What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love

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Eleven years ago, I was sitting in my church office in Noe Valley when I received an unbelievable call: San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples?! One quick internet search and confirmed:  lesbian icons Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin had been married earlier in the day and now couples from throughout the city as well as the state (and shortly thereafter, from across the country) were streaming into City Hall to be married.

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I performed nine weddings during our Winter of Love (and faced the possibility of a church trial for doing them, but that’s another blog). It wasn’t the first time I had performed ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. I had been doing them since 1982. But this was the first time I had performed legal weddings for gay/lesbian couples.

The impact in our City was immediate and profound: it was as if the whole city had become one big wedding reception. Toasts were offered on city streets. Workplaces threw parties of congratulations. Love seemed to multiply joy exponentially, and it was felt in every corner of SF.

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The rest of the United States is quickly learning what we discovered eleven years ago: every couple deserves to have their love legally honored and respected. It is good for the couple. It is good for families. It is good for communities.

Granting this legal right/rite to gay/lesbian couples has not—as conservative pundits predicted—destroyed the institution of marriage. In fact, if my work calendar is any indication, it has strengthened it as more and more couples are coming forward to be legally wed. Usually, I perform just a handful of weddings a year. This year, however, my weekends are pretty full officiating at weddings!

What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love   Eleven years ago, I was sitting in my church office in Noe Valley when I received an unbelievable call: San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples?! One quick internet search and confirmed:  lesbian icons Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin had been married earlier in the day and now couples from throughout the city as well as the state (and shortly thereafter, from across the country) were streaming into City Hall to be married.

I will never understand why any government official, religious leader, or family member would stand in opposition to marriage equality.  The ability to give and receive love is an essential part of our humanness. Love doesn’t isolate us but connects us to others in ways that increases our capacities for care and compassion. Love is essential for healthy communities and one look around will confirm that the world is in desperate need of more love.

This Valentine’s Day, I am remembering all the couples I have married (or am about to marry). I pray that they may have discovered within their relationship a love that has not only helped them grow more fully into the persons they have been created to be, but has also enlarged their embrace to include a world that is in need of healing touch, generous givers, and lovers of justice.

Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto is GLIDE's Senior Pastor.

Photo by Lisa Wiseman

Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto is GLIDE's Senior Pastor. Follow Karen @RevKarenOliveto and her blog.








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Somewhere In-Between

Reshared from the Huffington Post originally posted on February 12, 2015 by Felicia Horowitz. Felicia is a beloved member of the GLIDE family. 

“And these children that you spit on As they try to change their worlds Are immune to your consultations They’re quite aware of what they’re going through”

– David Bowie

When I was a little girl, I was a hair dressing prodigy and in my community that made me a big deal. For the black women of my neighborhood, hair was critically important. Hair was not simply hair; it was the crown that determined one’s social status. The more stylish the hair, the more important the person. This bizarre social casting system put anyone with hair skills in very high demand. And boy did I have skills.

I have always had an artistic eye and when combined with my exceptionally dexterous fingers, intense attention to detail and outstanding bedside manner, I was the Mozart of hair. I was such a natural that before I could read the instructions on the Revlon hair relaxer box, women in my family entrusted me to apply the powerful hair straightening chemicals to their scalps. By the time I entered high school, I was the go to hairdresser for my friends and family.

While I had a different ambition in life than being the world’s greatest stylist, I always dreamed of having daughters and doing their hair. What an amazing bonding experience that would be! How great to be the very best hairdresser that money couldn’t buy. You want the best “Do” at your junior high school? Well, you have to be my daughter to get that.

After I grew up, I was fortunate to have three lovely daughters and I could not wait to do their hair. When they were very little, they all loved it and it was one of my happiest memories as a young mom. But as my eldest child Julia, grew up, I was shocked and horrified to find that she hated having her hair done by me or anyone else.

