SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Janice Mirikitani, Glide Memorial Church co-founder, activist, poet and wife Rev. Cecil Williams, died Thursday morning, according to an announcement by the church. She was 80 years old.
The post on the Glide website said Mirikitani passed away with family and friends by her side.READ MORE: Downsized But Not Out, Dreamforce Conference Set to Boost Business in San Francisco
“Our hearts are full with both grief and the tremendous love that she embodied. Janice brought fierce courage and spirit to everything she did,” the statement read. “She spoke her truth and inspired others to accept and celebrate themselves, each other, and all our differences.”
Mirikitani was born Feb. 4, 1941, in Stockton, to a couple who were Japanese immigrant farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. During World War II, she was interned along with her family at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas.
She would go on to study English and creative writing, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA and at one point working as a teacher in Contra Costa County before finding her calling working for Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin in the late ’60s.
Mirikitani went from working as an administrative assistant at the church to becoming its program director, beginning a lifetime of activism and advocacy for marginalized people and communities through her work with the church.
“Janice co-created so much of the early vision and the roots of GLIDE’s impact,” the statement from the church read. “Her work touched many areas, both in the Church and on the street in the Tenderloin and in San Francisco.”
Mirikitani would marry Glide co-founder Rev. Cecil Williams in 1982, the same year she became the president of the Glide Foundation. She also continued her work as a writer, poet and editor, writing a number of books and becoming San Francisco’s second poet laureate in 2000.
A number of San Francisco officials released public statements after news emerged of Mirikitani’s passing.
“Jan Mirikitani was one of our City’s true lights. She was a visionary, a revolutionary artist and the very embodiment of San Francisco’s compassionate spirit,” read a statement issued by S.F. Mayor London Breed. “As a poet, including as Poet Laureate of this City from 2000 to 2002, she used the power of her words to further the fight for equality and to call for a more just and peaceful world. Through her work at Glide Memorial Church, along with her husband the Reverend Cecil Williams, she served our most vulnerable residents for decades and provided a place of refuge and love for all.”
“Whenever I went to Glide it was Cecil and Jan,” Breed told KPIX. “Whenever there was any interaction, it was the two of them and she loved him so much. She had a way of making you feel like you were important to her. Especially because she genuinely cared about what was happening in your life. She cared about including people and she cared about feeding people and supporting people and lifting people up with her words of wisdom but also her poetry.”
San Francisco state senator Scott Wiener posted a memorial tribute on Twitter, saying “I’m heartbroken that our beloved Janice Mirikitani has passed. Jan was one of the most exceptional human beings I’ve ever met, combining strength & love like no one else.”
I’m heartbroken that our beloved Janice Mirikitani has passed. Jan was one of the most exceptional human beings I’ve ever met, combining strength & love like no one else.
My condolences to the love of her life Cecil Williams, the entire @GLIDEsf community & all of San Francisco.
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) July 29, 2021READ MORE: Flames Reach Ancient Sequoias; Crews in Pitched Battle to Save Giant Forest Grove
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin posted a brief clip of Mirikitani reading a poem during a recent online summit on hate crimes and keeping the AAPI community safe.
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 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) July 29, 2021
SF Supervisor Matt Haney also posted on Twitter in tribute.
We 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.
I grieve with the Glide community and the countless people whose lives she touched.
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) July 29, 2021
A memorial for Mirikitani is being arranged. A cause of death was not announced.MORE NEWS: PG&E Says Light Rain After Long Drought Led to Lights-Out Across Bay Area
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