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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

A message from GLIDE’s President and CEO


Dear Friends,

As the nation continues to demand change in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless other Black men and women whose lives have been cut short at the hands of police, GLIDE remains steadfast in our commitment to social and racial justice in all we do.

For nearly 60 years, GLIDE has been a leading social justice organization on the front lines fighting racism and promoting equality, radical inclusion, and unconditional love. Our work has taken many forms, from serving people on the streets and lifting people out of poverty and suffering, to protesting, advocating for policy solutions that change systems, and bringing hope, healing and inspiration with our legendary Sunday Celebrations.

At this critical moment, GLIDE reaffirms our commitment to Black, Brown, LGBTQIA, homeless, immigrant, and socially and economically marginalized individuals and families. Our staff makes this commitment every day in our programs, services, advocacy, community organizing and leadership.

  • Serving over 75% people of color, GLIDE’s services stabilize and lift up individuals and families struggling with the effects of systemic racism. Our integrated services include meals, harm reduction services, childcare, women and family services, case management, violence intervention, and housing resources.
  • GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice drives systemic change to overcome racism and inequity. In addition to shifting consciousness on racism and bridging the empathy gap, we lead advocacy and shape policy solutions to address homelessness, criminal justice reform, poverty, drug policy and the express needs of women and children of color.
  • GLIDE’s law enforcement training program interrupts patterns of discrimination and brutality. Rooted in empathy and service, it brings together police, district attorneys and other law enforcement professionals from around the country to come face-to-face, in service and dialogue, with people impacted by racism, homelessness, drug use disorders and more. Hosted in the Tenderloin, the program changes the perspectives of law enforcement officers and interrupts patterns of police brutality and discriminatory policing in communities of color.
  • GLIDE’s Racial Justice Pilgrimage Project promotes truth, justice and reconciliation, rooting participants in a deep understanding of our nation’s history of racism and its modern day persistence. With the aim of making progress against systemic racial violence and inequities, the journey begins with a deep examination of the history of racial oppression in the United States. Facilitated by GLIDE’s in-house racial and social justice experts, the project includes workshops, seminars and readings on the history of race and injustice. The program culminates with a group trip to Montgomery, Alabama, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • In partnership with UCSF, GLIDE is finding new ways to address systemic racial and economic inequities in health care. GLIDE is leading a group of senior healthcare leaders from UCSF through the Racial Justice Pilgrimage Project and ongoing trainings. In the coming year, 160 first-year UCSF medical students will make multiple visits to GLIDE as part of an experiential learning program. GLIDE and UCSF are also partnering to spur local government officials and the Department of Public Health to address systemic health inequities in San Francisco.
  • Leading social impact in the business sector. GLIDE is broadening our racial justice and empathy work to include transformative experiences for corporate leaders and their staffs. Similar to our work with healthcare leaders, GLIDE addresses inequities and empathy gaps in the corporate world through targeted trainings to top-level executives, as well as experiential work tied to GLIDE’s extensive volunteer opportunities on-site in the Tenderloin.

Whether in the daily work of our comprehensive services to the poor and marginalized or in our innovative trainings and public advocacy, GLIDE’s goal is to deepen understanding and empathy while increasing activism to address systemic injustices and policy reform.

We are right now in a defining moment for our country, in which the long struggle for racial equality is once again front and center in the nation’s consciousness and conscience. GLIDE remains committed, and we thank you for your continued support of our work.
 

In solidarity,

Karen Hanrahan
President & CEO

A letter to our community

Dear friends,

The pain of this last week is longstanding and deep within our community.

The unrest is the unrest of those who cannot rest.

None of us can rest until this murder and the long, long line of crimes against black and brown people move from being the inevitable to being the impossible in our country.

In the grief we feel for the loss of George Floyd—the incalculable value of his precious life—we hold, too, a profound grief for all the people of color, all the men and women, all the queer, trans and gender-non-conforming people who have had that knee on their neck unto death, too.

With a prescience that shakes us with sorrow and resolve all these many years later, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, “As long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.”

