SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Janice Mirikitani – co-founder, activist, poet and wife of the Glide Memorial Church, Rev. Cecil Williams – died Thursday morning, according to a church announcement. She was 80 years old.
The post on the Glide website said Mirikitani died with family and friends by her side.
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“Our hearts are full of sadness and the tremendous love that it embodied. Janice accompanied everything she did with wild courage and willpower, ”the statement said. “She told her truth and inspired others to accept and celebrate themselves, each other and all of our differences.”
Mirikitani was born on February 4, 1941 in Stockton, California, to a Japanese immigrant couple in the San Joaquin Valley. During World War II, she and her family were interned at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas.
She studied English and creative writing, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA and worked intermittently as a teacher in Contra Costa County before finding her calling at Glide Memorial Church in Tenderloin in the late 1960s.
Mirikitani went from being an administrative assistant in the church to being a program director, and through her work with the church she began a lifetime of activism and advocacy for marginalized people and communities.
“Janice helped shape so much of the early vision and roots of GLIDE’s impact,” the Church’s statement read. “Your work touched many areas, both in church and on the street in Tenderloin and in San Francisco.”
Mirikitani married the co-founder of Glide, Rev. Cecil Williams, in 1982, and became president of the Glide Foundation that same year. She also continued her work as a writer, poet, and editor, wrote a number of books, and became San Francisco’s second prize-winner in 2000.
Several San Francisco officials issued public statements after news of Mirikitani’s death became known.
“Jan Mirikitani was one of the real lights of our city. She was a visionary, a revolutionary artist and the embodiment of the compassionate spirit of San Francisco, ”read a statement from SF Mayor London Breed. “As a poet, also as Poet Laureate of this City from 2000 to 2002, she used the power of her words to advance the fight for equality and to call for a more just and peaceful world. Through her work at Glide Memorial Church, she and her husband, Reverend Cecil Williams, served our most vulnerable residents for decades and offered everyone a place of refuge and love. “
San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener posted a memorial service on Twitter with the words: “I am heartbroken that our beloved Janice Mirikitani has passed away. Jan was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met, he combined strength and love like no other. “
It breaks my heart that our beloved Janice Mirikitani has passed away. Jan was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met and combined strength and love like no other.
My condolences to the love of their lives Cecil Williams, the entire @GLIDEsf community and all of San Francisco.
– Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) July 29, 2021
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San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin posted a short clip of Mirikitani reading a poem during a recent online summit on hate crimes and the safety of the AAPI community.
It’s heartbroken to hear about the death of Janice Mirikitani, SF Poet Prize Winner, Glide Co-Founder and a visionary, influential person.
She read a poem at our last summit on hate crime and the safety of the AAPI community and moved us all with the power of her words.
Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/YJNRE4tXzv
– Chesa Boudin 博彻思 (@chesabudin) July 29, 2021
SF overseer Matt Haney also posted on Twitter.
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 for the glide community and the countless people whose lives they have touched.
– Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) July 29, 2021
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A monument to Mirikitani is arranged. No cause of death was disclosed.