This was a change that I could not stomach. How could she not want to look fierce? How could she take away this wonderful experience? What about the crown? We would battle it out every week over the hair. To give you and idea of the intensity, it was like a steel cage match, with the prize being a hairdo. Finally, in elementary school, we compromised and Julia kept her hair in braids.

Julia kept her feelings very close and me asking why she did not want me to do her hair could cause a major meltdown. Although I had minor suspicions, they were always proved wrong. For 15 years, I never understood why we battled over hair.

To continue reading the full post from Felicia Horowitz, please visit the Huffington Post.

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Happy Korematsu Day! Stand Up for What Is Right

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by Kristen Growney Yamamoto, GLIDE’s Co-Executive Director 

“If you have a feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.”  Fred Korematsu

FredKorematsuinlaterlifeToday, January 30th is Korematsu Day, a holiday honoring Fred Korematsu, an American hero who stood up for civil rights even when he was punished for it.  As a young man, he protested the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and was arrested. While imprisoned, he sued the government to acknowledge their mistake and to protect his civil rights as an American. When the Supreme Court ruled against him, saying it is legal to imprison Japanese Americans because of their ancestry, he still did not give up. For forty years, he continued to speak up. With an amazing team of lawyers from San Francisco at his side including from Dale Minami, Lorraine Bannai, Edward M. Chen, Dennis Hayashi, Peter Irons, Karen Kai, Leigh-Ann Miyasato, Robert Rusky, Donald Tamaki, and Eric Yamamoto in 1983, his conviction was overturned and the government admitted its mistake.

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My father-in-law turns 90 years old in a few days.  He is a Sansei, a third generation Japanese American and he, along with his family, spent several years of his childhood imprisoned in Tule Lake Camp in Northern California. When I see old photographs of children from the Tule Lake Camp, I can’t bear to look close, lest it be my children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles.   I want my children and their friends to understand the story of Mr. Korematsu as the story of an ordinary citizen who stood up to injustice in the wake of great criticism.

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I taught a lesson to my daughter’s class this morning and we talked about standing up, and how hard it is, especially when privilege is granted to those who are not being discriminated against. We did a simple exercise of separating the kids with blue sneakers from the rest, and granting extra recess to those who were not wearing blue sneakers.  Some wanted the extra recess and left the ‘blue sneakers’ behind. Those who got the extra time felt happy and lucky.  Yet after a while, the class started to coalesce around it not being fair.  It takes a brave person to speak up, and we all have the opportunity, every day, to stand up for what is right.

P1200413This afternoon, I shared the same lesson with Paul Chilvers’ 4th- 5th grade classroom at GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC). We did a simple exercise of separating the kids with an S in their first name from the rest of the classroom, and following the lesson shared an afternoon snack of potato chips with those without an S in their first name. The kids without the chips felt left out, the kids who were eating their chips also felt the injustice of the situation. Slowly, both groups realized they had the ability to change the situation, and they spoke up for what they felt was right. The youth with chips stood in solidarity with the youth without chips, and together, demanded all students be treated equal. In the end, it was a potato chip party for all.

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We celebrate the legacy of Fred Korematsu, his story and struggle for justice continues to be an inspiration and great lesson for all.

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The Critical Importance of Legal Representation

GP 2 14-604When people refer to the “justice gap” in the United States, they usually mean the unequal treatment of people in our criminal justice system. But the gap extends to our civil justice system, too. Unlike criminal defendants who normally get public defenders, parties in civil matters, including immigration matters, usually are not entitled to publicly-funded lawyers. And parties who can’t afford lawyers to represent them are more likely to lose their cases than represented parties.

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Access to Justice for Immigrant Families and Communities, a recent study issued jointly by Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (NCCIK), confirms this. It shows that immigrants held in custody while awaiting deportation are three times as likely to win the right to remain in the United States as those without lawyers. Immigrants with representation were able to establish that they were entitled to stay in the United States because they were targets of persecution, victims of domestic crimes, or members of U.S. Citizen Families facing hardships – 33 percent of the time. By contrast, unrepresented immigrants were able to do so only 11 percent of the time.