We urge peace. And we know that the only basis for peace is justice.

We stand with the millions of people in this country, and around the world, in demanding justice—but with a special determination to act right here, right now in our own communities.

We must not let our humanity and all of our moral and practical energies stray from these facts (and many other terrible facts like them) about the conditions forced on our African American brothers and sisters:

— African Americans make up 5% of San Francisco’s population, yet represent 37% of those in our community experiencing homelessness.

— Nationally, African Americans are three times more likely to die from COVID19 than white Americans.

— African American imprisonment rate in the US is more than five times the rate among whites, and the rate at which they are shot and killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans.

— Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and twice as likely to die as women of other races.

— The 10 counties with the highest food insecurity rates in the nation are at least 60% African American.

The pain people are expressing in mass protests, the overwhelming majority of whom come together to express themselves in a peaceful and nonviolent way, is not new. The pain comes from centuries of systemic violence and police brutality against Black people.

GLIDE’s daily work and mission are focused on caring for, and walking with, those brutalized, traumatized, pushed out, or pushed to the ground by an unequal and unjust system.

We continue to strive toward a racial and social reality that embraces life, by truly loving and respecting each living soul.

There can be no rest and no peace without love, without justice.

Let us all recommit to seeing, again, in those who have been told otherwise, the remarkable and beautiful people they are. Let us say it again. Black Lives Matter. So that we might live fully and meaningfully in this supremely challenging time.

With love and solidarity,

Karen Hanrahan

President & CEO, GLIDE

An essential support for men overcoming violence is back up and running strong

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing all of us to put much of our lives on hold for a time. But some things are too critical to defer or interrupt. For essential services like GLIDE’s Men in Progress (MIP) violence intervention program, new ways of accomplishing the same ends need to be found. We’re glad to report that, after a short hiatus following the shelter-in-place order, MIP is once again up and running and going strong—online. We want to thank Saundra, the lead facilitator and case manager for GLIDE’s 52-week court-mandated Batterer’s Intervention programas well as the program’s courageous and committed participants, for allowing us to join a recent weekly session to learn firsthand how the new format is working.

Saundra starts the Zoom call with the same check-in question each week, “Any new violence or police contact?”

“Only in my dreams,” shares one participant. Others are pleased to report their success in learning to practice accountability and control over their behavior.

After this brief check-in, the group takes a moment to close their eyes and be silent. Saundra calls this a “grounding practice” that helps men arrive in the present moment in a state of calm awareness.

Today’s class is about power and control. Saundra goes around and asks everyone to share their thoughts on what male privilege looks like, encouraging them to use examples from their lived experience.

The answers are as diverse as the group of faces that lines the top of the computer screen.

One participant shares how male status in the Chinese culture he was raised in taught him that only men are allowed to handle the finances of a family. As a result, he witnessed the way his father used money as a form of power and control over his mother.

Another participant shares his own life lessons from growing up in the American South, where he describes the culture of his childhood as “hostile towards attitudes and actions that challenge traditional gender roles.”

Various group members nod in understanding and support through their computer screens.

The MIP meetings may be virtual, but the degree of depth and vulnerability of this work is rooted in real lives committed to understanding and change.

In the session the participants explore themes of intimidation and dominance and definitions of violence, always with an eye toward accountability and the impact on one’s self as well as one’s partner, family and community. Saundra calls this chain of influence “the ripple effect,” and constantly encourages men to think about the long-term impact of their actions.

“Imagine if someone said or did that to your mother, your sister or your daughter?” she asks the group.

One participant insists that his children have never seen the domestic disputes he has had with his wife.

“Your kids may not see everything that is going on,” Saundra replies, “but they know. Children can feel when violence is in their home.”

Violence intervention classes like Men In Progress are all the more crucial in the midst of COVID-19.

Every year, more than 10 million Americans experience domestic violence, and advocates fear that the isolation necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic could make violence in homes more frequent and more severe. While shelter-in-place measures are aimed at improving the health and safety of all, for many they could be having the opposite effect.

