A San Francisco icon and co-founder of the city’s Glide Memorial Church and foundation has died at the age of 80.
Janice Mirikitani worked for six decades to build the church and foundation as a center for social justice in San Francisco’s Tenderloin community, home to many Southeast Asians.
“Our hearts are full with both grief and the tremendous love that she embodied,” Glide said in a statement. “She brought fierce courage and spirit to everything she did. She spoke her truth and inspired others to accept and celebrate themselves, each other, and all our differences.”
Mirikitani served as San Francisco’s poet laureate from 2000 to 2002 and used her writing “to further the fight for equality and to call for a more just and peaceful world,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
She was married to Glide minister Cecil Williams.
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney called her a legend.
“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,” the supervisor tweeted.
Mirikitani was forced off her family’s Stockton farm at the age of 3 and imprisoned with other Japanese Americans at an incarceration camp in rural Arkansas. She ran programs to help women to recover from abuse.
“She stood up for these women in the community big-time,” said Del Seymour, founder of Code Tenderloin, to the Chronicle “She was a strong woman. You couldn’t play with her. If you needed help, you were going to get help. She steered so many people into recovery, it’s unbelievable.”
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