s not that complicated but we don’t it very well collectively. 

Chris: The conversation ended on a note of, How do you want to be treated if your candidate doesn’t win? How will you treat other people if your candidate does win? It was naming the anxiety that’s there, naming how you feel about other people who disagree with you (that was one of the questions), and put all answers into the space and, in the end: OK, how do you want to be treated and how are you going to treat other people? Speaking personally, I felt that, going to bed that night, because of this event, I felt warmth, I had a full heart. That sense of community, across the political lines, before what was most likely going to be a toxic election, was very, very meaningful for me and I heard that reflected in many people that were there. 

Now that we are passed the election, what lies ahead for the group? 

Winnie: I think there’s some learning to do. For me, I joined [four years ago] because I didn’t know what to do with myself after the election, I was in anguish, lost, didn’t understand. I thought about where I grew up in a small town in Kansas knowing many or most of those folks who voted for Trump. That’s where most of us who wound up in that room from GLIDE [were coming from]. We just got whupped. How that felt.

Now I think there’s learning to be done on the other side of that. I don’t think what we have ahead is anything that radical other than keep going, be kind, and be curious. I don’t think it’s much harder than that. But figuring out how to do it—I do think what we’re really clear on is that we’re still ridiculously polarized. There are still so many people who don’t participate. At least on the left. My circles, most of my friends are pretty lefty, it’s hard to get them to come. They’re like, I can’t talk to those people. It’s hard for me to get my friends to participate. So, we’ve got work to do. I also think that it’s largely been the privileged arm of GLIDE membership who have participated so I’d be very interested in also expanding our membership and reach.

Chris: I think that’s beautifully said. I would also like to see us continuing to do outreach across the country and finding a church community in the South or somewhere that’s not anything like San Francisco and having a series of conversations with them. Maybe a series of three conversations. That type of outreach. Sometimes the conservative attendance is low, sometimes it’s not that bad. What we have seen in this project, and in the movement across the country, is that the participation leans on the progressive side. Even if that’s the case, we keep on finding the opportunity. When conservatives are ready to join, they are welcome to join. But if we have low numbers of conservative participants there’s still plenty of work for us to do. Winnie and I, as white people, we have lots of work to do to bridge divides with communities of color. That’s one example. 

Casey: I feel like within my generation, I’m 21, nobody really sits down and just has a conversation, it’s just aggressive, back and forth. I think there’s a lot of toxicity, especially within my generation, within politics. 

Chris: It’s interesting that you say that because, in talking about Different Together, there’s definitely a generational divide. I would say the participants are mostly 50, 55 and above. In my experience it doesn’t seem like the younger generation believes in this. I think older generations reflect on a time when politics wasn’t so toxic and want to go back to something that was like that, a little more friendly sport. Politics my entire life, going back to the 1980s, has been toxic. It’s just a different world that we’ve experienced. That is a struggle for this project and for the movement nationwide. 

Different Together is one of many Congregational Life groups meeting regularly, online for now, at GLIDE Memorial Church. Different Together meets on a monthly basis. To reserve a spot at an upcoming meeting, email DifferentTogether@glide.org. For more Congregational Life Online, visit this page on our website.

Dear GLIDE Community,

At this moment, more than 21,000 National Guard troops are stationed in Washington DC – four times as many soldiers as in Iraq and Afghanistan combined – to ensure the peaceful transfer of power in our democracy. This unprecedented military presence is symbolic of a nation historically divided by white privilege, racism, and violence. 

We are witnessing what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed during the struggle for Civil Rights: that violent behavior breeds bitterness and chaos and undermines progress for us all. In contrast, Dr. King championed the idea that nonviolent protest, inclusion and reconciliation would lead to a more just and loving society – a beloved community.

On Monday, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and his vision of a world where inequality, discrimination and hate are transformed into equity, inclusion, and love. This vision has inspired our collective hopes and imagination, and our fight for justice. 

Guided by our core values of unconditional love and radical inclusion, GLIDE continues to embody Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community by advancing racial equity, creating pathways out of poverty and transforming lives –- by meeting hate with love and inclusion. We recognize from the division in our nation and the growing needs of the people of San Francisco — disproportionately people of color – that our work has never been more critical. 

To create the beloved community in our lifetime, we must take steps, both individually and collectively, to bridge our differences and strive for justice for all. Join me as we continue our efforts to realize Dr. King’s vision. I am honored and proud to be engaged in this work alongside all of you.

In Solidarity,

Karen Hanrahan

P.S. I invite you to participate in GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice virtual event, “How Am I Martin? Celebrating the Man,” on January 18 at 5:00 pm, which will feature insights on Dr. King from our co-founder Rev. Cecil Williams.

Dear Community,

Yesterday, we witnessed the violent breach of our nation’s Capitol in an attempt to sabotage one of the most symbolic of our democratic processes, the certification of the electoral vote. While we can point to the President for his calculated incitement of chaos and insurgency, the images we saw streaming from the halls of Congress are emblematic of a much more powerful force and historic division within our country rooted in white privilege, racism and violence.  

What we witnessed is a deep-seated fear of our country’s future, fear of an inclusive America and an unwillingness to recognize the voice and vote of the American people demanding a more just and equitable path forward. 

