I found that my wounds begin to heal when the voices of those endangered by silence are given power. The silence of hopelessness, of despair buried in the depths of poverty, violence, racism ... are more deadly than bullets. ... The gift of light, in our compassion, our listening, our works of love ... is the gift of life to ourselves.
Janice Mirikitani is the founding president of the Glide Foundation where she and her husband, the Reverend Cecil Williams, have achieved worldwide recognition for their groundbreaking efforts to empower San Francisco's poor and marginalized communities. Their work inspires people and to make meaningful changes in their lives, breaking the cycle of poverty. During Glide's first forty years, Mirikitani and Williams built eighty-seven comprehensive programs - providing education, recovery support, primary and mental health care, job training, housing and human services. Mirikitani's passion has been to create programs for women and families as they struggle with issues of substance abuse, rape, incest, domestic violence, the AIDS crisis, single parenting, and childcare. The couple's book, Beyond the Possible (2013), tells Glide's story, reflecting on fifty years of creating radical social change.
Mirikitani and her family were interned in the Rohwer War Relocation Camp, in Arkansas, during World War II. As Japanese immigrant farmers, they were swept up in the wartime mass internment of Japanese Americans. Undeterred, Minikitani went on to graduate from UCLA, earned a teaching credential form UC Berkeley, and has received two honorary doctorates.
Mirikitani was also San Francisco's second poet laureate, appointed in 2000. She has written four books of poetry: Awake in the River; Shedding Silence; We, the Dangerous; and Love Works. And she has edited nine landmark anthologies., providing platforms for writers of color, women, youth and children.
Mirikitani began serving as a commissioner on the San Francisco Arts Commission in 1996 and was reappointed by Mayor Newsom in 2004. She is the recipient of over forty awards and honors, including the Governor and First Lady's Conference on Women and Families' Minerva Award, San Francisco State University's Distinguished Alumnae Award, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Ebbie Award, the prestigious American Book Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature, and the University of California at San Francisco Chancellor's Medal of Honor Award.