For our Country’s adversarial legal system to operate fairly, both sides need to have lawyers. That’s why we started the Drop-In Legal Clinic at GLIDE – to help fill the justice gap. The Clinic provides free legal assistance the GLIDE way – unconditionally, to all types of clients, in all types of cases. Since the Clinic’s founding in September 2013, over 220 clients have been helped with their criminal and civil cases. Many of these cases involve immigration issues like the ones described in the Stanford study.

Read more ›

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San Francisco’s Proposition J: Into Action With The Minimum Wage at GLIDE

propJ-logoI’m excited to see that Proposition J, the minimum wage increase for San Francisco, is supported by the majority of people in San Francisco and is likely to pass in November. I’m excited because:

Every week I talk to people who will be affected by this law, and I keep hearing their stories, like what it is like to work for $11.03 per hour, commuting almost two hours each way by bus and BART from Vallejo for a four hour shift, paying $18.60 for transit on a day when your net pay will be less than $35 even after the tax refund you won’t get until next year. I ask these folks why they even choose to do this, day after day, a choice that looks economically irrational to me. I ask this in part because my middle class upbringing tried to brainwash me into believing that economics rules behavior and that poor people are lazy. This is what I hear in response to my question: “Because I want to work,” from someone who recently got out of prison. “Because I believe in what we are doing,” from someone who helps coordinate our Free Meals program. “Because people gave me a second chance with this job, and I want to pay my debt to this community,” from someone who used to sell drugs. “Because I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished here,” from someone who worked in the restaurant industry for years and decided to stop drinking when he started working with us. These are people who could probably be making more money outside of the formal employment system – heck, they could probably make more money panhandling two blocks away. These are people supporting school-age children. But they choose to work, and it’s completely insane to me that we in the Bay Area have allowed people to work for years at below-subsistence wages just because we could, because there is an abundance of labor willing to take a job that barely pays for itself.

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Photograph by Lisa Wiseman

I myself used to work in the service industry before coming to GLIDE, in a city about 30 miles south of SF. I started at $8.00 an hour, and two years later I was an assistant manager running the daily retail floor and overseeing the training of over 35 staff – earning $13.90. My employer had policies that were Walmart-like in punishing even a minute of unauthorized overtime but requiring an extensive set of closing responsibilities, tacitly encouraging us to “donate” time to the business by working overtime off-the-clock, and I could not take a regular second job because my schedule got shifted every quarter, I was given random shifts and split weekends that preempted my availability to consistently work outside or have a regular childcare setup (if I had kids, which thankfully for them I don’t.) If you still haven’t had a chance to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, I can tell you it’s even more relevant today, with San Francisco increasingly split into knowledge workers and workers in the service sector.

GP 2 14-257Right at the top of my list of things to be happy about is the fact that at GLIDE we have decided to increase the wages of our lowest-paid workers ahead of the proposed city ordinance, mostly because we are convinced it’s the right thing to do, but also to step out in front and be a part of the solution here in San Francisco. At GLIDE, we see more and more working folks accessing our Free Meals programs because they can’t pay for both housing and food. That’s not justice to us.

Some history: At GLIDE we had, until this year, pretty much just kept pace with the minimum wage – for SF employers with city contracts, the minimum wage for the last 7 years has been stuck at $11.03/hour. That means that any contracts we have with the city are based on jobs paying $11.03, and if we pay more than that, we are paying from the foundation’s unrestricted funds a.k.a. checks and cash from the individuals and families like you who support us.

GP 2 14-249In June, however, GLIDE began a conscious effort to move our own folks towards a living wage. In addition to raising the starting minimum to $11.50/hour, we gave substantial bump up (by $1.50-$2.50) to the wages of staff earning less than $20/hour who have been here for three years or more. We used a tiered formula for the increases that financially prioritized our lowest wage staff.