GLIDE’s MIP remains the only free program of its kind in the Bay Area, and thanks to Saundra and other dedicated staff at GLIDE, the program is still offering four group sessions each week online.

“When I get frustrated with everything feeling out of my control, I return to the main lesson I have learned from this group,” shares one man, when asked about the impact of quarantine on his aggressive tendencies. “It’s not okay to be violent just because I am angry.”

By Erin Gaede

Psalm 23 says,

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

The word of the lord for the radically inclusive, unconditionally loving, extravagantly welcoming, open and affirming people of God.

Amen.

I thought that this scripture, that appeared in the lectionary this week, spoke into this moment.

“Marvin, where are you reading, performing, speaking, dancing, being this week?” is the question I remember being asked often in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I had no clear path because I had no clear future, so I was ALL OVER THE PLACE.

I was called flakey, uncommitted, wishy-washy and flighty because I was looking for my future in poetry readings, in theater, in dance and in writing.

I was all over the place. I was all over creation. I was on everybody’s set. It made sense to me, the instability, the detachment, the ability to get up and go to the next thing, to have a taste satisfied and not stay for the whole meal, to have a new taste for something unnamed and then go and spend years finding it.

All over the place. See, the thing about being all over the place, is that you actually want to be still. And when you finally tire out. You have to practice being still.

At 54, I am in place. I am findable. You can locate me. I have an address. You can plan a visit with me. You can pop in on me. You can send me a card, flowers, candy. One day I realized, that I want to be in place.

I want to be installed. I want to shoot down deep roots. I want to be a respectable chandelier in my old age, mid-century modern ensconced, a Tiffany lamp appreciated in value.

And while my life may not have been lived efficiently, so close to burning out, now, because I am in place, I am working on being a beacon and a landing strip.

I am a lighthouse, a siren, a traffic signal, and you can triangulate your journey by where I stand, work, pray, preach and organize.

You see, that’s why “Sheltering-In-Place” is a spiritual principle. It says that it’s time to stop sounding the whir and being the blur.

It’s time to be sought out and found. It’s time to say to God, to spirit, to opportunity, to love, “Here I am and I ain’t going nowhere. I am “Sheltering-In-Place.” You can find me here, not waiting on you by the door, but comfortable in my skin, being my own best company, consoling myself, cooking for one.

But if you looking for me Oh Great God, I now know that all that chasing and pursuing of dreams was made for me to know that this moment, this physical distancing, is about feeling like I want you to know that you can come home to me God.

That opportunity can come home to me.

That love can come home to me.

I am finally still. I am no longer in the “Lean-to of Displace,” I am “Sheltering-In-This-Place.”

This Corona Virus and COVID-19 moment is bringing up all kinds of latent, hidden, passive, raw, unattended, sublimated and subconscious thoughts that I have held about myself. You see, I was shaped by a pandemic, and if you have ever had to recover from an accident, if you served in the military, if you are a spouse of a police officer, if you believe in miracles, if you believe in science, if you believe in both, if you believe in humanity, and nothing you believed in has made you worry less, then you, like me, you have been shaped too, and have some questions.

Right now, everybody has a hair pin.

Everybody is a missile in a silo.

Everybody got everybody else’s launch code.

Everybody’s firing.

Everybody ready to come to blows.

Everything coming up now.

Even our homes for some of us, the very homes that we are paying for, have paid for, put the welcome mat out on, our “be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home” home, feel like prisons and not castles. For some of us what’s coming up is that we never felt at home.

And that makes Sheltering-In-Place hard.

What this moment is revealing to us, and be encouraged, things are becoming clearer and not muddier right now,

What this moment is revealing is our proximity to the mother who collapses after news of her son being shot is on the evening news, you see she was in her house minding her business, just like we are right now.

Clearly, there’s no difference between us.

We are closer to the father taking back to the bottle after being laid off, and now everybody on edge because a rage is coming to their house, which is a house just like ours.

Clearly, there’s no difference between us.

