Dear GLIDE Community,
Celebrating Juneteenth renews our hope for change and our commitment to creating a more equitable society where everyone belongs and thrives.
It is a joyous moment to witness our country’s leaders agreeing to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday. This significant development reflects progress towards a more meaningful understanding of the Black experience in America. It displays a fresh ownership of our shared history. It also acknowledges the historical practice of enslaving persons of African descent.
On this Juneteenth, we recognize the impact of GLIDE’s Co-Founder Reverend Cecil Williams and his legacy. Reverend Cecil was born in Texas in 1929. He says he grew up with the “festivals, community gatherings, shared BBQ and soda water, and other wonderful soul foods” that marked Juneteenth as a joyous affirmation of hard-won freedoms.
Reverend Cecil announced his retirement earlier this year after six decades of transformative leadership at GLIDE. During this time, he provided our community with a legacy of love and liberation. He instilled in us the values shaped by his lived experience of Jim Crow laws and systemic racism as well as the power of the civil rights movement and the triumph of achieving real social change.
Because of Cecil, GLIDE stands for social justice. We are dedicated to fighting systemic racism and breaking the cycles of poverty and marginalization that have harmed African American families for generations. In San Francisco today, African Americans make up 38 percent of the city’s homeless population but only 5 percent of its total population; 46 percent of African American children here live in poverty, compared to 3 percent of white children.
Because of Cecil, we know that the way to win the fight against systemic inequity is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community—a community where African Americans and other historically oppressed people who have suffered trauma can heal.
To build this community means bringing a range of strategic and innovative approaches to this effort. GLIDE has helped lead the following to date:
- We co-hosted a visit by the US Department of Agriculture for a special Juneteenth celebration and roundtable discussion about racial equity and barriers to healthy food and nutrition that included spokespersons from a variety of local community organizations working on solutions to curtail this festering problem.
- We sparked conversations about reparations for San Francisco’s Black residents. We partnered with the San Francisco African American Reparations Committee to host listening sessions to help gather reparation recommendations around education and healthcare, which will be submitted to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor London Breed. “We talk about ‘repair’ in reparations, but how do we repair generations of systemic oppression against Black people, and ultimately, people of color in general?” asks Marvin K. White, Minister of Celebration at GLIDE.
- We invested in Black communities as part of San Francisco’s Dream Keeper Initiative. With funding from the city, we awarded mini grants to Black youth affected by community or domestic violence, grants that they could use for any wide range of necessities, including transportation, education, and clothes. For Saundra Haggerty, GLIDE’s Violence Intervention Program Manager, the mini grants were a form of stimulus for youth who have gone through trauma because of the color of their skin. “So many African American youth have been deeply harmed by the disparities of the criminal justice system.”
- We continue to work with people in positions of power to transform systems of oppression and seek racial justice and reconciliation. We provide immersive training programs for law enforcement officers and healthcare professionals through our Center for Social Justice to help them develop empathy with the African American community and other communities of color. We support municipal and state laws that fight housing discrimination, end racial inequities in policing, sentencing, and incarceration, and work to end the systems that perpetuate inequity.
Juneteenth reminds us that freedom and justice have too often been denied or delayed for the people who have suffered the most. But this holiday also teaches us that change is possible when we strive for it. We see it every day as we continue Reverend Cecil’s legacy at GLIDE: we see people finding pathways out of poverty and hunger. Barriers torn down by empathy. Lives transformed by love.
Thank you for joining us in making change and building a radically inclusive, just and loving community,
Malcolm Walter, Interim CEO