Don’t be a Sucka!

Earlier this month, I had an amazing experience.

I have a dear friend who loves Glide Memorial Church. For her birthday, I got us tickets to Glide’s 50th anniversary.GlideU

Glide is a staple in the Tenderloin- Rev Cecil Williams took over the congregation of 35 people in 1963 and immediately set out to grow the church from within the community.

Located in the worst area of San Francisco, the ‘Loin one of the last neighborhoods unaffected by gentrification.  In fact, the Tenderloin is rumored to have been named for the ‘soft underbelly’ of a cut of meat, another is that a police chief bragged he made more money in bribes than in salary-so much that he could now afford a cut of ‘tenderloin’.

Either way, the Tenderloin is a rough place for its inhabitants and Glide has become a refuge for those in need.

One of the recipients of their outreach said this

The message that I get at GLIDE is that I have value.  That I’m not disposable.  It took time to embrace that but GLIDE has given me my life back.  I came here broken in every conceivable way, and was healed in a holistic way

While you think the message is always soft and flowery- it’s not.

Cecil is the guy who hosted political rallies for the Black Panthers, he founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in 1963, and helped negotiate the release of  Patty Hearst from the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Cecil is a bad ass.

During the 50 year celebration they played some of his 70’s sermons-and one of them really stuck with me.

Cecil-challengeIn full afro and wearing a Nehru jacket, Cecil started preaching saying:

Don’t be a sucka!!”-he preached.

Then he explained- “Don’t just suck energy from God, don’t just suck energy from life and from others-do your WORK and give back.”   The message of Glide is that you have to own your truth, to be real and do the work to help others.  It also reminds us to avoid the suckas in our own lives, those who pull us down instead of lifting us up.

He jumped around and spoke loudly and impassioned to a diverse audience and you could feel the change happening (this was in the 70s when big movements were happening in San Francisco).

Right now, our city is going through big change.  Gentrification is changing our Glide50city’s landscape and there is less and less space for a middle-class (and even less for a lower class).  It seems like there is no longer space for those who don’t fit the Silicon Valley mold but Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani believe in the importance of diversity and of giving back.  Because, no matter how wealthy our city becomes-it can’t survive if we are only a city of suckas (and it sure as HELL would be alot less interesting).

Cecil says it best:

“How much easier it would be if everybody in the room looked like you, came from the same place as you and made the same jokes as you.

How much harder it is when difference invades the room and you have to be sensitive to everybody’s culture/color/gender/nationality/ability and sexual orientation,let alone religious belief.

You have to not only accept each person, you have to remove all conditions that might limit your acceptance.  That’s hard work, yes, but look what diversity gives back.  When that room is filled with diversity, we are enriched by each other’s differences, we are as complicated and as joyous and as wise as the whole world”

Don’t be a sucka- be a part of the change.

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