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Marvin K. White, Vashti and Liberation

In honor of Women’s History Month, GLIDE’s own Interim Minister of Celebration Marvin K. White shares his gifts as a poet and theologian in a piece entitled “Vashti”. The poem and accompanying interview were originally published in the GLIDE Church eNews, Congregation Connect.

Vashti

I was with the other women
In the woman’s place
In the palace
And it’s only
The letter “A”
That separates place
From palace.

I was with the other women
When he called.
I had been up cooking all night
And had just wiped
The last of the semolina
Off my forehead
And we were finally ready to eat

When he called
We were in our one hundred
And eighty-seventh day of celebrating
One hundred and eighty-seven times
I was called up,
Pageanted for him
And the visiting priests, provinces, and princes.
He had been feasting for the last six days
Without calling.
I waited six.
I was queen.
He told me that.
I was clear.
Or tried to convince myself to be.
I was picked
Like the prized pie at the carnival
Because I was the fairest.

When he called
He never thought
I would refuse him anything.
I was lucky you know
And yes
I heard him calling
Cuz I hear everything.
I am a woman.
Ears trained to ground and sky.
I hear the women
Like myself
Breaking
Like the bread we ate that day.
Women
Who were picked over
For some beauty standard
That had nothing to do with us.

I wasn’t leaving this party.
It felt right.
And yes
I heard him calling
But I also heard God’s warning breath
Whisper my ear
With my mother’s fear,
“Say no girl,
say no.”

So, when he called
It was the seventh day.
He had been drinking.
His heart was merry with wine.
He was drunk.
And ordered,
because that’s what you can do
when you make someone a queen,
He ordered me
To him
In the crown royal,
Now,
He was ready to show me off.
And
I
Said
“No!”
Because I a woman
And I am moved
Like the women I am with
And the women I come from
Are moved.
And there is a place
And it’s only the letter “A”
That separates place from palace
In my belly now.
Fuller than the feast
Whose grease
Lingers on my fingers.
There is a place left
From gathering with my like,
Telling me what to say,
And I am finally ready to hear
This word
This bird
Flying out of my mouth
Turned song.
And I am sure
Other queens have heard it.
Put their tongues
To the roof of their mouths
And tasted it.
My sisters
Esther
Ma’a’cha
Bathsheba
Jezebel
Sheba
Candace.
We who have all said “No!”
And have not known
And known at the same time
Why.
“No!”
For our daughters,
The next in our broken royal lines.
“No!”
For their voices strong and spirit led.
“No!”
We can say “Mother God” and “Father God.”
Can think
That in the company of women
Quiet wars can be raged.
Battles birthing women and
Women birthing battles,
Who don’t forget their kindred
Or their people.
When he called
There was new breath in mine
Pushing this defiance
Out of my chest.

Like life
Collapsing in on itself.
Like rock caught in the craw of my throat
Coughed up.
Like tear and snot braced for pain.
Like we are getting ready
To sing
Or preach
Or pray
For the first time.

Like I said,
When he called
I had been up cooking
All night
And had just wiped
The last of the semolina
Off my forehead,
And we
Were
Finally
Ready
To
Eat.

How did this poem begin for you?

I really believe in locating stories in the Bible through a “Hermeneutics of Suspicion.” In theology, it’s a style of interpretation that bypasses the patriarchal and class readings of biblical stories, so that less-visible and “differently beautiful and powerful” stories can emerge. That’s how I found Vashti. Obfuscated by men, Vashti’s and other marginalized figures’ stories risk being untold. I couldn’t let that happen. I could hear her faint voice, still calling out, these many years later. I have learned to listen and be led by the voice of women all of my life.

What prompted you to write from the perspective of a woman in the Bible? 

I always try to remember when I am writing in the voice of women, that the aim is to be spoken through by women and not to speak for women. I was fortunate enough to have been “mama’s/grandmama’s boy” when I was growing up. My therapist would say that I was a “spousified child”. You know, “Mama’s little man.” But it gave me an insight and entry into “women’s ways.” I hold those intimacies close still. As an adult, I was also the primary caregiver for my mother and grandmother, who both, at different times in my life, lived and died with Alzheimer’s. I was a writer watching their stories disappear. I began having conversations with them by whatever relative’s name they called me. I learned their ways. And learned to be a person who dispensed wisdom. If I have any insight and compassion into women’s experiences and female bonds, it is because they speak through me.