Despite this demonstration of division and hate, our Congress came together and certified the election of President-elect Joe Biden. The November election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris illustrates the power of our citizens to bring about change. Earlier this week voters in Georgia made history by electing Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff,  the first  Black  and  Jewish  men, respectively, to serve as US Senators for the historically red state.  Each of these events demonstrates faith in our democracy, our nation, and the power of the ballot.  

We will likely face more contentious days ahead. We continue to rally against the pandemic, which is taking a toll on our economy, communities of color and our collective spirits.

This month, America honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The leadership, activism and political advocacy efforts of Dr. King and other Civil Rights leaders are the foundation from which current progressive voter registration efforts—led by contemporary African American leaders—resulted in the pivotal changes in the Oval Office and in Georgia. Fueled by hard work and a deep commitment to change, these historic achievements are encouraging and demonstrate strong faith in our democracy. 

We will likely face more contentious days ahead. We continue to rally against the pandemic, which is taking a toll on our economy, communities of color and our collective spirits. 

At GLIDE, we hold steadfastly to our core values of unconditional love, radical inclusion and a commitment to racial and social justice. These values continue to guide our efforts to dismantle systemic inequities, build bridges of commonality and serve those who are most in need. Our work and commitment to our values are crucial today more than ever.   

In solidarity, 

Karen  Hanrahan

President and CEO, GLIDE

By Sarah Wunning and Satanjeev “Bano” Banerjee

Since the 1960s, GLIDE has relied on direct service volunteers to help provide safety net services (such as daily free meals) to the most vulnerable people in our community. Recently, we have been experimenting with a Skills-Based Volunteering (SBV) model, in which we use the specialized skills of volunteers to build capacity in different parts of the organization. At the same time, over the last decade, there has been an increase in San Francisco–based technology companies looking to engage with the local community, with employees eager to volunteer their skills to make an impact. 

Twitter is one such company. Located only a few blocks from GLIDE, the company organizes a volunteer day for all of its staff twice a year called Twitter For Good Day (TFG). Traditionally, most TFG Day volunteering projects have been direct service in nature, such as serving meals at GLIDE and other similar nonprofits, cleaning parks, or assembling hygiene kits. In addition to these worthy projects, Twitter and GLIDE’s Data, Strategy and Evaluation team have partnered over the last couple of years to develop data projects that utilize volunteers with data skills.

The Challenges and Our Approach

Using the typical short-term volunteer model for data analysis comes with some unique challenges. Unlike many direct service volunteering projects, data volunteers need more context about the task, the data, and what kind of analysis will most benefit the organization.

Enabling short-term volunteers to do data analysis within three hours means doing a lot of prep work beforehand. Unfortunately, just as GLIDE staff often does not have adequate time for the actual analysis, there is also a shortage of bandwidth for the prep work. Our approach to tackling this challenge is to rely on one or two long-term volunteers to help with the data prep, including time-consuming tasks like data cleaning, anonymizing, setting up the logistics for the day, and recruiting volunteers from Twitter.

Coming up with the right type of project or question is also an important part of preparing for skills-based volunteers. The right balance of a project—one that is important but not urgent, impactful for volunteers to work on, and can be accomplished in three hours—can be difficult to find. Over the years, we have found that asking open-ended questions and mixing in questions that are not purely related to data analysis has created the most value for both GLIDE and the volunteers working on the projects.

Data for Good team hard at work at GLIDE in 2018.

“Data for Good” — some highlights

Over the last three years, dozens of skills-based volunteers have worked on various projects at GLIDE. We call these joint efforts Data for Good. Below, we showcase just two of our several collaborative projects:

Analyzing demographics and who exactly GLIDE serves

GLIDE program staff have noticed GLIDE’s participant population demographics change over the years, and they wanted to know what the data shows—in particular, if there are certain population groups within the Tenderloin that are underserved by GLIDE’s programs. Volunteers received anonymized GLIDE program data, which they then sliced and diced by demographic information, such as age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. They then compared that information to similar San Francisco below-poverty census data and Tenderloin census data, and found that, overall, there were not any major gaps between GLIDE’s program participant data and the census data, and that trends were consistent between GLIDE and the Tenderloin neighborhood. This useful information has inspired GLIDE to redo this analysis on an ongoing basis, in order to identify any potential future gaps in service to the community.

Getting at an Unduplicated Client Count for the Daily Free Meals Program 

GLIDE serves three meals a day, 364 days a year. In order to remove barriers to food security, participants don’t sign in or fill out forms and clients can receive as many meals as they want in a day or mealtime. The only data we do have is the total number of plates served. A question that GLIDE has always been interested in answering accurately is: How many unique participants come to GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals in a year? We presented volunteers with this open-ended question to have them brainstorm possible solutions. GLIDE staff showed volunteers how a meal shift is run and how participants flow through the dining hall. The volunteers proposed using a lightweight survey coupled with statistical modeling to arrive at an accurate answer to this question. We are now following up by piloting these lightweight surveys, conducted while participants wait in line.

What We Learned

Data for Good has had six iterations so far. Across these sessions, we have learned various lessons that have helped us improve the program. We list them below in the hope that these learnings will be useful to other nonprofits.