Or…

You see, “Sheltering-In-Place” says that we are present flesh. Because this place is all we got.

Can’t go back to that place and we ain’t got to the next place, we “Sheltered-In-Place.”

We have to turn “Sheltering-In-Place” into a practice.

We have talked about it, and now we are really in “The Era of Self-Care.”

We are finally meditating, whether we wanted to or not.

The world is meditating.

We are finally at our “Still Point.”

Not sitting ducks. But caged birds singing.

Take a knee, and don’t sing, “Make America Normal Again.”

Don’t go back to routine, hitting alarm clocks, punching time clocks, being measured by how much blood, sweat and tears we produce alongside our work.

Don’t go back to homelessness, and violence, and sex trafficking, and poverty, and addiction being just abstraction and conceptual thoughts.

Don’t go back to being the prettiest in the room, the boss of everybody, the A-Student, the Closer, the whip-into-shaper and the unsatisfied.

I thought not knowing whether I was coming or going was normal.

Didn’t know that the gap between my realities was so spacious.

And now I know that there is a time set aside for me, that allows me to be with and be myself.

And that time is now. That ain’t never been my normal.

This moment, this Corona Virus and COVID-19 moment is my gap year. Before I join back in, I am going to look at all of my latent, hidden, passive, raw, unattended, sublimated and subconscious trauma. I am going to look at why I, at 54, let things go untreated, unpaid and unchecked.

And how despite my privileges, I’m like everybody else who don’t have access to medical care.

Even got me thinking about if I isolate and quarantine and shelter-in-place, will anybody come looking for me.

And how now I’m like everybody else who lives invisible lives in tent encampments, knowing that no one is coming to check on them.

Even got me thinking about how much time I have to stand in line to buy food.

Now I’m just like everybody else hungry enough to wait in line for a free meal.

Even got me thinking about how suspiciously people look at me in my mask.

And now I’m just like everybody else who is racially profiled wearing the exact same mask.

Even got me thinking that if I cry for help, it might be met with a physical, systemic, professional, emotional or intimate violence, but you will call them my “feels,” and tell me to be in them is a sign of weakness.

Questions come to you when you practice, “Sheltering-In-Place.”

The years of believing I am the reason for what happened to me and the reason who happened to us and now I know why that never felt right or made sense.

Because you know if black people didn’t have diabetes or hypertension or heart disease, and if old people weren’t old, and Prime Ministers weren’t Prime Ministers, and young people weren’t young people and the rich weren’t rich, and the loved weren’t loved and the fathers weren’t fathers and the mothers weren’t mothers, and the nurses weren’t nurses and the doctors weren’t doctors, then they wouldn’t be dead from the virus right now.

This is not your “Still, small voice talking,” it’s your anxiety, and “Sheltering-In-Place” shows you that sound like love, but it’s not.

But there is in this a hope and a promise.

Psalm 23 says,

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and

your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

God is a shelter-in-place my whole life long.

We have come to address in this pandemic the condition: the historical, the systemic, the dysfunctional family systems, the enabling, generational trauma, the shame, blame and secrecy, that every person who shows up needing healing gets healed of.

You can find us in our inseparable and indivisible lives intertwined in this COVID-19 moment, absolving those with COVID-19 of a crime that they did not commit and we begin to consider the mitigating circumstances; the impact of the amount of love or lovelessness in the world.

Our divine coordinates, with the one who removed our restraints and shackles to capitalism, to bring us into a knowing that we are all caught in a cycle of incarceration. And liberation is a universal right.

Our resolve is a fixed location of hope in the face of people who tell us to give up on the lives of those who are bottoming out, homeless and untested for the virus; when they tell you people are dead to you, hold on to hope.

We are finally in the zone, our locations grouped together, even in isolation, the zone of loving ourselves enough to know that our own health, mental, physical and spiritual, is important and it’s time to unlearn that you have to push through your pain or live with it, hold on to hope.

The count is rising.

The flood is rising.

The death is tolling.

The timebomb is ticking.

But hold on to hope.