From a feminist, womanist and liberation theological standpoint, Vashti displayed agency and self-valuation.

Can you please talk a bit about the context of Vashti in the Book of Esther? 

Vashti was the queen to King Xerxes, who had a habit of getting drunk and sending for his queen to show her off to his visitors. In one of these instances, Vashti said, “No.” and refused to come. Xerxes’ dudes got in his ear and convinced him that Vashti had dissed him in front of his homies and he was going to have to do something to show who was in charge. I’m being the worst exegete in the world right now! Xerxes declares that all wives shall obey their husbands.

From a feminist, womanist and liberation theological standpoint, Vashti displayed agency and self-valuation. She chose women over men. She made choices that were uncommon in a bible that casts men as the heroes. Her story is now sited as one of resistance, risk and threat to the patriarchy. And it’s not because she was “against” men, but simply and more powerfully, “for” women. There are still other women, and other marginalized voices, hidden behind men in the bible or in bondage by the bible’s storytellers. It is my job as a theologian to free them.

Lisa Pelletier-Ross is a beloved staff member at GLIDE, serving as a trusted Community Safety Team Shift Lead. She, along with several other members of Community Safety and the Meals Program, have been collaborating with our Adult Education Specialist Stephanie McNally to record and share their experiences on the front lines of GLIDE’s work in the community. We are grateful to Lisa for providing the first post of Women’s History Month, and demonstrating the strength, patience and compassion required from the staff at GLIDE who work directly with our program participants.

Lisa (far right) with her colleagues Tanya, Ray and Iris.

Working at Glide has given me the opportunity to meet and befriend lots of people. Being homeless once myself, this is what I know and have learned: Homeless people are people too, but most of the time they are treated as not. They get treated badly all day long. Most of them just want to be treated like a normal human being, for someone to just lend an ear and listen to them. They just want to be heard, but most people don’t have the time or patience to do so.

I witness this desire to be heard with the clients we serve every day at GLIDE. When a client comes to me, whether they want to complain about something or  just say hello and have a friendly conversation, I lend them my ear.

Lisa with her Community Safety Team colleague, Dereik.

One Sunday, a senior citizen came in and told me he didn’t want to live anymore. He was tired. I knew what he meant about being tired, living in the vicious circle.  So I took him into Freedom Hall and asked if he wanted to talk about it. I just let him speak. He told me he wanted to end his life by throwing himself in front of a bus. I sat there with him for a while, and even had someone go and get a pastor for me so I had some support in this situation. I let the man know that we love him and that we would be sad if we didn’t see him around here anymore. The man cried and was still feeling down. I sat there with him for a while and listened to him share how he felt. When they came to take him to the hospital, the man gave me a hug and told me, “Thank you. I love you for listening to me.” That made me feel very grateful and thankful that I was able to change that man’s decision of wanting to take his life.

GLIDE staff celebrating a successful 2018 Grocery Bag Giveaway in December.

Most people just want someone to listen, and if I can do that for them and it makes them happy, then that makes me feel good inside, to give an act of kindness. If I can make another person happy or make their day, then I feel good about myself for doing so. If you lend an ear, that means more to the person you are listening to than, let’s say, buying them a hamburger. They will remember it because listening is a heartfelt act of caring. So if you can find it in your heart, give an act of kindness, show some love, and give an ear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A local justice hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernestine speaking at GLIDE Church during Christmas Celebration.