  1. Champions Needed: Skills-Based Volunteering isn’t a common volunteering model for either nonprofits or for-profits, partly because it is difficult to do well. In order for SBV to be successful, it’s necessary to have people on both sides that are committed to its success over a long period of time. 
  1. Patience: With direct service volunteering, you often see immediate impact, whereas with SBV, it takes time to build up impact. For example, in the demographics analysis project described above, the first round of Data for Good activity answered some questions and laid the groundwork for future analysis. By doing more follow up analyses, we have built on this work over the course of several years and deepened our understanding of GLIDE’s program participants.
  1. Think Beyond Data: In the beginning, we thought narrowly about the types of projects that are suitable for Data for Good—mostly pure data analysis. Over the years, however, we have expanded to other kinds of SBV, such as creating slide decks from data reports, performing simple data clean ups, and conducting internet research. These kinds of projects are as impactful as data analysis, and volunteers enjoy getting to use skills outside of data analysis.

Skills-based volunteering or SBV has been an impactful addition to GLIDE’s volunteering program. It has allowed GLIDE to not only answer some longstanding questions but has also deepened our relationship with Twitter. Through this relationship, we have started working on other long-term projects, such as running our first in-house randomized controlled trial on the number of mail solicitations sent to donors. In the future, we hope to expand this model to other departments across GLIDE—and we hope that other nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies will also join us on this journey!


Sarah Wunning (center) is GLIDE’s Data Systems Manager and Satanjeev “Bano” Banerjee (left) is Machine Learning Engineer at Twitter. They would like to thank the following colleagues for their generous support of the work detailed above. At GLIDE: Kate Purdy and Caitlin Jolicoeur. At Twitter: Kania Azrina, JP Wong, Bhargav Manjipudi, London Lee, and Karl Robillard.

And, not least, thank you to all the Twitter volunteers who’ve participated in Data for Good over the last several years, we appreciate you!

Toy Wonderland, Old Navy Shopping Spree, and more!

Filled with uncertainty and change, the last ten months of the pandemic have brought loss and hardship to many families everywhere—with a disproportionate share falling on people of color and those challenged by poverty. Many in our community work hard every day to make ends meet, and this year the economic hit they took has made things even more difficult. 

In all of this, children have had their own unique burdens. While thankfully not as susceptible to the virus, children nonetheless have been greatly affected by its arrival.

Here at GLIDE, we’re going all out to rally around our community with love and support. With the holidays upon us, we want to make this time of year extra special for the kids of low-income families because they, too, have had their worlds turned upside down.

(Photo from 2017’s Toy Wonderland)

“There’s more need this year,” says Liz Steyer, member of GLIDE Church and a longtime volunteer in GLIDE’s Toy Wonderland, who has returned again this year to oversee the volunteer effort.

“Kids are at home and more isolated this year. Most of them are doing remote school. Many of their parents are out of work [because of the economic crisis] and so can’t provide the kind of toys and holiday that they normally would.

“These toys provide an opportunity for creativity. A way to get kids off their screen and building with Legos or just being imaginative doing other things.”

And play is what childhood should be all about.

“For young kids, their job is to play,” says Liz. “The way their brains grow is through imagination, creativity and play. Giving them an opportunity to have toys that are age-appropriate, that are picked by the GLIDE staff and people that work with them, is more than just charity or making a fun holiday.”

GLIDE’s annual Toy Wonderland, sponsored by First Republic Bank, will look a little different this year in order to operate safely for all. But because of the need, it’s going forward with an even bigger reach than in years past. GLIDE programs staff have been busy redesigning an event that will now be exclusively geared to delivering toys—nearly 3,000 toys in 700 curated bags—via GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC) and other key programs as well as 12 partnering organizations across San Francisco. In all, Toy Wonderland will reach twice the number of children as last year.

“Hundreds of kids, not just kids affiliated with GLIDE, will be getting toys,” explains Liz. “They’re filling out wish lists of what they want. Because of pandemic safety precautions, people are not able to sign up and volunteer as they usually would this year, but we will have a small select number of volunteers who will be taking the wish lists and filling up bags of toys with the children’s names on them and delivering them to the partnering agencies. So all the toys will get out to the children, even though we can’t have a special Toy Wonderland site-specific event as usual.”

GLIDE will be safely delivering the bags of brand new, individually-curated toys via its GLIDE on the Go vans on Thursday, December 17, to community partners throughout San Francisco who will, in turn, hand them out to children in their programs. 

“I believe that GLIDE is really the heart and soul and safety net of San Francisco,” says Liz. “So this is a way that people can participate in creating a safety net for the children of San Francisco, especially those in lots of need.”

(Photo from Toy Wonderland 2019)

The Toy Drive for GLIDE’s Toy Wonderland ended on Dec 13. Sorting and curated bagging of toys is underway through Dec 15. Toys are being delivered across San Francisco on Dec. 16. Above is a behind-the-scenes look at the sorting and bagging taking place this week.

Below are some of the other events GLIDE and its loving community members and generous supporters have already organized to support our kids and their families in this especially challenging time.

