Na’Im Harrison passed away last week, but was still serving his community yesterday.
Na’Im Thomas Harrison’s life was celebrated at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church on 3rd Street yesterday, an event that brought together hundreds of community members committed to passing along lessons they learned from Na’Im, and to keeping his call for social justice alive.
Gwendolyn Westbrook, CEO of United Council of Human Services, read a resolution that ended with the announcement that Hope House, a Jennings Avenue hub of service delivery for military veterans, will now be known as “Na’Im T. Harrison Hope House for Veterans.”
Na’Im was a family man. He and his high school sweetheart, Marie, were married nearly 50 years. He had 13 siblings, and raised the four younger ones after an honorable discharge from the military in 1969. He leaves behind four children: Angela, Arieanne, Thomas, and Shawna. Among his many grandchildren, Giovanni and Roman live in the family home at Quesada Gardens in the heart of Bayview.
Na’Im was a man of faith who attended services at St. John’s while also being a devoted member and co-founder of the Muslim Community Center who attended Islamic services regularly.
He was dedicated to the civil rights movement, and was part of the Black Panther Party in Oakland and San Francisco. His work with Positive Directions and Solutions for Women was on the cutting edge of the movement to address relationship violence. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree from San Francisco State University, he devoted himself to helping people challenged with substance abuse.
A line of friends and family members passed the microphone from one to another as a swell of testimonies about Na’Im’s accomplishments grew into a mountain. Witnesses to Na’Im’s life talked about his strong character, personal sacrifice for people in need, and commitment to his community.
“He epitomized unconditional love.”
“He asked questions that you had to think about before you answered.”
“He drove me to Fresno and stayed with me while I lost a loved one.”
“The last time I seen him, he came to visit me in C5. He told me: What is life if you can’t live your own?”
“If it wasn’t for Na’Im, I wouldn’t be celebrating 15 years sober, and I wouldn’t have met my wife of 10 years.”
“Many of the sisters here came together at Positive Directions. Na’Im was the first one to hand us an opportunity, and now we are about to open Solutions for Women’s transitional housing on 3rd Street.”
“When I went to see him on his deathbed, he saw through my confusion and said, Take care of your father. He will need you.”
“He was one of four men who took me in and pointed me in the right direction.”
“I’ve been thinking about how to say good-bye, either with a salute or a raised fist. For me, I think it’s a fist.”
“If it wasn’t for him and his family, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.”
“When I needed a father, he was there. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten my son back.”
“He was my hero. You’d tell him your troubles, and he would listen. Then he’d ask, What role did you play in it?”
“Whether I liked what he said or not, it was good for me.”
“He taught me everything I know, from recovery to being sober to who I am today.”
“Na’Im, your life is the Black story about where we’ve been and where we should be.”
“Even at the end of his life, he was talking about how grants split up the work, and how the people doing the real work don’t get funded.”
“He was my hero for the sacrifice he made for other people besides himself.”
“He helped shut down a store at Sunnydale that was selling meat that was 55 percent fat.”
At the close of the service, St. John’s Pastor, Rev. Mervin J. Redmond, Sr. added a personal reminiscence of a conversation he had with Na’I'm after which he thought, Na’Im is a cool brother. He’s the kind of person I’d like to hang out with.“