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Former San Francisco Supervisor Willie B. Kennedy: Gone too soon!

August 4, 2013

by Jackie Wright

The community gathered at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church on Friday, July 12, to give accolades as the family of former San Francisco Supervisor Willie B. Kennedy observed obsequies for the stalwart leader who will be greatly missed. Almost 90 years of age, a well-lived life etched in our hearts, Willie B. Kennedy’s life of service gives us comfort.

Doris Ward, Janice Edwards, Willie B. Kennedy at SF Labor Council MLK Breakfast
Willie B. Kennedy (right) stands with former Board of Supervisors colleague Doris Ward in a mentoring moment with TV host Janice Edwards at a San Francisco Labor Council Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Breakfast. Mentoring in the moment or for a lifetime, Willie B. Kennedy gave her best to serve others.
Rev. Staci Current officiated as Mayor Edwin Lee, Supervisor London Breed, Supervisor Malia Cohen, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, California State Sen. Mark Leno, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, other elected officials, family and friends shared their condolences and observations of a great lady.

Current encapsulated the emotional tenure of the ceremonies with 2 Kings 2 that describes the prophet Elijah being caught up to heaven in a blaze of glory with chariots of fire, as his mentee Elisha, who had asked for a double anointing of Elijah’s power, looked on. “As Elijah dropped his mantle ascending into heaven and Elisha picked it up, supervisor, community leader, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, loving friend and faithful church member Willie B. Kennedy has dropped her mantle and it’s for all of us to pick it up,” said Rev. Current.

Friday, observing from the balcony in a packed Jones Memorial Church, barely able to see all of the ceremony due to the crowd in front of me, I was able to feel the love and sense of loss to the family and community as photographers ran up and down the stairs to capture the best shots and as I witnessed reporters like Lee Hubbard of the Post furiously scribing.

Willie B. Kennedy’s work was a mantle of the pursuit of happiness. Will we pick up the mantle?

The thought came on Saturday at least this great lady, who was so beautifully described in the poem by her great-grandson, “What a Wonderful Woman,” didn’t have to bear the burden of hearing the “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.

“Martin” – I wonder if the verdict would have jolted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as George Zimmerman is now “Scott free!” “Scott free” recalls the “Scottsboro Boys.” The verdict also brings to mind Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Emmett Till and so many others, including the nameless “Strange Fruit” that Billy Holiday sang about.

They are nameless to most, but their family knew them and they carry the pain of loss. Those who perpetrated or witnessed the tragedies carry unspoken guilt that moves in waves with the pain of those who suffered in an undercurrent of our society

Willie B. Kennedy funeral Jones Memorial 071213 by Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner
Jones Memorial United Methodist Church was packed to the rafters with family, friends and fans of Willie B. Kennedy for her funeral July 12. – Photo: Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner
The need for more people to see Jacqueline Olive’s film “Always in Season” screened at Calvary Hill Community Church during the 2012 San Francisco Black Film Festival has increased. “Always in Season” deals with healing the scars of racism as manifested in lynchings.

Dr. Jerry Kang of UCLA’s Law School warns that we should closely examine what we consume in television news as it creates subconscious racism that impacts our decision-making, including how quickly we shoot guns.

“These implicit biases have been demonstrated to have real-world consequence – in how we interpret actions, perform on exams, interact with others, and even shoot a gun.”

All the work Willie B. Kennedy stood for is summed up for me as I think over her life and the state of America in Psalm 144:12. Her work was all about the posterity of the community, fairness and justice for the generations following her: “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style … that there be no breaking in or going out; that there be no outcry in our streets … Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the Lord” (New King James Version).

Willie B. Kennedy’s work was a mantle of the pursuit of happiness. Will we pick up the mantle?

Jackie Wright is the president of Wright Enterprises, a full service public relations firm serving the corporate, non-profit and government sectors. A seasoned media and public relations professional, Wright has 20 years of media experience, including more than a decade of award-winning journalism experience in radio, television and print communications, and holds degrees in both journalism and drama from the University of Georgia. She can be reached at jackiewright@wrightnow.biz or twitter.com/wrightenternow.

 

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