Back to School Celebration

Every year, GLIDE Church hosts a Back to School Celebration for the kids in our community to help get them prepped for school. This year, the event looked a bit different. To practice physical distancing, an amazing team of volunteers led by Church members Tyree Leslie and Steve Steve Hyzer created Back to School goodie bags for kids ages 3 to 18. The goodie bags included headphones, at-home activities, games, books, foam balls, crayons or colored pencils, and three snacks.

“Mister Marvin and Perry [in the Church Office] helped select social justice books for most age groups,” adds Steve, “a big plus for the times we live in.  Those five and under received a stuffed toy and washable crayons.”

In all, approximately 1,400 items were distributed to 149 students to help ensure kids got through this particularly tough school year well supplied, while also letting them know they’re a part of a loving community that cares about them and encourages them to do their best—and to have fun!

“I volunteer to help organize GLIDE’s Back to School Celebration, each year, for the same reason I volunteer at GLIDE,” says Steve, “because I get back so much more than I give.  This year’s event was different due to Covid. The struggles of pulling this all together are now forgotten but hopefully our students will remember everyone’s generosity for some time. Thanks to GLIDE Staff for making this successful.”

Tyree joined in giving praise to all involved. “This was one of the greatest BTC Teams Ever,” writes Tyree. “Go Team!!!”

Halloween Family COVID-19 Testing Day

Halloween is a holiday widely loved by all children, but due to the pandemic this year many kids weren’t able to celebrate the same way by dressing up and trick-or-treating at night. We wanted families in our community to feel safe and welcomed for the festive holiday, so GLIDE’s Family Resource Center and Walk-In Center teamed up to host a Halloween Family COVID-19 Testing event, where families could come together and get tested safely, receive goodie bags, and pick out pumpkins!

Thanksgiving Brunch

Every year, GLIDE hosts a Thanksgiving Meal for the community, and this year we felt we had to do all we could to make it possible to safely celebrate with the community and make the day meaningful. Our staff and a smaller then usual but mighty number of volunteers decorated outdoor tent seating areas with festive Charlie Brown decor and served delicious Thanksgiving meals. The settings came complete with kids’ activity kits, lovingly assembled by volunteers Tyree Leslie, Steve Hyzer and Sara Diamond. Seeing the smiles on families’ faces was the best part of Thanksgiving for us.

Old Navy Shopping Spree

Every year, Old Navy and GAP generously sponsor and host an Old Navy Shopping Spree for kids enrolled at GLIDE’s Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC). This year, instead of a store visit, Old Navy arranged to safely deliver to FYCC the items the families had selected online. As this pandemic has taken away many precious sources of income, this event was very special for many families, allowing kids to get new winter clothes just in time for the holidays. 

“I picked out winter clothes for my son. I got vests, pants and sweatshirts to keep him warm,” said one FYCC mom.

“I picked out sweaters, overalls, a Christmas dress, and a bunch of cute holiday jammies for my daughter,” shared Tiffany, another FYCC mom.

We asked Old Navy Shopping Spree participants, What’s your favorite part of the holidays?

“I like Thanksgiving, because she is so thankful to be in this country with endless opportunities and support,” said one FYCC mom, adding, “I like Christmas because it is a time to be with family and enjoy your time together.”

“I enjoy all the holiday festivities but love the giving aspect of it as well,” she continued. “I think the holidays should be a time of helping others. I take my daughter to the park, water play, and do lots of arts and crafts. This pandemic has impacted my family because I am a mother of three, so navigating a work schedule and my kids’ school Zoom classes has been difficult but not impossible with the help of my family.”

The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957

What does the Beloved Community look like as it sits between the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systematic racism? Do we need to redraw the boundaries of Beloved Community to include more people awakening today to the moral injury they have caused or victimized them? At the center of it all, the aim is still to bring people together through this century’s pandemics and into liberation’s light. She has not dimmed. I want us to be in Beloved Community. And I want us to move towards freedom together. And I want us to know that freedom is not “over there,” but instead, freedom is at hand, in hand, and as close as your heart is to you. Freedom is at the center of it all, and at every step in this journey, we must recalibrate as often as the news brings us worse and worsening news.

I want you to know Beloved that this moment is the only one you get, so you must use your gifts now and not delay them. You must understand that if in whatever moment you find yourself in, if it doesn’t feel like you have a praise report today, a stockholder’s meeting with God, to share today the dividends with God on God’s investment, if you can’t say to those new on the road to freedom, the coordinates of your freedom road, then you are not present in this moment. But all is not lost. What is pleasing to God in the middle of twin pandemics is that you experience God’s peace today, experience God’s love today, and experience God’s justice today. This is pleasing to God. You must be the peace, the love, and the justice, and you must inspire other people to peace, love, and justice, for this is pleasing to God.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Isaiah 55:10-13

At the center of it all, like everyone else, I just want to bring people together in Beloved Community. My job is to help people to interpret this moment through both trauma-informed and joy informed lenses. We miss out on the promise if we unearth trauma and not unearth the joy that sits directly beneath it, ready to be excavated. And at the center of it all, your flight, or your fright response, God is walking with you through whatever moment whispers to you in the quiet hours.

