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Janice Mirikitani: Poet laureate, ‘fierce’ activist, Glide Memorial Church co-founder dies at 80

Janice Mirikitani, a former San Francisco poet laureate, community activist and co-founder of Glide Memorial Church died Thursday at the age of 80.

Mirikitani, who helped establish the iconic Tenderloin church with her husband the Rev. Cecil Williams in the 1960s, was surrounded Thursday by family and friends, Glide President and CEO Karen J. Hanrahan said in a statement.

Hanrahan said:

“Janice 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. … She took deep pride in serving the most marginalized communities, including support for women and children, education, recovery, primary and mental health care, job training, and housing.”

A memorial for Mirikitani is being arranged and more details will be shared soon, according to Hanrahan.

She said:

“While words cannot adequately express our sadness, we will honor Janice’s memory and her legacy by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work she loved so much.” 

Mayor London Breed called Mirikitani “a visionary, a revolutionary artist, and the very embodiment of San Francisco’s compassionate spirit.”

Breed added:

“She was boundless in her energy and in her devotion to this city and to her fellow San Franciscans. My heart goes out to her friends and family, especially to Cecil. She was loved and will never be forgotten.”

Supervisor Matt Haney remembered her Thursday on Twitter as “Saint Jan,” a “moral giant” in the community. 

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said:

“I’m beyond heartbroken that our beloved Janice Mirikitani has passed. … Jan was one of the most exceptional human beings I’ve ever met, combining strength and love like no one else. My condolences to the love of her life — Rev. Cecil Williams — to the entire Glide community, and to all of San Francisco. This is a huge loss for our community.”

Through her work at Glide, Mirikitani helped serve the city’s homeless population and other marginalized groups in the Tenderloin neighborhood. In addition, Mirikitani served as San Francisco Poet Laureate from 2000 to 2002.

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