Paving the way

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

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

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

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

Angela Coleman has worked at GLIDE in various roles for 13 years, and is currently a much-loved Case Manager with our Walk-In Center. GLIDE recognizes the need to work closely with formerly incarcerated women and their families. New research shows that formerly incarcerated people are nearly 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public, with Black women experiencing the highest rate of sheltered homelessness – nearly four times the rate of white men, and twice as high as the rate of Black men. As a Case Manager with GLIDE’s Walk-In Center, Angela has been doing this important work for years. Angela took some time recently to discuss why she works with imprisoned and formerly incarcerated people, and what societal and systemic changes she wants to see. Continue reading “Lending Hope”

In August, 2017 GLIDE introduced two full-time Meals Navigators to the Daily Free Meals program, which is GLIDE’s largest and longest running program, offering meals three times daily to all in need or some 750,000 meals a year. Pamela Brown and Diane Truong help connect people in our community to other services at and beyond GLIDE. Pamela specializes in assisting people with disabilities, while Diane offers English-Cantonese translation to our many Cantonese-speaking community members.
Continue reading “Meet Diane and Pamela: GLIDE’s Meals Navigators”

Iona Lewis is a Case Manager with GLIDE’s Men in Progress program. Thanks to her father, Iona has been a part of the GLIDE community her entire life. Now, she and her husband Raphael are both employees here and their son, Carlo, attends GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC) during the day. Iona and Raphael were part of the GLIDE contingent to the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, in April.

In the following lightly edited excerpts from a recent conversation, Iona shares some memories of her father and growing up near GLIDE. With this offering from Iona, we wish everyone everywhere a loving Father’s Day weekend. 
Continue reading “A Father’s Gift”

Laura Thompson, founding member of the GLIDE Legacy Committee, remembers her mother by living GLIDE’s values

GLIDE Church has a long-standing tradition of featuring voices from the community in a segment of Sunday Celebration called “I Am GLIDE.” Personal testimonies on the strength and power of unconditional love from our program participants, congregants, donors and volunteers provide what we often refer to as “the GLIDE sacred text.” We feature these inspiring stories here when we can. Recently, Laura Thompson, founding member of our wonderful GLIDE Legacy Committee, spoke to the congregation.

I was raised by a badass single mom.

She survived an abusive childhood at the hands of a schizophrenic mother and alcoholic father, and escaped to San Francisco in the 1960s as a young adult, where she found GLIDE.
Continue reading “A Family Affair”

Unconditional Love. Radical Inclusivity. And Doing Your Part.

GLIDE Church has a long-standing tradition of featuring voices from the community in a segment of Sunday Celebration called “I Am GLIDE.” Personal testimonies on the strength and power of unconditional love from our program participants, congregants, donors and volunteers provide what Rev. Angela Brown often refers to as “the GLIDE sacred text.” We feature these inspiring stories here when we can. Emily Cohen, Co-Chair of the GLIDE Legacy Committee, spoke to our congregation on April 29.

I grew up in Petaluma. I was raised Jewish and secular. My father is Jewish and my mother is I think what she would call a “recovering Protestant”. My childhood was good. It was safe. And I felt loved.

One thing I did not do growing up was go to church. I did go to Hebrew School but about a year before my Bat Mitzah I told my mom I wanted to be a Buddhist. I was 12. So I have always been spiritually curious. I have always believed that there is something much more magical and important to us than us. But I never believed it could be found in the walls of any church or religious institution. I never believed a church could be the vehicle for me to have a meaningful spiritual human experience… Until it was.

emily and amy volunteering
Emily Cohen (second from right) volunteering in the GLIDE kitchen with fellow Legacy Committee members.

The first time I came to GLIDE was with my father. We had no intentions beyond just checking it out. But after that service I felt like I had found something I had been looking for my entire life.

I continued to come back on Sundays ,  even when it meant skipping Sunday brunches with friends. I think it was confusing for people — all of a sudden I was going to church. “What has happened to Emily?”

But I was inspired by the message of GLIDE. Of their work for social justice and equality for all. Of unending compassion. And a commitment to serve people at the very margins — the places other religious institutions do not go.

For me, GLIDE has been a kind of mentor. It has shaped my sense of the world. Of what it means to be connected to humanity.

At GLIDE I’ve seen unconditional love through their work in harm reduction. In their free meals program. In their programs for survivors of abuse. For men unlearning violence. In their programs for children. In the Walk-In Center where someone can get a clean pair of socks and speak with a person willing to meet them where they are.