For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Did you leave the sanctuary in joy? Has that joy carried you through these four months of the pandemic? At the center of it all, like everyone else, I just want to bring people together. And make sure that we are grounded in this moment. Make sure we are not romanticizing the past but being present and shaping a future. A New York Times article came out three days ago with the headline: Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are Confronting Coronavirus Cases. It said, “More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans got back to normal.

I have known that the architecture of our church’s sanctuary, and the rituals we perform on Sundays, are the optimal conditions for the virus to spread. I’ve known that I have been grieving the loss of the congregation as I knew it, the pulpit as I knew it, the podium as I knew it, the microphone as I knew, the choir as I knew it and the band as I knew it. I have known that it will be hard to bring people to think that Facebook Live is what “bringing people together” means. I have known that “online” had to take on new meaning. I have known that I had to take on a new meaning. I have had to shapeshift before. I have had to call myself something else when I was called worthless and lucky that I could get any kind of love, let alone the one I desired. Then I realized that the charge has not changed. And that this moment was not wrong, church was not wrong for moving from unsafe to safe, and our rituals were not suddenly wrong or weakened because we are online. Being asked to believe in a God that “will punish us if don’t go back to worshipping as normal” or believing that a “God will protect us if we go back to worshipping as normal” is wrong.

God says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater” and that means that you should not wait, water the earth beneath where you stand. Be the praise, and do not wait for the praise. Give the seed, which replicates your joy, to the one who is joyless and gives the bread of your efforts to a hungry world. And now, every time I hear someone say, “Let’s get back to normal.” I hear, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” I hear, “Who I am only fits who I was.” And I ask, “Who benefits from ‘normal’ and who benefits from that ‘greatness’?” You are not normal if you come to GLIDE.

The article said that the outbreak, “happened in churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defied lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.” One pastor said, “in his own church, congregants were social distancing and mostly wearing masks. And he had live-streamed services initially on Facebook, but some congregants begged to return to church, and others did not have reliable internet access.” Another pastor whose church was a virus ground zero, said, “…we had people who were away from fellowship for so long and in isolation. They were hurting. We just got to a point where we thought, we need to have normal church services.” They acquiesced, they gave-in, they broke, and the virus swept through their churches. There is a truth in begging.

People fear for their spiritual lives more than their physical lives, no matter how many times I tell them that, “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the lord.” No matter how many times I say, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” But the questions, “How do we learn to live with COVID?” And “How do we adapt?” But the questions, “How can we live in fear of the virus?” and “Is the virus bigger than God?” are interesting to me, because we are not saying “Under no condition, will I stop shining my light because of COVID.” I am a black man, which meant that my mother lived concerned, because of the expectations. I have always been aware that the dreams often end prematurely. These experiences make me feel deeply about the new national worry that COVID surfaces. I worry about your cancer. I worry about your AIDS. I worry about your age. I worry about your lack of sleep. I worry about you being alone. I worry about your financial state. I worry about COVID and how it could be a devastating last straw. What I realize at this moment is that church is a microcosm of the global conversation in these twin pandemics of COVID and Racism: The disparities in treatment between rich white churches and GLIDE.

The church’s COVID 19 conversation is about safety and what equity looks like. It is definitely and always a spiritual conversation because it is a conversation about culture and community care and the diminishing spirit and spirituality of our people. And it is about reimagining this moment. Yes, it is about the economy restarting, and it is so much more. It is about getting the hope going- that a spiritual economy restarted inspires. It is getting the cultural economy restarted. It is about getting our community’s community pride economy restarted. It is about the economy of black children’s dreams restarted. It is about getting the inspiration that comes uniquely through the creative economy restarted.

We need what religion and spirituality is offering in this moment. We need to point to our sacred text and lift the stories to let the world know how to persist, and how to get off the grind and have some leisure time, how to rally courage, and how to find the deepest wells of power (even when the well has run dry). We Need that! We Need the church! The news is getting worse, how do we reimagine what we need for these times? What negative messages do you think our families are receiving today? When everything we do and invite people to do has to be reimagined…

  1. Connection
  2. Handholding
  3. Hugging
  4. Singing and Shouting
  5. Moving
  6. Dancing
  7. Sweating
  8. Passing and sharing food, and printed matter

And now we know that “closed spaces are the virus’ favorite space to be.” 650 cases. So, “No, not yet. No in-person service.” I hear you begging for normalcy, and I know the hurt from being separated from the community you love, and that loves you. But no, not yet. One day. Okay, what is the center of my joy and my belief? Okay. Love. And do I believe that I still preach joy and love without a physical church? Okay. Yes. And is love bigger than our building? Yes. At the center of it all, I just want to bring people together. I just want to remind you that you are the Word of God, and that should animate you exactly where you stand, and you should kiss it up to God. God is expecting you to open your gifts. This completes God. So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Our love of what we do is exhibited in the church and arena, but the church and the arena do not generate the love. Our congregation and visitors bring it, and it is just more visible because of the numerosity, the number of folks that are gathered.

