Janice Mirikitani, Glide Co-Founder and SF Poet Laureate, Dies
Janice Mirikitani, a beloved San Francisco poet laureate who together with her husband ran the city’s Glide Memorial Church, which caters to the poor and homeless, has died. She was 80.
Mirikitani died suddenly Thursday, the church confirmed in a message to supporters who were scheduled to attend a virtual justice event later in the day, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Calling it âsad and sudden,â the church said she died early in the morning with family and friends at her side, but did not specify the cause.
âWe lost a legend today, the First Lady of the Tenderloin, a poet, someone who loved people, all people, and had endless compassion, grace, and vision. Rest in power, Dr. Janice Mirikitani,â San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney wrote in a tweet on Thursday.
In the Tenderloin, they have often referred to her as "Saint Jan."
A moral giant. The embodiment of our city's spirit and its compassion.
We love you, Janice. We are forever thankful. pic.twitter.com/xuUlVlA1Sm
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) July 29, 2021
Mirikitani was married to the Rev. Cecil Williams, who transformed Glide Memorial Church, in the heart of the cityâs largely poor Tenderloin neighborhood, from a traditional Methodist church to a decidedly liberal one that advocated for gay rights and welcomed members from all walks of life.
âJan Mirikitani was one of our Cityâs true lights. She was a visionary, a revolutionary artist, and the very embodiment of San Franciscoâs compassionate spirit,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. âShe served our most vulnerable residents for decades and provided a place of refuge and love for all.â
Mirikitani joined Glide Memorial Church in 1964, a year after Williams arrived in San Francisco to lead the church. With her help, he transformed services into âcelebrationsâ and started a wide range of community programs. With nearly 10,000 members, Glide became the largest Methodist church in Northern California and one of the largest in the nation.
Mirikitani led the Glide Foundation and was executive director of the Janice Mirikitani-Glide Family Youth and Child Care Center.
âJanice was a force of nature,â Glide President and CEO Karen Hanrahan said. âShe was fearless and transformational in the honesty with which she loved us all and held us all accountable. Janiceâs legacy and her unique, powerful voice is all around us. It will continue to inspire Glideâs work as we transform hearts and minds, and the landscape of poverty and homelessness, in San Francisco.â
Heartbroken to learn of the passing of Janice Mirikitani, SF poet laureate, cofounder of Glide, & a visionary, impactful person.
She read a poem at our recent Summit on hate crimes & keeping the AAPI community safe, moving us all with the power of her words.
Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/YJNRE4tXzv
— Chesa Boudin åå¾¹æ (@chesaboudin) July 29, 2021
Mirikitani, a third-generation Japanese American, was named San Franciscoâs poet laureate in 2000, succeeding Beat legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who became the cityâs first poet laureate in 1998.
She was the daughter of Japanese American chicken farmers from Petaluma. She was 1-year-old when her family was swept up in President Franklin D. Rooseveltâs controversial decision to intern Japanese Americans during World War II. Mirikitani and her parents were sent off to a camp in Arkansas. That experience informed a lot of her poetry.
âFor me, the role of poet is as a voice to connect with the community,” said Mirikitani, who published four books of poetry. “Whatâs great about San Francisco is its diversity. Itâs the mecca for diversity, and thatâs what turns me on about being the laureate,â she told the newspaper after her naming.
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