As Black History Month comes to a close, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on GLIDE’s role in shaping our collective future. As is well known, GLIDE celebrates Black History all year through the daily acknowledgment of achievements of Black Americans and their invaluable contributions to this mighty institution, to our beloved city and to our troubled, yet promise-filled nation. We also celebrate Black History Month every year by pausing more intentionally and more reverently to appreciate and learn from the often-overlooked achievements of Black leaders, trailblazers, scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, and advocates who represent the promises of our nation’s future.
This year, during this month of cultural representation and affirmation, I am keenly aware that we are surrounded by opportunities to make history and to shape our collective future. 69% percent of the clients we serve are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. In San Francisco, 37% of the city’s unhoused population is Black and 40% of Black children in San Francisco County live in poverty. On top of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black Americans, there are legislative attempts to limit access to polls for voters of color, challenges to framing Black history as American history, and more. This rising political vitriol and the deepening divides across geography, politics, race and culture are fueled by fear and are limiting our potential as a nation.
What we do now – collectively – will define our future and either keep us divided or bring us together. We are a nation that needs healing.
We must bridge the divides that weaken us by finding common understanding and game-changing solutions, or we will all lose.
GLIDE is leading the way with a clear vision for systemic change and healing across both public and private spheres, along with daily acts of justice and reconciliation that are driving equity in our city and beyond. GLIDE is not just part of – but a leader in – achieving lasting, transformational change for our nation. For the past five years, GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice has been building innovative empathy-building and racial reconciliation programs that are driving and inspiring systemic change near and far. Our powerful racial justice pilgrimages take healthcare workers, business leaders, academics and corporate leaders to the birthplace of slavery to look head on at the metastization of systemic racism in America. Participants gain a deeper understanding of unjust laws and policies that continue to undermine Black vitality and Black potential. Upon returning from GLIDE’s Alabama Justice Pilgrimages, these individuals become powerful change agents who return to their institutions inspired and empowered to influence reforms.
The biggest question on everyone’s minds today is…What does healing look like?
To achieve sustainable and transformational outcomes, we start with individuals who work in powerful institutions and systems, and we alter their world views. We give them the knowledge and tools to drive change in their lives and the systems in which they work. These change agents are already reforming disparities in health outcomes, criminal justice, and corporate practices. We know on the deepest level that enduring cohesion will come to our city and our country when we ALL summon the courage to look head-on at the most challenging stories of our time – systemic racism, gender inequity, economic and health disparities, and more. Healing must start with an unflinching examination of the root causes and attitudes underlying these collective limitations, and from the hard work required to make meaningful, inclusive change across the systems that impact our daily lives.
GLIDE will continue to lead this change, with all of our partners and allies, so we may shape our collective history, together.
Karen J. Hanrahan
President & CEO, GLIDE