A Family Affair

Laura Thompson, founding member of the GLIDE Legacy Committee, remembers her mother by living GLIDE’s values

I was raised by a badass single mom.

She survived an abusive childhood at the hands of a schizophrenic mother and alcoholic father, and escaped to San Francisco in the 1960s as a young adult, where she found GLIDE.

At GLIDE, my mother saw Cecil Williams run the aisles with his massive afro preaching recovery and radical inclusion. At GLIDE, she heard Janice Mirikitani speak of her own abuse with honesty and eloquence. At GLIDE, my mom found her family. She also found the encouragement to pursue her two big dreams: to become a therapist with a client base as diverse and radically inclusive as GLIDE, and to have the baby she so badly wanted, though doctors insisted it wasn’t possible.

laura with mom 2

Laura Thompson as a child with her mother.

My mother achieved both of those dreams. For 40 years, she was known as a caring, no-nonsense therapist with a wildly diverse practice. She treated many of the people society disregarded with compassion and respect. Meanwhile, after years of trying and four miscarriages, I arrived—her impossible, miracle baby. She was a 41-year-old working single mom and for 16 years she slept on the couch in our tiny one-bedroom apartment so that we could live in a safe neighborhood with great schools. But she loved our little family. She kept a photo of Jan and Cecil in every daily appointment book she ever owned, and I grew up immersed in GLIDE’s values. Laura with her mom

On the last day of winter break during my sophomore year of college, my mom had a brain aneurysm at work. She was gone by the time I got to the hospital. I will never forget carrying the plastic “Personal Belongings” bag out of the hospital and wondering what the hell I was going to do next.

But we’d been coming to GLIDE since I was a kid and I kept hearing the way Cecil would preach “Keep on keepin’ on” in my head. So I did. I asked Brown University to let me finish my education there, though I had nothing to offer them but the promise I’d someday be an alumna worth having. I landed a job at Google, lived in London for several years and traveled all over the world, and even got to be one of the first product leads at Google X where I shaped emerging technologies like self-driving cars and delivery drones.

GLIDE continues to be my family, and my mother’s ashes now live in the foundation of the GLIDE Community Housing building at 125 Mason, where, as she would have wanted, we’ve put her to work protecting the residents.

For the past 10 years I’ve struggled with telling my mom’s story. But lately I feel compelled to speak up—for myself, for the people around me who are increasingly marginalized, and in support of the communities and organizations that fight to protect our values. In the current chaos, the most vulnerable among us are even more at risk. GLIDE is on the front lines of that fight.

I was lucky to have been raised by a badass single mom. I was also lucky that she led me to a community as incredible, diverse and inclusive as GLIDE. The only way I know how to even start to repay that debt is to continue to fight for the values my mom and my GLIDE family taught me.

I am proud to be forever a part of the GLIDE family and to continue to fight hate with unconditional love.


Photos by Colson Griffith Photography - www.colsongriffith.comLaura drove product strategy at Google X, preparing moonshot technologies including self- driving cars, smart contact lenses and drones for contact with the world. Prior to X, Laura spent several years in London spearheading Google’s first efforts in consumer electronics retailing, now replicated in hundreds of stores in more than 10 countries. She also worked as an investor in Google Ventures. Laura is a passionate advocate for female entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship and advises and invests in a number of mission-driven startups with founders coming from non-traditional backgrounds. She is a founding member and former Co-Chair of GLIDE’s Legacy Committee, a group of young professionals committed to expanding Glide’s 51-year legacy of social justice innovation in the Bay Area. She’s currently taking a year-long sabbatical from work to travel and volunteer.

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Posted in Faces of GLIDE, GLIDE history, I Am GLIDE, Uncategorized, Women of GLIDE
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The GLIDE family remembers #NelsonMandela, who would have been 100 years old today. Our Co-Founder Rev. Cecil Williams greeted South Africa’s beloved Madiba in Oakland in June of 1990, just five months after his release from prison. . “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” - Nelson Mandela . #nelsonmandela100 #madiba #nelsonmandeladay #fromthearchives #cecilwilliams @nelsonmandelafoundationsa @mchammer @goapele @fantasticnegrito @shakasenghor @feliciahorowitz @mglide
Exactly one week ago, a group of GLIDE seniors completed a six-week Healthy Living workshop with our own Ms. Tina Huang. Here is what Tina had to say about the experience: . "I am so happy that we're celebrating with this gratitude ceremony. Congratulation to the seniors who have completed their healthier living workshop. Within six weeks, our seniors learned how to live healthier by coping with their stress and creating positive changes for their lifestyle. I am very proud of them as they showed an interest in learning and dedication throughout the workshop. I hope they can bring this knowledge and apply it in their every-day lifestyle, as well as share it with those who may benefit from this information." . Congratulations, #GLIDEseniors! #healthyliving #wednesdaywisdom
Thanks to this group of #volunteers from @salesforce for stepping up to the plate and braving the onions yesterday! They prepared lunch for hundreds of diners from the community! . "I think it's a really smart thing for Salesforce to do. Not just talk about it – of course everybody wants to be a part of their community, of course everybody wants to volunteer and support causes, but to actually insist on people coming down here on their first day of training – hey, that's putting your money where your mouth is." - Shan Nichols, Systems Engineering Director (not pictured) . GLIDE relies on 75-85 volunteers EVERY DAY to serve three meals to everyone who walks through our doors. #startyourdaywithservice #volunteersf #foodjustice #givingback #stepuptotheplate @benioff @salesforcejobs @salesforceorg @ggundry @joselynmarie1
Yesterday we were pleased to welcome the #SaferInside Planning Committee to Celebration and a press conference with Mayor @londonbreed! Thanks for all of your hard work & commitment to helping people understand the importance of bringing #safeinjectionsites to San Francisco.

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