Janice Mirikitani : A memorial fund in Mirikitani’s name has been established to support women’s and children’s programs so near and dear to her heart
Janice Mirikitani, photo courtesy Wikipedia Janice Mirikitani, 80
Janice Mirikitani was born on February 4, 1941, in Stocktonand died suddenly on July 29, 2021. Her cause of death is unknown.
She was an activist, poet, writer and author who received a number of honors, including the Japanese Foreign Ministry Commendation Award for her community work in 2019.
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney tweeted: “[w]e 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.”
Mirikitani was born to Shigemi and Ted Mirikitani and they were all interned from her infancy for three years during World War II at a War Relocation Center in Arkansas. After theirinternment the family moved to Chicago.
Her parents divorced and she and her mother relocated to a chicken farm in Petaluma in the North Bay near other family.
Mirikitani earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She then taught in the Contra Costa School District before joining Glide Memorial Church as an administrative assistant.
In 1969, Mirikitani became the program director at Glide. In 1982, she married Cecil Williams, who was then the pastor. She was also the president of the Glide Foundation and was responsible for fundraising and budget oversight.
She co-founded and edited Aion, the first Asian American literary magazine. She was named the second poet laureate for the city of San Francisco in 2000, and she served in that role for two years, according to Wikipedia.
“Janice was a breathtaking personification of God’s grace. Her life was spent loving and holding up brothers and sisters that the world had given up on. Janice’s time on earth teaches us that a life solely focused on serving the people is a blessed life” Lateefah Simon, a director of the BART Board, told The Post.
Karen Hanrahan, CEO and president of Glide told the Post: “[l]ike thousands of others, I am grieving the loss of this city’s greatest treasure. Janice was a fearless voice for truth and justice. Her love for those struggling the most was a powerful force for healing that transformed thousands of lives. At GLIDE we will build on Jan’s legacy, including her boundless capacity for unconditional love, to ensure no one is left behind.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee said in a statement on July 29: “I am sending my prayers and deepest condolences to Janice Mirikitani’s husband, Rev. Cecil Williams, and her family. I am heartbroken to hear of Janice’s passing and I am grieving alongside the Glide community today. Janice was a beautiful force of nature, a warrior for justice, and a talented poet whose spirit soared. She inspired us all. I will miss her tremendously.”
In Japantown’s Peace Plaza, where one of her poems is etched into a stone obelisk, shocked members of the National Japanese American Historical Society thoughtfully lay a colorful string of traditional origami around the monument.
A memorial fund in Mirikitani’s name has been established to support women’s and children’s programs so near and dear to her heart. She was executive director of the Janice MirikitaniGlide Family Youth and Child Care Center.
Mirikitani is survived by her husband, Cecil Williams, and her child from her first marriage, Tianne Miller.
Wikipedia, The San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, KTVU- Fox 2 and The Houston Chronicle were sources for this story.