So, we are in our 5th month of our “Sunday Celebration Online.” We stream live twice every Sunday from the eight different remote locations of our participants, and we mix it together with historical clips of the choir singing. Love in the time of Corona says we have to be like the entrepreneurs in tech, because this is a season for reimagining. This is the part in the story where your multi-million-dollar start-up tanked, and you aren’t defeated, because the idea is still good, and how you do it, how you remember the lessons, and how you start again, just has to be imagined differently. God is still good. Your dreams are still valid. You are not off course, off base, too late, or too early. You are not behind on your payments. At the center of the church experience is the self’s transformation through an encounter with the spirit of love that gets exhibited when two or two hundred or more are gathered. And lastly, I know that we have to have a plan. We cannot just “open back up.” But I also know that we cannot allow ourselves to be “shut down,” creatively, emotionally, or spiritually either.

Amen

In the midst of these unprecedented times, GLIDE’s Officer and a Mensch program and annual Alabama pilgrimage explore what truly compassionate human interactions and racial justice should look like. These two programs endeavor to address deep systemic inequities through immersive dialogue with history and by developing partnerships and allies among people working inside the criminal justice system and other centers of institutional power.

At the center of these two initiatives is Rabbi Michael Lezak, of GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice, who recently discussed with us the opportunity they present for racial justice through processes of truth and reconciliation.

“It feels to me that the ground is incredibly fertile to grow something, now,” says Rabbi Michael.

“Call it an earthquake, call it the match. The pain has been so deep for so long that the murder of George Floyd was the rupture that created a moment of immeasurable pain and profound opportunity. Broad swathes of America are now waking up to issues that GLIDE has paid attention to for fifty plus years.”

A group of GLIDE staff and community partners gathered on the 2020 Alabama pilgrimage.

An Officer and a Mensch

GLIDE has historically recognized police as part of our community, who must be working partners in changing the systems we are in. An Officer and a Mensch offers a curriculum that is an extension of this history, one that seeks to instill a greater understanding of care between law enforcement and the people of historically oppressed communities like the Tenderloin. It’s proven popular and encouraging since its inception in 2018 and this fall will move to an online format that, while a necessary adjustment to the reality of an ongoing pandemic, offers the chance to bring even more participants into the program.

“I have been in weekly contact with [program co-founder] University of Oregon Police Chief Matt Carmichael about how we can pivot An Officer and a Mensch to be an online program, and he could not be more excited about this opportunity,” says Michael. “He believes that the police world is ripe for learning like this and is open in a way that they have not been. He believes that pivoting to have this program online will expand both the depth and the reach of this work.”  

By way of further evolution of An Officer and a Mensch, the program will now include a community advisory board.

“Three people are signed up thus far,” confirms Michael, including a police captain who joined GLIDE on this year’s Alabama Pilgrimage. “The idea is to explore how to tap people who are on the inner circle of police departments and police reform to help us think about systemic change.”

The 2019 graduating group of the Officer and a Mensch program pictured in GLIDE’s sanctuary with Rabbi Michael.

Alabama Pilgrimage: A reckoning with America’s history of racism

Essential to the collective issue of justice and reconciliation is the history of racial injustice in this country. When the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), located in Montgomery, Alabama, opened a Legacy Museum and a National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018—precisely to encourage a national conversation about racism and its legacies—GLIDE mounted a group visit to Montgomery to coincide with the openings of these powerful centers of truth and reflection.

This pilgrimage to Alabama has now become an annual undertaking that includes GLIDE staff as well as community members and partners to explore the deep connections between the history of this country and the ongoing challenges we face as a society. The trip follows a series of preparatory courses, organized by Rabbi Michael and Isoke Femi of GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice with support from James Lin, GLIDE’s senior director of mission and spirituality, which are designed to maximize the opportunity for insight, group communication and social transformation among the participants. The group also gathers multiple times after returning, coalescing as a community to harness a continuing collective effort towards justice.

“I describe the Alabama trip as a pilgrimage,” explains Michael, “which I define as a journey of personal, spiritual discovery that forever changes you.

GLIDE staff and community partners gather for a moment of reflection before walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on the 2020 Alabama pilgrimage.

“Isoke and I meet monthly for 90 minutes with the Alabama alumni, which this year includes GLIDE staff and employees of UCSF and San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), in this Rise and Step class. The purpose is to both help check-in with them spiritually but also process how to become activists on the ground here, to take the fire and energy they got from Alabama and translate that to action here in San Francisco. It is about the connection between spirituality and activism.”

“UCSF is the second biggest economic engine in San Francisco,” explains Michael. “They have 30,000 employees and put $6 billion into the budget and have a history of systemic racism. Until the mid-1960s they had something called The Basement People, which were primarily people of color who cleaned rooms and cooked in the kitchen and janitorial staff who could not eat in the main dining room. They had to eat in the basement. The first African American professor at UCSF is still on faculty. We are agitating with them, using Alabama as a through line, to connect the dots from slavery to mass incarceration to mass poverty but also systemic racism and inequity in healthcare—both in the delivery of healthcare and the education of healthcare systems.

Community discussions and truth telling during the 2020 Alabama pilgrimage.

“This is a loving community,” continues Rabbi Michael. “A sweet, loving group of people. Isoke and I meet weekly at a gathering with 25 UCSF senior leaders who were all on the Alabama Pilgrimage with us this year from March 1 through March 5. These 60- to 90-minute gatherings have become a spiritual support group, and a political and strategic planning group to think about how to birth a truth, justice and reconciliation process at UCSF.

Community meal in Alabama, March 2020.