Inside of GLIDE, we believe that it is worth something to have a workforce of people serving the poor who are not themselves compelled to be in financial distress. Our services to the homeless and poor residents of the city will be better for it. We also know our jobs are supporting families. We decided to move ahead of Proposition J and make a statement about our support for living wages for all the city’s workers.

GP 2 14-604We also made these changes because it’s in our mission to be breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and dependence, and we can see that paying just the City’s minimum wages could actually be contributing to intergenerational poverty. Low wages also exacerbate the un-affordability of San Francisco’s rental and housing market, and poor people deserve clean, safe local housing as much as anyone – check out GLIDE’s 80 family apartments at 125 Mason St. if you want to see what we think good affordable housing looks like. San Francisco is grounded in the huge range of people who can participate in the public life of this city. When poor people are pushed out, and when the voices of working class artists, communities of color and LGBT runaways are diminished, San Francisco will be at risk of being the kind of straitjacketing, non-accepting monoculture that many of us moved here to escape. We will have brought our own hell with us.

G Tday11-121At GLIDE, the joy you see here at Sunday morning Celebrations and the welcome people feel every day of the week in our programs aren’t because we are nice people. It’s because everyone, homeless or housed, movie star or coffee barista, undocumented worker or Mayflower scion – everyone – can have a place at the table here. This level of diversity forces us to get real instead of hiding behind niceness, and the acceptance it takes to make this all work changes the entire social equation.

All of these decisions have an explicit cost, just as they would in a restaurant or other business. Our planned increases will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years. Choosing to implement these raises took grit and careful planning by our executive team. We’re not sure how we’ll pay for these increases, and I’m still not convinced it’s enough. There have been some of us who are worried that we might not be able to sustain the increases, and could eventually have to cut essential service programs in order to keep a balanced budget. If the City’s Proposition J does pass, some relief will come through marginal increases in contracts and grants funding we receive. We think our donors will support our decision to move towards a living wage for all our regular staff, by continuing to support GLIDE’s work through the years. In any case, we are stepping out with the change – it will be better for our staff and ultimately for all the people we serve here in the city. Like I said before, it’s the right thing to do.

Justice starts at home, and I’m proud that GLIDE is always on the path that heads there. In the area of living wages and income inequality, these recent wage increases are a start. May we continue to walk at the front of society’s long arc towards justice.

JBL_30Love smallJames B. Lin is the Co-Director of Human Resources and Organizational Integration at GLIDE


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For Rev. Cecil Williams, on his 85th Birthday

Cecil_035I first learned of GLIDE in 1981. I was a seminary student at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and was in a class called “Ministry of Deviance”(!). The class had three requirements: 1) Ride in a cop car with a Berkeley police office; 2) Walk through the Tenderloin at midnight with the Night Minister; 3) Attend a GLIDE Celebration.

I wondered what could be deviant about going to church. Then I walked through the doors!

Deviant.  Definitely deviant!

The word deviant is defined as:

Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society..

One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

With that being the definition of deviant, GLIDE is definitely deviant and Rev. Cecil Williams is really deviant! How else can you explain the following:

What inspired a young black boy from Texas to dream of an integrated church?

What sustained that young man’s soul when he was one of the first African Americans to enter Perkins School of Theology?

What clergyman did you know who sported an afro and whose liturgical garb was a dashiki?

How many churches across America do the wealthy and poor sit together in the same pew?

What pastor would dare to take on the crack epidemic, support the rights of sex workers, stand in solidarity with lgbtq people, and take down a cross from the sanctuary?

A deviant one. One whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with you, Cecil, to learn from you, to risk with you.

You have shown me that the Spirit resides in the outrageous.

That unconditional love is an even greater force than I ever imagined.

That unconditional acceptance transforms every single one of us.

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Thank you, Cecil, for being your most deviant self here at GLIDE. Thank you for inviting us all to be deviant with you. There is no other church in the world like GLIDE. There is no other community like this one and it’s because of your inspiration, dedication, hard work, and deep love.