We live in a society that TALKS about being compassionate and loving your neighbor and serving and giving back. But we also live in a society that tells us every day to reject that message. To consume more and give less. To turn away from the things we don’t want to see or feel. To explain to ourselves that you are not my problem. Your suffering is your own fault. We live in a society that gives us every excuse to explain away our selfishness.

For me, GLIDE has been a kind of mentor. It has shaped my sense of the world. Of what it means to be connected to humanity. Of what it means to be compassionate. To understand that it might seem that I have nothing in common with the people sleeping outside of this church   or waiting in line for their next meal. But the truth is, we have everything in common. For someone who is privileged , that can be a painful truth to face. Because then you know you’ll have to do something. GLIDE gives me a place to recognize how privileged I am and then to do something with it.

emily christmas
Emily volunteering at GLIDE’s Annual Toy Bay Giveaway, December 2017.

It is easy for people of privilege to talk about poverty. It is easy to talk about mental illness. It is easy to talk about affordable housing. Or homelessness. Or addiction. Or suffering. Or violence. Or racism. Or sexism. Homophobia. Xenophobia. It is NOT easy to work to change these things.

We have enough people in this world — and in this city — who do nothing. Who don’t give their time, energy or money to anything outside of themselves. We see this every day in the glaring inequality and disparity that we accept right here, right underneath our self-proclaimed “liberal values.”

Am I listening to the voice inside that reminds me that the men and women suffering outside are still a part of me?

Too many people believe it’s not up to them. But you are not one of those people. I know that because you’re here at GLIDE, a place that values and inspires action above everything else.

I call on the people sitting here today and the people listening at home to ask yourself: “Am I walking the walk? Am I listening and RESPONDING to the voice inside me that is trying to remind me of what it is to be human? To be connected? To love unconditionally and to give back in all the ways that I can? Am I listening to the voice inside that reminds me that the men and women suffering outside are still a part of me?

I look around this room — full of so many different types of people — in color, religion, upbringings, down-bringings, in age and gender, all here because we believe in or are curious about this idea of unconditional love and radical inclusivity. And I ask myself “am I giving enough back to this incredible place? Are you?”

GLIDE, to me, is radical because it does not wait for a better, safer, kinder future for the world. It creates that future.

GLIDE has provided an avenue to focus my energy, time and money towards something much more important than me. GLIDE has taught me what it really means to be just one person. Which is that I AM ONE PERSON! GLIDE has taught me what it means to step up and step in and say “I am somebody with something to learn and something to give.”

I use GLIDE as my vehicle because it is reflective of my values, beliefs and my desires for making this world — and our community—a better place. GLIDE, to me, is radical because it does not wait for a better, safer, kinder future for the world. It creates that future. But GLIDE can’t do it without you and me. So I’m asking you this morning to give more than you ever have. Whatever that means to you. Whether it is your time, your energy, your money. Step up. There is much work to be done.

I read a quote a few years ago and for me, it embodies GLIDE’s mission:

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

Being an active part of GLIDE has changed my life and I am certain it will change yours too.

My name is Emily. And I am GLIDE.

legacy committee group pic
The 2018 GLIDE Legacy Committee. Emily is pictured in the front row on the far right.

Rev. Angela Brown on A March For Our Lives and Leaving a Legacy of Peace

In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida and the epidemic of gun violence in this country, we sat down with Rev. Angela Brown, Associate Pastor at GLIDE Memorial Church, to discuss what we can do to end gun violence, and why we should stay hopeful and loving. 
Continue reading “Sensible Gun Laws Now!”

GLIDE’s Karen Hanrahan reflects on the power and promise of women and girls

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I’d like to ask you what drives your own connection to GLIDE’s efforts on behalf of women and girls in the Tenderloin and beyond? Well, firstly, I was raised by a single mother, a strong woman and a role model who raised three children by herself and worked very hard to do that. I watched how hard it was in the 1970s to get divorced, to build a life that would take care of her children. Women of her generation had to break a lot of barriers.

