From the Ashes
Teresa Mejia, Executive Director of The Women's Building in San Francisco, has suffered the kind of loss and personal devastation most people will never have to know. When she was twenty years old, a single act of violence took away her family and the life that she had always known. From that place of devastation, from the ashes of her life before, Teresa gave birth to a new life, one she has filled with love and purpose.
Biography Teresa Mejia is a community activist, feminist, single mother, Puerto Rican and the Executive Director of The Women's Building Community Center, which stands in the heart of the Mission District.
Teresa was born in a small town in Puerto Rico and was raised in a tightly knit, working-class community. An activist in high school for an independent Puerto Rico, she graduated with a BA in Social Science from the University of Puerto Rico and then completed a masters degree in Public Administration. Teresa co-founded 2 grassroots women's organizations, both of which promoted women's rights and worked against domestic violence. Later she became a counselor and board member with the only shelter for battered women in Puerto Rico. She also worked with the Commission for Women's Affairs educating the District Attorney's office, police officers and the judiciary on domestic violence issues.
In 1991 she moved to San Francisco, landing at the doors of The Women's Building in search of employment resources. Her first job here in the States was as a Latina counselor for women in abusive relationships at a San Mateo shelter. For 6 years Teresa developed the bilingual Information and Referral Program at The Women's Building. In the last 9 years she has served as the Executive Director, moving The Women's Building out of financial crisis, raising $6 million dollars to renovate and retrofit the building and hiring and maintaining an excellent and productive staff.
Teresa is especially proud of her daughter who graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz and next year plans to begin a masters program in Social Work.
The Women's Building is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-service center for women and girls. Their mission is to provide women and girls with the tools and resources they need to achieve full and equal participation in society.
They offer a wide variety of programs and opportunities designed to help women and girls overcome the unique social, personal and political barriers they face as they strive to lead safe, healthy, economically secure, creative and joyous lives.
A highlight of The Women's Building is the magnificent MaestraPeace mural gracing the front and side of the building. Created in 1994 by a visionary group of artists, it celebrates, as its website explains further, "the courageous contributions of women through time and around the world," and stands as a daily inspiration to all who pass by.
Some of the famous women included in the mural are Audre Lorde, Georgia O'Keefe, and Rigoberta Menchu. Female icons such as Quan Yin, Yemeyah, and Coyoxauqui are present as well.
We hope those of you who can will visit The Women's Building and experience the power and wonder of this art in person. When you do, please come back and share your stories and reflections with us on our Offerings blog.
The MaestraPeace mural was created by Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton and Irene Perez, and is copyrighted 1994, world rights reserved. We thank them for permitting us to share their images with you.
The theme song for Offerings' "In Good Company" podcast series is "J' Love" written and performed by Kelesha Martin and produced by Ron Moton of Moton Productions. For more of Ms. Martin's music, please visit her site at www.KeleshaMartin.com