Happy birthday!

In gratitude and with love,

Karen

G Leaders14-302Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Senior Pastor | Originally from Long Island, NY, Karen Oliveto has been a campus and parish minister in rural and urban settings in New York and California.  She arrived in San Francisco in 1989, first as campus minister at San Francisco State University, and then, in 1992, as the pastor and leader of Bethany United Methodist Church in Noe Valley. While there, she expanded the congregation, and was instrumental in the effort to open the doors of the United Methodist Church to all persons, including gays and lesbians and their families. Oliveto holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Society from Drew University, and recently served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Pacific School of Religion where she continues as adjunct professor of United Methodist Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at Drew University’s Doctor of Ministry program.  Karen continues GLIDE’s commitment to unconditional love and unconditional acceptance. “If you want to see what the beloved community looks like, come to GLIDE.” She enjoys working with diverse communities to create a more just world. She encourages the GLIDE community to connect with one another, to engage more deeply with spiritual traditions, and be empowered to be change agents at GLIDE and in the world.
 
She is a leader in the Reconciling Ministries Network, a grassroots organization of congregations and communities committed to the full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life and ministries of The United Methodist Church and has served as chair of the board.  She is also on the board of California Faith for Equality. Karen is the co-author of Talking about Homosexuality: A Congregational Resource (Pilgrim Press: 2005) and has written numerous articles, hymns and liturgies.  She is an avid hiker and traveler, plays guitar and drums, and enjoys cooking for friends.  Email Karen at koliveto@glide.org
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Get Ready for November

GLIDE’s mission is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to break the cycles of poverty and marginalization, and this November, it’s getting very real.

Cecil_039GLIDE has advocated for positive change throughout its over fifty year history. Starting with programs like Citizen’s Alert (1965) that sought to investigate charges of police brutality and support victims, GLIDE has been committed to speaking the truth as the voice of the people of San Francisco.  GLIDE is getting real for this November election – issues of vital community importance are being addressed in San Francisco’s upcoming ballot.   Glide12-294 We want to affirm our commitment to these issues:

  1. Creating and Maintaining Affordable Housing
  2. Reforming Our Broken Criminal Justice System
  3. Assuring Living Wages and Inclusiveness
  4. Supporting the Youth, Children and Families in Our Community

Glide Memorial ChurchKids Toys Give AwayWe have witnessed, through the media or the struggles we and those close to us have endured, the devastation of San Francisco’s housing crisis. We have witnessed how criminal prosecution and sentencing disproportionately targets communities of color, stigmatizing young men and women with records that may follow them for a lifetime, in many cases for minor offenses. We see how hard working people struggle to support themselves with low wages and high rents, sharing modest accomodations in sub-par conditions, seeking refuge in shelters and on friends’ couches or housed but cannot afford their next meal. We know how children exposed to tremendous societal and economic barriers such as these do not receive the resources they need to succeed.

Cecil45th prep2-443In order to break through these barriers, these years of pain and fear, we need to share our stories and speak our truths: to legislators, to the ballot box and perhaps most of all to each other.

This is why GLIDE will be sharing our stories and our insights into how we can make this place we call home better for every one of us, on this November Ballot and beyond.  Look for our upcoming endorsements of specific measures, join our political actions, get out your vote, and contact us to find out more about how you can volunteer to help at (415) 674-6081 or email advocate@glide.org

Let’s get started.

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GLIDE Instagram
Thank you Hocking Family and Dennis Setlock for standing with GLIDE and lighting a candle! #lightacandle #poweredbylove Thank you Frances Newburn for lighting a candle and joining our holiday campaign! #lightacandle #poweredbylove JOIN the thousands of supporters and add your name to the wall. Your light will shine brightly at glide this holiday season! #lightacandle #poweredbylove Special thanks to Rick Beleson for a creative and special morning at the Asian Art Museum! FYCC had a great time! #engageouryouth #poweredbylove

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