Sharen Hewitt, who for generations define fiery, loving activism in San Francisco, has died.
Hewitt, who described herself as a “grandmother for social change,” ran the Community Leadership Academy and Emergency Response Project, which offers peer-to-peer empowerment and civic engagement programs as well as immediate crisis stabilization for victims of violence.
But she was far more than that. For hundreds of San Francisco organizers, students, elected officials, and agitators, she was a surrogate grandma, a teacher, and an inspiration.
“She was a force of nature,” Sup. Aaron Peskin told me. “She took care of everyone except herself.”
Jane Kim put it this way:
Sharen Hewitt, aka Mama Hewitt, was a force to be reckoned with. I was lucky to be one of her community granddaughters, and she taught me to speak up, fight hard, and never take no for an answer. As a young organizer, I watched Sharen challenge mayors and police chiefs to do more for our city. She took care of everyone and we all saw the toll it took on her body to take care of so many grieving mothers and family members. She moved to the Tenderloin, where she became a grandmother to all of our immigrant families and a steward to the rooftop garden at her affordable housing project. Sharen continued to organize to her last day and she never stopped agitating for a better and safer city.
What I will always remember: For all of her organizing and agitation (and she had no hesitation to tell off her friends and foes alike) she was one of the most loving people I’ve ever met in local politics.
She cared: For her friends, for the people who had suffered so much violence, for her long list of community grandchildren … for her city.
My son was one of her grandkids. She met him when he was in high school, volunteering on local political campaigns, and she took him under her wing, teaching him about politics and life.
After he went off to college, she continued to stay in touch; she called him just a few days before she died. “This is your grandma,” she would say. She told him she was calling to check up on him, to make sure he was going to class, staying out of trouble, taking care of himself.
And he was one of many, many young people she put her increasingly frail self into helping.
She will be sorely missed.
When I learn about a memorial, I will let you all know.