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2023 Silver Medal: Ingleside reverend celebrates community with collage

JA: Ingleside chuch leader's black history collage is the nation's largest
JA: Ingleside chuch leader's black history collage is the nation's largest 03:51

SAN FRANCISCO - In the Ingleside, a Bay Area pastor inspires his community with a nationally lauded black history collage.

At Ingleside Presbyterian Church, where he's pastored for 44 years, Reverend Roland Gordon first posted Muhammad Ali's photo in the gym in 1980. After that, Gordon -- better known as Reverend G -- kept adding pictures.

And since 2016, the collage and church have been San Francisco landmarks for the largest black history mural of its kind in the nation. Except for the sanctuary, the collage covers the entire church.

"Many of the kids have been told, 'You're black, you can't do it.' You can do everything anybody else can do if you discipline yourself and work. Nobody's gonna give you anything. And taking charge of your life," Reverend Gordon said.

Mike Allen has known Reverend G since he was a child.

"He always instilled positive thinking and mindset," Allen said. "Reverend's like a father figure to me to this day."

Now, Allen is program director at the Ingleside Community Center, Inc., the afterschool nonprofit Reverend G started at the church in 1986.

Kindergarteners up through eighth graders come to the center for basketball, tutoring, and technology programs. Many of them do research projects on the people pictured in the collage, finding inspiration and positive role models.

10-year-old Sincere Perkins aspires to have his own picture on the wall one day for his kids and grandkids to see.

"I can show them where I am on this wall," Perkins said. "I would cry with joy because I would know I was a good kid back in the day."

While the collage inspires others, Reverend G says his mother is his inspiration.

His mother, a widow, raised 9 children, including him. She passed away at age 46.

"She had a saying that every tub must sit on is own bottom," he said, getting a little emotional. "You're responsible for your own life."

Reverend G does offer support. A 16 year food bank, for example, feeds a hundred people a month with grocery donations from local stores.

Longtime friend Walter Quinn Sr says Reverend G has made their place of worship a place of service.

"So when Rev G came and picked up that mantle, that's him serving the community," said Quinn, president of the board of directors of Ingleside Community Center, Inc.

At age 78, Reverend G says he is doing just what his mother taught him.

"'You got to think big. If you can think it, you can do it,'" he said.

So for inspiring people with his black history collage and supporting them with education and food, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Reverend Roland Gordon.

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