Attending a GLIDE Racial Justice Group (GRJG) meeting is a dizzying and eye-opening experience. The group is comprised of men and women from all different races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds. Everyone’s life experiences may be different, but the glue of the organization is the commitment to fight racism and white supremacy.
“We are upholding the radical tradition of GLIDE and moving it into the future.” Reverend Cecil Williams in the center right, holding a loudspeaker. Photo from the GLIDE archives.
The GRJG came to fruition after a GLIDE event honoring the victims of the Mother Emanuel terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina. Many people sang and gave tributes to the nine men and women that were shot while attending service. After the event, we all felt this was a turning point. Throughout the past couple of years, Black men and women such as Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and Rekia Boyd have been gunned down while unarmed by police in racially motivated killings. We felt powerless, angry, and full of rage. The Charleston massacre pushed us over the edge. A man came into a house of worship and shot nearly everyone dead. That’s when we had to do something, that’s when the group was formed.
Getting several people together to talk about a sensitive subject is always difficult; however, approaching the subject of race is a whole ‘nother matter. For some reason, race is the most challenging issue to tackle. When brought up, race will illicit anger, sadness, confusion, contempt, and rage. Talking about racism requires people to look inward and outward to your friends, neighbors, and family, and could cause you to question everything you thought about the subject.
The first couple of meetings were rough. Everyone truly had to dig deep on race. This is not a subject on which one can “skate on the surface.” These were revealing conversations. People became upset, arguments ensued, and some decided to leave the group. The members that stayed, our bond became stronger. After brainstorming, we decided the first project we would tackle would be a documentary about how African American children and teenagers are affected by and understand race. Through many interviews with young kids and teens, we were given a look into their world and how they navigate through life. Recently, The GRJG has also partnered with Faith In Action, a national activism network, to launch a listening campaign in order to reach out to GLIDE members and the San Francisco community to find out what issues impact them the most. Busy and exciting times indeed.
Today, the GRJG looks to be at the forefront of fighting racism and white supremacy. In the age of President Donald Trump, in which he has proposed a ban of over 130 million people entering the United States, the impending threats of ICE raids, and the labeling of anti-police brutality organizations as “terrorists,” groups like the GRJG are needed now more than ever. In the spirit of civil rights icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as local heroes like The Black Panther Party and our very own Cecil Williams, the GRJG continues the fight for equality. We are upholding the radical tradition of GLIDE and moving it into the future.
LeRon L. Barton is a writer from Kansas City, Missouri, who currently resides in San Francisco. He has been writing poetry, screenplays and short stories since he was way young. LeRon’s essays about race, mass incarceration, gender and dating have appeared in Salon, The Good Men Project, Those People, AlterNet, SF Bay View, Buzzfeed, Gorilla Convict and Elephant Journal. His first book, Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture, was released in February 2013. LeRon’s new book, All We Really Need Is Love, is available on Amazon.com. You can reach him at www.leronbarton.com, twitter.com/MainlineLeRon and Facebook.com/LeRonLBarton