“In my wildest dreams of being a Congregational Rabbi, never would I have thought I would be involved in systemic change like this.”

The common denominator is transformation

“I believe in the power of transformative change, not just for an Officer and a Mensch or in Alabama, but when members of the community come into GLIDE’s kitchen to bake challah or to serve meals or hand out clean needles. I see that as a pilgrimage too. Those five days on the ground in Alabama or two hours in the Tenderloin operationalize all of [EJI founding executive director] Bryan Stevenson’s four points: They gift you with proximity; they help you imagine new narratives; they tether you to hope; and they make you willing to do uncomfortable things.

“EJI talks about lynching as racial terrorism. Police violence is racial terrorism. In the most nightmare kind of way. To courageously talk to police officers and district attorneys about this, I think is really important. It is hard but to help them see that they are part of a history that is really terrifying—that is our opportunity with these programs.”

By Erin Gaede

By Minister Marvin K. White

Mark 5: 1-13

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also, he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So, all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned in the sea.

Today, I am reading Mark, Chapter 5 through a Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, Father’s Day and Trauma Lens.

George, Chapter 5: 1-13

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the city of the Minneapolis. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man who the police had been taught, had an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs of the decimated and disinvested and lead waters and COVID-19. And still with all of these cards stacked against him, with the legacy of chattel slavery, like a rigged game of historical bid whist, no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, often had been arrested, often had been beaten and killed off camera, he had often had to work 100 times as hard for 100 times less pay than his white counterpart.

And so, the chains had been pulled apart by him, so the chains had been pulled off by Harriet Tubman. And so, the chains, he decided were not fashioned by him, even though he knew iron first. And so, the chains of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, racism, and white supremacy, and so, the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces. And now nobody could tell him nothing.

After 401 years of obedience school, neither could anyone tame him. And so, he vigiled, And so, he rallied, And so, he marched, And so, he rioted, And so, he looted, always, night and day, he was in corporate America and in he was in the tombstate of the inner-city, crying out and cutting himself with stones. Cutting himself with self-doubt. Cutting himself with black inferiority. Cutting himself with the Prison Industrial Complex signing his birth certificate as the father. And When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.

Let’s say for the purpose of this dramatic story, Jesus was white, and Jesus was woke, and Jesus read Dismantling White Supremacy, and Jesus understood his white privilege, and Jesus understood that his wealth was not earned but inherited, and Jesus spoke out against hate-filled policies, and Jesus fought for prison reform because you know, Jesus came to free us. And yes, Jesus’ “us’ is all of us. And Jesus knew he couldn’t be neutral when it came to racism, and Jesus knew he couldn’t be complicit. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.

Let’s say for the purpose of this dramatic story, Jesus was white. This thing, this internalized self-hate, the trauma shaped and informed self, the fear that white supremacy had built in him, got scared. And whiteness (I don’t have to do the white people vs. whiteness thing with y’all, do I? Okay, good.) And so, whiteness, who knew because white people started taking to the street calling the names of Ahmaud, George, Breonna, and Tony and the Many Thousand Black People Gone, whiteness got scared. And when whiteness gets scared, it responds with violence. It responds with tear gas, bullets, mass incarnation, stop and frisk, no knock searches, and knees on necks. Then the whiteness, in all its supremacy, cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

“What have you to do with me?” Jesus asked incredulously. “You have been tormenting people and keeping people in subjugation, and keeping poor white and working-class whites, and poor black and working class black, apart from one another. You have pitted us all against one another. Now that I have crossed the sea and saw how colonialism and patriarchy and white supremacy has not been in my best interest, it has every damn thing to do with me.”

For He said to him, “Come out of the black man, come out of the black woman, come out of the black trans man, come out of the poor white, and the white ally. Come out of the black trans woman, you unclean-dirty-lowdown-confederate flag waving-white sheet wearing-glass ceiling installing-red-line drawing-three-strike legislating-high blood pressure and diabetes inducing- come out spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion, but my whole name is Legion of White Supremacy; for we are many.” Also, so Legion of White Supremacy begged Jesus earnestly, look I reinstated affirmative-action and I cut a stimulus check. Legion of White Supremacy begged, that He would not send them out of the country. Jesus said, “What about the Payroll Protection Program not getting to black businesses?!?!?! Huh?!?!?!?”

Now a large battalion of police was feeding off the black people there near the black mountains of corporate America and near the black inner-city. So, all the Legion of White Supremacy begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” Jesus said, “Naw Son, swine ain’t never did nothing to you. I’m giving the pigs their name back. You don’t even get to be called that.” And at once Jesus gave them no body, human or animal, And at once Jesus gave them no systemic racist body, human or animal, and the herd, the Legion of White Supremacy, heard that a change was not only gonna come, but was here, and ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the very same sea where enslaved Africans crossed or drowned in the Middle Passage.

May God add a blessing to the re-readers, the mis-hearers and the DOERS of the True Word of God.

