Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Community & Society
Published on November 08, 2023
GLIDE Holiday Jam Celebrates Cecil Williams 60th AnniversaryGLIDE Ensemble | Photo: Courtesy of GLIDE

GLIDE’s Annual Holiday Jam returns this week to celebrate Reverend Cecil Williams's 60th anniversary with the organization. The live concert will take place at the Masonic Auditorium on Thursday, November 9. While the benefit is held each year to raise funds for their community services, this year will be special as they also honor Williams's legacy.

GLIDE is comprised of both the nondenominational Glide Memorial Church and the nationally recognized Center for Social Justice. Each year the benefit raises funds for its many community services, including mobile outreach, vaccines, HIV screening, childcare, education, and the organization's well-known daily free-meal program. The free-meal program, founded in 1982, serves more than 10,000 free meals weekly.

Many may recognize GLIDE from its portrayals in films and books. It was featured in the Will Smith film The Pursuit of Happyness, and was the basis for the fictitious Glibb Memorial Church in Armistead Maupin’s book, Tales of the City

Cecil Williams at GLIDE. | Photo: Courtesy of GLIDE


Williams, who turned 94 in September, joined GLIDE as a young minister in 1963. And he brought change with him. Embracing diversity and inclusivity, he opened up the struggling church to the poor and those in need. The congregation grew to include all races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations.

He’s now retired, but under his leadership, GLIDE became one of the largest providers of social services in the city.

“I am proud to have built a legacy at GLIDE that begins with love, liberation, justice, and freedom,” Williams said in a statement. “We all have to keep on keeping on and continue to work in unity and lead with love!”

Singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson. | Photo: Courtesy of GLIDE


Thursday’s concert will feature an “all-star gathering" led by singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson. Along with her husband, Simpson co-wrote musical hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I’m Every Woman."

Other performances will include D’Wayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné!, R&B performer Goapele, soul singer Martin Luther McCoy, and the GLIDE Ensemble and the Change Band. KQED’s Priya David Clemens will serve as the night’s Mistress of Ceremonies.

Tickets can be purchased online. The reception starts at 5:30 p.m. on November 9 and the concert performance begins at 7:00 p.m.