Celebrating Chinaka Hodge
By Dori Caminong (Manager, Special Events, Civic and Social Innovation)
The GLIDE Legacy Gala is one day away! This special evening celebrates the beloved community of social influencers committed to making an impact in San Francisco. We will dance, eat, drink, rejoice and commemorate the visionary leadership of Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani who have tirelessly led the charge creating and cultivating unconditional love and acceptance throughout San Francisco for over five decades.
GLIDE’s Community Hero Awards Ceremony at the 6th Annual GLIDE Legacy Gala honors individuals who have made an impact on communities with their unique talents, innovative leadership, and passion. This year, the Legacy Award will be given to Chinaka Hodge. Janice Mirikitani shared, “Chinaka is a young leader of tremendous talent, insight and creativity, and she brings to light — through her spoken word brilliance — courageous conviction, truth and inspiration.” Cecil Williams added,”She is a beloved member of our GLIDE family providing her powerful voice to our message as she continues to help us affirm that BLACK LIVES MATTER, ALL LIVES MATTER.”
Chinaka Hodge writes, sings, studies, directs plays and teaches about Oakland. While she has received national recognition, her artistic work has always focused on her hometown- more recently on the gentrification she sees happening in Oakland, while native Oaklanders continue to live in poverty. Chinaka’s artistic work embodies the foundation GLIDE is built upon – pushing people to think, to take action, to gain compassion, and to love beyond their comfort zones. When not educating or writing, Hodge rocks mics as a founding member of a collaborative hip-hop ensemble, The Getback. Her poems, editorials, interviews, and prose have been featured in Newsweek, San Francisco Magazine, The Believer, PBS, NPR, CNN, C-Span, and in two seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry.
Chinaka shares her GLIDE story as she answers our #topfour burning questions.
How did you first hear about GLIDE? What is your “coming to GLIDE” story? How would you describe your relationship to GLIDE and how has it changed over the years?
I don’t think you can grow up in The Bay Area and not know about the work GLIDE does. I can’t recall the first time hearing about the work, or knowing members of the GLIDE community as active, engaged, concerned and fierce citizens. There WAS a project where Youth Speaks poets interacted with GLIDE and put on a performance that tied poetry to spirit. A few of my favorite writers (Brandon Santiago, Dennis Kim and Benjamin E. Turner) performed at GLIDE and I came to see them, there. I was overwhelmed by the true diversity, not just of phenotype, but of personality and experience. The love for all, regardless of walk, permeated throughout.
What inspired you to become a storyteller?
I also can’t remember how I became a storyteller. I have very fond memories from my pre-school days of walking to the public library with my teacher Mama Jasiri, and listening to the stories told by the librarians there. My mother, father and stepfather are all blessed with the gift of oration. My mother is precise and witty. My father loves an allegory and revels in an anecdote. My stepdad tells stories that are deep and probing. And ALL of them love a great joke. Aside from their humor and knack for narrative, they all watched the great comedians — Pryor, Carlin, Williams — on a regular basis. I’ve always been a theater geek. I loved Shakespeare at an early age. I loved the West African folklore with which I was reared, particularly the legend of Sundiata. I was a little ham in those days and always wanted to be the lead in the school play (though I was consistently cast as the teacher or grandma. I was also an old-at-heart little fart. Ha!). I think my favorite storytellers blend the best of these skills. Storytellers that are my contemporaries like Ryan Coogler, Donald Glover, Jennifer Johns and Ryan Nicole Austin inspire me now. I hope to tell stories that inspire, excite, surprise, engage and instruct, like they do.
Who is someone you met at GLIDE whom you will not easily forget and why?
Does Janice count if I met her outside the walls of GLIDE? She carries GLIDE with her wherever she goes, so I think she’s fair game. I met Janice at a poetry reading in North Beach when I was 14. I think Genny Lim was on that bill, too. I got to hear these two powerful women speak with authority, humor, wit, insight and a rare historicity that I could not help but be moved. Later in life I met Jonah Matranga, who is part of the chorus. We met artistically, also outside the walls of GLIDE, but I think he embodies the best of the institution as well. He leads with kindness, grace, poise and radical inclusion. I also know Lauren Baranco and her family from the wayyy back. Lauren? Well, Lauren is that dude. She’s fiercely intelligent and has always leant her intelligence (which is also read as power) to the betterment of the communities in which she participates. I think her love for humanity radiates from her center outwards, and is probably what makes her as gorgeous as she is.
Our core values emerge from GLIDE as a spiritual movement. They are rooted in empowerment, recovery and personal transformation. Our values inspire and guide our behaviors, they are the ground we stand on. Below, please find our core values, is there one particular core value which strongly resonates with you personally and why?
I’d say of all of GLIDE’s core values, I’m most drawn to truth-telling. It is what I aim to do in my writing and performance. It is a dangerous act, even on the good days. It requires patience, focus, humility and honor. It is damned hard, every day. I think both Janice and Cecil have hunkered down into the persistent activation of truth telling, it is what, in my opinion has fueled the rest of GLIDE’s mission. It’s how GLIDE feeds, clothes, shelters, and inspires its constituents. I hope to be as brave in my truth-telling as I see members of the GLIDE family are.
One day countdown until the 6th Annual GLIDE Legacy Gala! Tickets are available at http://glide.org/legacygalatickets. See you on Saturday!