Keep “Sheltering-In-Love.”

Keep, “Sheltering-In-Place.”

Your home is the open house that God has come to see. Wants to know how yawl gon’ get along when it’s time for your “dwell with him forever.”

So, Keep “Sheltering-In-Joy.”

Keep, “Sheltering-In-Place.”

Because you shall dwell in the house of the LORD your whole life long.

The Middle Passage was not your lifelong…

The Enslavement was not your lifelong…

Reconstruction, and Jim Crow and dashed Civil Rights dreams was not your lifelong…

Fighting for Women’s Rights and Suffrage was not your lifelong…

Holding on for LGBTQ protections, rights, equity and inclusion was not your lifelong…

Waiting for your stimulus check was not your lifelong…

Waiting for a cure, a balm, a test or a vaccine was not your lifelong…

And the Corona Virus and COVID-19, can only endureth for a moment, but Joy is coming in the morning.

And these two months might feel like you dwelling in the house your whole life long…Hold on!

You have done the hard part, you lived.

“Sheltering-In-Place” says you want to live so you can see the day when it’s safe to come out.

Don’t live in a house divided against itself. It won’t stand for you. Don’t stand for it.

In this moment, let love come to mind, make yours a house of prayer for all people.

Make yours a house of god. A god house.

And Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. My refuge and my fortress, is my God, in whom I trust.

“Shelter-In-Place” and rest, beloved.

Amen.

by Janice Mirikitani

There are women who are moving.
There are women who have said what must be done:
            Our grandmothers who carried us on their shoulders,
            wove memories of prisons/canefields/refugee camps
    without self pity.
            Our mothers/mine who stood in a River of Silence
            snuffed her dreams and stilled her life, incarcerated in
            World War II internment camps, solely because of ancestry
            would not speak of it for  40 years, until FOR JUSTICE,
            SHE BROKE HER SILENCE, HER TONGUE AFIRE.
 
Mothers/Grandmothers, we know we are here today
            because you gathered your dreams, your songs, our destiny
            in the wing of your arm, in the bow of your back,
            We will not forget you, we cannot be still.
 
There are women who are moving.
            These faces are you/me,
            dark, light colors of all earth.
            legs skinny/short/fat/long
            stretching legs/muscular marching legs,
 
There are women who are WE, with tongues afire…
            Mother who cradles a son, dying of AIDS, 
            Daughter, who’s abused, leaves her addicted mother,
                       another homeless teenager…
           Sister who breaks the silences of incest, rape; breaks the cycle of violent men,
           — SHE IS WE, rebirthing ourselves, TONGUES AFIRE.
There are women who are choosing.   recovering from addictions and passivity; powerlessness;    WOMEN WHO ARE GATHERING… to fight guns
and senseless death:  children killing children, hate crimes, & racism’s neglect. 
 
            There are women who are weeping
            In Bosnia, mothers keen for their dead children,
            In Rwanda, they struggle no less loudly for bread and freedom.
            In Hiroshima, the salt of HER TEARS mingles with HERS
            in San Salvador, Sierra Leone,  Bhopal, Bagdhad,
            in Tienanmen Square, and HERS in the hospitals of Harlem,
            Colombine, Laramie, Jasper, Los Angeles, and OURS in too many
            other cities where more infants die
            than in any other industrialized country.          
But the women are marching, women are moving…
Women are dancing to a language that all understand—
            from our shelters and sweatshops, from field, and factory, cannery, Concentration       
            camps,  senior citizen and new Immigrant ghettos, 
            from kitchens, and bedrooms, offices, senate chambers,
            school rooms, board rooms,
            TONGUES  ARE AFIRE.
We are joining for justice to fight breast cancer, AIDS,
            sexual harrassment, workplace discrimination, 
            unequal pay, and concrete ceilings.
 
