For more than half a century, the history and promise of GLIDE have been closely intertwined with San Francisco’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. As we celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month this May, I want to begin by honoring the AANHPI heroes who taught us – who continue to teach us – that GLIDE is strongest when we practice radical inclusion. We are most resilient when we extend unconditional love.
Janice Mirikitani, GLIDE Co-Founder and a sansei (third-generation) Japanese American, urged us “to make those connections with people who care about the total community, not just their community, not just a particular segment of the community.” Janice modelled radical inclusion in her work at GLIDE from 1965 to 2021 and in the AANHPI community. At GLIDE, she opened her heart to people who felt abandoned – especially survivors of domestic violence and people in recovery – welcoming them into the GLIDE community and helping them create stability in their lives.
She was joined in this effort by the Rev. Lloyd Wake, a nisei (second-generation) Japanese American who served GLIDE in many capacities – from minister of community life to head of facilities – from 1967 to 1989. Besides serving on Aion’s advisory committee, his many achievements beyond GLIDE included helping establish the Asian Law Caucus in 1972, the first legal aid and civil rights organization to focus on the needs of all AANHPI communities. He also helped build bridges between the AANHPI and LGBTQI communities. Rev. Lloyd once said, “The only criterion for action is love.”
Today, we at GLIDE stand on their shoulders as we address persistent challenges, including intergenerational poverty, systemic racism and a lack of empathy for those perceived as the “other.” These challenges have been especially acute since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a steep toll on AANHPI communities.
In 2020, Asian Americans in San Francisco suffered COVID case-fatality rates nearly triple that of other groups, in part because of unequal access to healthcare and health information. Meanwhile, hate crimes against AANHPI people in the city surged by more than 500 percent from 2020 to 2021, a result of political scapegoating and the history of violence against Asian immigrants in the United States. Today, hatred is not only expressed through attacks on the street – it also stings online. For example, Yelp recently reported an alarming increase in hate speech in reviews of AANHPI businesses posted to its platform.
It is GLIDE’s responsibility, it is our heritage, to stand with AANHPI communities in the Tenderloin and across the city in the struggle against inequality and hatred. We do this by extending love and care to our neighbors, amplifying the voices of AANHPI leaders, and creating connections among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities.
On May 25, as part of its Virtual Justice Series, our Center for Social Justice (CSJ) will host an online panel discussion of anti-Asian hate crime, its history, how the experience of hate crime is shared with other communities of color, the trauma it causes and how to heal. Panelists will include Janice Li, director of the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice and the first Asian American woman elected to the BART board of directors, and Gaynorann Siataga, a prominent activist and nonprofit leader in San Francisco and the Pacific Islander community. CSJ nurtures community among BIPOC activists to build an intersectional social justice movement and change public policy.
More than 15 percent of our clients identify as AANHPI. They come to GLIDE for free meals and pantry supplies, rental assistance, and family services designed to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. In the process, they meet multilingual GLIDE staff members, like Client Advocate Tina Huang, who can help them access the full range of resources they need to achieve economic independence.
Our senior services offer connections and skills that help maintain the well-being of our AANHPI elders. Our multilingual digital literacy classes, via our partner Community Tech Network (CTN), provide laptops to older Tenderloin residents (mainly AANHPI) and teach them how to use email and access essential resources online.
During the COVID pandemic, we launched a weekly pop-up vaccine clinic and roving vaccination teams that helped the Tenderloin neighborhood reach a 90 percent vaccination rate, protecting at-risk AANHPI residents from severe illness.
Our past and our present actions demonstrate the power of AANHPI communities not only to mobilize and advocate for themselves in the face of systemic racism and inequality, but also to join with others to fight for a world where no one is left behind. I am humbled and inspired both by our historic AANHPI heroes and by the many GLIDE staff and volunteers of AANHPI heritage who are today’s heroes: opening their hearts every day, welcoming people off the streets and transforming lives.
Malcolm Walter, Interim CEO