When we talk about injustice, about inequality, what I have seen is that women and girls are still viewed as having less value. That was the case when I began working on human rights issues, and it continues to be the case in many places around the world. That for me was a calling, addressing this injustice and inequality. At the same time, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to form very close relationships with girls and young women in places from Afghanistan to Africa to the Middle East, and I have seen how courageous these girls and women can be—particularly if they are standing up for something they know they can be put in jail for or can bring great risk to them. But women and girls who make very courageous and positive changes in their community—it’s where real change can happen.

KarenHanrahan-FYCC (002)
Karen with a group of children from GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center.

 

What’s the significance of International Women’s Day for you?
It reminds me of the power of women for positive change, in the U.S. and globally. We’ve learned, for example, that when you put money directly in the hands of women, their children live longer, their households do better, their communities do better. When women are in power in government, they tend to be agents for peace, rather than violent conflict. It’s a reminder of the power of women to make the world a better place. At the same time, the fact that we have only the one day is a reminder of how far we have to go. There are still too few women in senior positions in government, in the private sector, even in the public sector. There remain high levels of inequality. Women have the highest risk of being impoverished in the United States, actually. So we have a long way to go.

“… We all come into the world wanting dignity, respect and equality. I’ve seen incredible women, including young women and girls, pushing the boundaries of their circumstances, and pushing against the forces that are keeping them out of school or out of politics or forcing them into child marriages.”

 

When you look at the challenges facing women and girls in the Tenderloin, do you see things that are similar to those you saw in other parts of the world?
A lot of people think the United States has made a lot more progress than most other countries, that it’s some sort of beacon of equality for women. But the #MeToo movement has shown just how common and deep the discrimination and abuse faced by women here really is. It happens everywhere around the world. Again, it comes from a lack of valuing women for who they are, turning them instead into these objects over which men will try to exercise some kind of power.

pamela ward IWC
GLIDE Meals Navigator Pamela Brown helped prepare special gifts for our woman-identifying guests on International Women’s Day.

 

The Tenderloin has reminded me of certain cities I’ve been in around the world because of the state of poverty and homelessness in San Francisco, but also because of the dramatic differences in wealth. One of the fastest growing groups among the most marginalized are women and particularly women of color. So that combination [of growing inequality and a disproportionate impact on women of color] is happening here and on a global level.
There’s another great common denominator among girls and women: We all come into the world wanting dignity, respect and equality. I’ve seen incredible women, including young women and girls, pushing the boundaries of their circumstances, and pushing against the forces that are keeping them out of school or out of politics or forcing them into child marriages. I think it comes down to that common human factor, wanting to be free and to have dignity.

“Overall, one of my objectives is to help GLIDE be a better place for women, as well as to grow our capacity to work with families.”

 

What about GLIDE’s work do you think is the most hopeful and relevant to women and girls today?
I can say that generally GLIDE provides a place for everyone, and welcomes everyone no matter their circumstances and treats them with dignity and respect. But in all honesty I also see that women don’t always feel comfortable in a very male-dominated space, in terms of coming in that front door. I’ve talked to women in the Women’s Center about this, for example. One of the places I want to push us to improve is in ensuring that GLIDE is a friendlier place for women and girls, and provides them with a supportive environment. Their needs are sometimes similar but also often quite different from the men. So this is part of what I want to do at GLIDE.

And from a practical perspective, investing in women and girls and families in the U.S. is one of the smartest investments we can make because it’s one of the best ways to actually break cycles of poverty or prevent poverty in the first place.

So one of my objectives is to grow our capacity to work with families. We do already provide a wonderful environment in our Family, Youth and Childcare Center to support families and to provide early childhood education. That support allows women to continue their own educations and to remain employed. I don’t think everyone truly understands the value of a safe, high-quality place for families to put their children. It means women in particular can get onto a more sustainable path out of poverty—and we’re really going to grow that work.

———-

Karen Hanrahan is the President and CEO of GLIDE. She has 20 years of experience advancing human rights and building high-impact global initiatives around the world, most recently as a senior appointee in the Obama administration, where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. In a variety of roles throughout her life and career, including as a United Nations aid worker and the chief program officer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Karen has brought creativity and innovation to intractable challenges in economic development, global health and international human rights.