We are dressing our shoulders with power.  From them we lift up our legacy…
            My daughter tells me
            of peer pressures and insecurities.
            We speak of woman fear, self sabotage, suicide.
            I tell her I thought at one time I would never reach 40.
            Not me, reckless, chain smoking high diving, fast driving,
            pill popping, college student.
Then I thought IT WASN’T COOL to reach 40.
            slogan yelling, war protesting, gin drinking, yellow power fisted
            revolutionary.
Now that I am well past 40, I tell my daughter,
            PLEASE, if I ever talk about suicide, remind me that I am terrified of
            heights, needles, Los Angeles traffic, bladder Infections,
            and home canned beets.
Now I just want to live each day to enjoy
            my hot flashes, and mood swings, crave my discarded cigarettes,
            fondly remember (when I can remember) a time of effortless slenderness.
            I tell her of my need for justice,
            for my husband to embrace me, and to see HER FACE
            that reveals the miracle of rainbows, the goodness in me,  
            a circle that continues, and my hope of a world for her
            that breathes cleanly, with equality, freedom to choose,
            and freedom from war.
            For our daughter’s children, we must be women moving, women changing,
            more than ever, joining together.
The power of this love, Ignites us from Inside:     
            From the torches of our tongues, ALL IS LIT.
                        the stories, songs, testimonies, poems,  chants, legends,
                        the witnessing.
            THE FIRE IN OUR LEGS, stretching to the march.
 
WATCH OUT:  Women are moving, WE ARE VOTING,
we are marching we are changing, we are choosing, we are leading
We are moving.

Reflections on Client Advocacy, or What Is a Case Manager? (Part 2)

Walk-In Center client advocate Nikki Dove says her role at GLIDE is a constant reminder of how hard life can be. “Working here isn’t easy,” Nikki explains. “It’s not for the faint of heart or cold of heart. You’ve got to have humility. And you’ve got to recognize that not everyone knows how to help themselves, which is why spaces like the Walk-In Center are so important. We help anybody and everybody figure out how to navigate systems for themselves.”

The following reflections from Nikki (lightly edited for publication here) comprise the second installment in our series on the vital but little understood work of case managers. (You can read our first installment here.) What does a case manager do? In this series, we examine and honor the complexity and compassion of case management and client advocacy, here on the front lines of  GLIDE’s efforts to support the wellbeing and self-determination of our community.

We have all been there, navigating a system that we aren’t familiar with. It is irritating and frustrating. Now think about how stressful that would be if your needs were immediate–like shelter.

As a Client Advocate in the Walk-In Center, I spend a lot of time trying to support people in communicating their needs. I hand out tokens for transportation, deliver hygiene kits, and support people with their housing applications.

Because access to housing is so scarce now, I am constantly having conversations with folks who are struggling to adjust to how difficult things are. A lot of people I work with are unhoused for the first time in their life. So I help them with their DMV vouchers and support people in navigating the complicated process towards permanent housing, transitional housing, getting into treatment and finding shelter in the city.

The Walk-In Center is the real starting point for many folks.

Sometimes, in other programs, it feels like the goal is just to push people through or move you on to the next department so that you are not in my face anymore, so you are not my problem anymore. There is a different connection that you get when you meet folks at GLIDE.

I try support each person individually in determining what resources they need to move forward. An important part of this process is figuring out what questions clients need to be asking to avoid being pushed off or running around in circles. I am always trying to make sure that their next step is the right step for each person’s unique circumstances.

But mostly I view my role as seeing people. Folks need to be looked at in a way that their presence is acknowledged. We all go through our lives wanting to make sure that we are leaving some type of stamp or legacy, so someone knows that we were here in the future. Everyone here wants that, too. So making eye contact, asking if they need help with anything, and then listening without judgment is the most important part of my job.

This job has taught me that it is not the people at the bottom that are the problem. Sometimes things just happen. It is not always your fault and your reality is not always chosen. We forget that with this community. I haven’t met anybody that grew up thinking that they want to be unhoused on the streets of San Francisco. There is a lot of trauma [involved] that effects all of us. It is really sad to me the way the finger is often pointed at folks who are experiencing homelessness. There are ways to address this multilevel problem without having to blame the people who are experiencing the problem.