This administration is triggering all kinds of latent, hidden, passive, raw, unattended, sublimated and subconscious trauma. Everybody has a hair pin. Everybody a missle in a silo. Everybody got everybody else launch code. Everybody firing. Feels like everybody ready to come to blows. Everything coming up now. Bubbling. Breaking the surface. Our Christian Witness can be there when the mother collapses after news of her son being shot, the father taking back to the bottle after being laid off, the heart offering itself as confection to anybody, after the last one broke it. The heart is not taffy. It is brittle. We can be there when it breaks. Or we can use our sacred texts to prepare our people for their subconscious rising, by pointing to a bible that also has experienced its own trauma. Has hidden from itself what it has done to itself. Katrina is what Noah changed his name to after watching his people drown and was helpless to do anything. Katrina don’t know why she storms out every time somebody gets to close.

Even got me thinking about why I, at 54, let things go untreated, unpaid, and unchecked. Why I think a cry for help might be met with a physical, systemic, professional, emotional or intimate belt lashes, but let’s call them “feels”, and be up in them. Let’s soften the blows of years of believing we are the reason for what happened to us and the reason who happened to us and why it look and sound like and walk like a duck, but that quacking, you’re being convinced, is in your head. So, for 401 years, Let’s call ourselves undisciplined, then disorganized, then stupid, then silly, flaky, then worthless, then unlovable, but never between 8 to 54, stop to think about having learned not to make a peep. To cry without sound. To look away, disassociate and disembody. To not say anything when someone is hurting you or you are hurting yourself in the same way that you did the first time somebody asked you, after you got the instructions, the math problem, the directions wrong, “Are you stupid?” And you looked at your soul and said, “Yes.”

And now here we are on Facebook, in our offices, at the gym, in our cars, on the hamster wheel, finally saying abolish policing as we know it or reform it and redeem it from its racist roots. And now we can say molestation, abandonment, alcoholism, religious violence, intellectual violence, academic violence, shame, blame or secrecy. And now we no longer convince ourselves that our phones, lap- and desktops keeps the trauma in proportion to the size of our electronic devices and not to the actual size of the generations of snowballing that have passed that pain down for centuries. And now we no longer let emoticons and GIFs express our rage, our dumbfoundedness, our helplessness and hopelessness in the face of manmade climate change, nuclear war, militarization of police, inadequate or elimination of healthcare, gentrification, walls and border patrols. And now we no longer are blind to how racism, patriarchy, homophobia, misogyny, ageism, anti-poorness, anti-artist, impacts everybody, black or white, equally.

And now we no longer can ask, “Is really happening?” or “Is this really happening to me?” Because it is! Dominant culture, white supremacy, patriarch and empire, expects us to come undone when we discover that we are survivors of sexual, domestic, academic, creative abuse, of toxic masculinities, toxic femininities, toxic queerness’s, toxic creatives, and toxic families, that were forced to work and raise us in the residue of their toxic paychecks and toxic on the job treatments, if they had jobs. But they didn’t see that there was a knee, a no knock warrant, a deputized father and son, a last straw. So, I’m reading Mark, Chapter 5 through a Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, Father’s Day and Trauma Lens. And while yes, Mark Chapter 5 points us to miracles, I wonder if it allows us to overlook the causes of the conditions from which these three people were healed?

Can we think that Jesus as not just pimple cream, that we dab on the spot of the bump, but The One who has come to address the condition, the historical, the systemic, the dysfunctional family systems, the enabling, the shame, blame and secrecy, that every person who shows up in the bible needing healing is not just healed of “the thing” but is healed of the generational curse? Can we absolve black people of crimes that they did not commit or at least admit to the mitigating circumstances that were a part of their crimes, and how miseducation and history denying, added to the impact of the amount of love or lovelessness in their childhoods? And can we hold them as they have held their families’ secrets, which now they have made their own? What must have happened to them? They just didn’t “go crazy” one day, start bleeding one day, decide to play dead one day.

I mean, what would you have had to overcome to allow you to stand up to a man, like so many other men, and a system, like so many other systems, to whom you knew you were powerless to? If you had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but found a strength to break them but free from them, and you were in a cycle of incarceration and freedom, incarceration and freedom, what could you do? Why are you every Night among the dead howling and bruising yourself? When did this start? Why does help look like your tormentors?If everyone one of your disappointments and hurts and pains had a name, what would they be? Why do we bargain with our trauma as if it has our best interest at heart? When we are delivered or healed and left in the same spot of our hurt, how do we maintain our freedom? What if you took your healing into your own hands, got healed, got caught, and the person from whom you got healed, instilled fear and trembling in you, triggered you? Yes, you are healed but still triggered?

As we read Mark Chapter 5, let us think about how the Christ was is an ally and not a savior. How the Christ would be seen as unclean and unworthy too. How the Christ would be, prepared to know about grace, and disparities of COVID-19 disease and bloodborne pathogens? How the Christ would be out in these streets. I’m reading Mark, Chapter 5 through a Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, Father’s Day and Trauma Lens. And it all about making sure that not the word of freedom, but actual freedom reaches the ones most deeply entrenched in enslavement. And its about legislative and cultural shifts to know all lives can’t matter until BLACK LIVES Matter, And it’s about releasing ourselves from the fatherhood of white supremacy, And it’s about trauma, and reading the bible, and living the living bible, in such a way that it doesn’t just making us stop hurting, but we are actually freed of our pain calcifying and fossilizing in our bones and bodies.

Amen