Instead of calling this, “The Homelessness Crisis,” we have to question what is happening with our social services and within our government that is allowing things like this to happen to our neighbors. What is happening within our education system, our homes, our communities? We need to ask, “What happened to you?” in order to create compassionate solutions.

That’s why GLIDE is such an important community, a place where anyone can find connection.

GLIDE offers people the opportunity to be connected through various avenues like Harm Reduction, Recovery services, the Women’s Center, volunteer opportunities, the Meals program, senior social events, Sunday Celebration for spiritual support, holistic support at the Wellness Center. And it doesn’t end there!

People always come back when they are doing well to say thank you and show their appreciation. It can be hard for me to take responsibility and accept their praises because it is work they did. I always remind people that we are here to support but you did the work, you took the necessary steps to move in this direction.

I consider GLIDE to be a supportive space where it is okay for whatever you decide. No matter what, we will be here for you if you need us. So come back and let us know how you are doing. Come back and bring someone else in need of help. Come back if you need support figuring out your next steps. That is why we are here. That is why I am here.

 

By Erin Gaede

Nancy Goh is among GLIDE’s most dedicated volunteers, a loving soul and an inspiring member of this community. Not only is she a regular in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program, but she has incorporated raising awareness and support for GLIDE into her passion for running. Below, Nancy reflects on the reciprocal nature of volunteering and the power of community-building through service. 

My first volunteer shift was a Sunday lunch service.

I had just moved from New York City and was looking for something more than just a network in San Francisco, I was looking for community. I had volunteered at soup kitchens before but trying to find a high-impact volunteer opportunity in a big city was always tough when you only had a couple hours a week to contribute. Usually you had to fill out applications and commit to a certain amount of hours per week.

What instantly stood out to me about GLIDE was how easy it was to sign up for a volunteer shift via the online portal, and that you could dedicate one or two hours of your time in the Meals program and serve hundreds of people.

I come from a programs management and operations background, so I appreciate effective processes and good leadership. I was instantly impressed by the lead kitchen staff at GLIDE. They were so engaged and not only made sure everyone knew their role in the cafeteria but that everyone felt that their contributions were of equal importance. When you work in the corporate world for as long as I have, you see a lot of people who don’t love their job because they don’t find purpose in it. GLIDE was the opposite experience. I remember leaving my first volunteer shift heartened and humbled.

The second time I volunteered, Curtis assigned me the position of greeting people at the door and handing them utensils when they first enter the kitchen. It was very impactful for me. I admit that coming into this experience I, like many, had preconceived notions about people experiencing homelessness. But being in that kitchen, in a setting where everyone is considered equal and everyone deserves a delicious meal, deconstructed my prejudices. It was shocking to see the range of people in the meals line. It was then that I became an instant advocate for GLIDE.

I had been running for over ten years when I decided I wanted to run to raise awareness and support for GLIDE. I created a Go Fund Me page in 2019 with a list of all races I would run on behalf of GLIDE. In 2019, I completed two half-marathons and wore my GLIDE hat for each of them.

The more I volunteered at GLIDE, the more I felt a sense of community. It was the highlight of my weekends, walking into GLIDE and saying hello to the staff and volunteers. It brought a new regularity to my life that I didn’t have before. I met people with incredible stories working in the Meals program, many of whom were original recipients of these meals. I built beautiful connections with people I may have never had the pleasure of crossing paths with, like Lee. Lee had recently been released from San Quentin State Prison, where he was a runner in the 1,00 Mile Club. I had recently signed up to run the San Francisco Half Marathon and learned that Lee had too! In the weeks leading up to the marathon, Lee and I built a friendship based on our shared love of running, checking in with each other about how our training was coming along.

This is just one example of the sustainability model behind GLIDE’s Meals program. Access to a good meal can be the foundation for changing one’s livelihood. You start with giving someone something as basic as a meal and, while the impact doesn’t happen over night, the long-term results are the building of a community that continues to serve each other.

Nancy and Lee serving lunch in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program.

 

By Erin Gaede