Statement In Honor of Enola Maxwell
"Mr. Speaker, it is with deep personal sadness that I rise
today to pay tribute to one of San Francisco's most beloved and
admired social activists. Enola Maxwell passed away on June 24th
at the age of 83. Enola lived an impassioned life, advocating for
freedom and justice on behalf of people of all races, ethnicities,
and ages. In living her life, Enola Maxwell changed countless people's
lives for the better. I extend my deepest sympathies to Enola's
daughters Sophie and Barbara; thank you for sharing your mother
with us. She brightened our lives with her strength, her courage
and her grace.
"Ruth Passen, longtime friend and associate of Enola , wrote
a beautiful obituary in The Potrero View, of which she is the editor.
She captures Enola's essence and our feelings for her so well that
I am privileged to share her words about ``the Heart of Potrero
``She was the anchor for a whole neighborhood--the backbone of a
community--known as ``mom'' by many, both young and old, and called
Miz Maxwell by everybody else. Whoever assumes her role as the Executive
Director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House will be the beneficiary
of an extraordinary legacy but will be challenged to follow in her
"She was born on August 30, 1919 in Baton Rouge, La. to Clemus
and Lena Dundy. After separating from Clemus, Lena moved to San
Francisco and in 1949 Enola , together with her two children, joined
her. They lived in several neighborhoods, including the Haight Ashbury,
before moving into the government-owned public housing project on
Carolina Street and 18th Street, known as the Carolina Projects,
where they were living when Enola's third child, Sophie, was born.
(The Potrero Hill Middle School was built on the site in 1971.)
Potrero Hill old-timers will remember Enola's mother as the proprietor
of the Little Red Door, a popular thrift store on 18th Street.
Enola supported her family by working a variety of jobs; she kept
house with one family for several years, and was an employee of
the U.S. Postal Service for a time.
"Her activism began as a member of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood
Council where she met Sue Bierman and others who have remained lifelong
friends. The council was successful in stopping a movement to build
a freeway through Golden Gate Park. This first exhilarating venture
into community activism changed the course of her life. She got
a leave of absence from the Post Office and joined the Civil Rights
March on Washington in 1968. After that experience she wanted to
do more. She was ``bitten by the activism bug,'' said daughter Sophie
"Enola decided that she could help people from a pulpit, and
enrolled at the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo.
She made history by being the first woman--and first black person--to
be named as lay minister at the Potrero Hill Olivet Presbyterian
Church on Missouri Street where she served from 1968 to 1971.
"She wanted a church where people could feel comfortable and
free. She foresaw a gathering where people and new ministers could
talk about activism; she helped coin the name Street Ministers.
"Her tenure at the Olivet provided the opportunity to put into
action her dream of the Street Ministries, and she established a
coffeehouse in the church's basement where ongoing dialogues about
activism, and music flourished. In 1972, she was hired to be the
Executive Director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House affectionately
know as the Nabe--the first black person hired for any position
at the Nabe. The Neighborhood House was established in the early
1920s by the Presbyterian Church.
"Her instincts and down-to-earth good sense led her to initiate
programs to help the community's youth, as well as to embellish
services that the Nabe had offered Potrero Hill residents for more
than 50 years. The Potrero Hill Neighborhood House was designated
as Historical Landmark No. 86 in 1977 during Enola's tenure.
"Enola was a compassionate leader in the civil rights movement,
on women's rights issues, and as a peace activist. The walls of
her office at the Neighborhood House are covered with plaques and
awards honoring her services not only to the Potrero Hill neighborhood,
but also to San Francisco residents citywide and to the many organizations
in which she played active roles.
"Enola was feisty and fiery and caring. At times she was the
only black woman in organizations that were primarily white. That
didn't matter. What she offered any group with whom she worked was
honesty in making sure that justice was the manifest result of their
group efforts. She once remarked that ``fear and hate are the most
dangerous things because they take away your freedom.''
"Besides serving on many civic commissions, Enola was also
on the founding committee and longtime member of the annual Martin
Luther King, Jr. holiday celebration, and several committees organized
through the Mayor's office. She received a Congressional Award from
Congressman Phillip Burton, and I appointed her to the Senior Internship
Program in Washington, D.C.
"In 2001, the Potrero Hill Middle School was renamed the Enola
D. Maxwell Middle School for the Arts. Enola had always spent time
working with the schoolteachers and administrators. She was deeply
honored by the name change and referred to the school as ``my school.''
"It is an honor to stand before the House today to celebrate
the life of this remarkable woman. The legacy of her service to
and compassion for the San Francisco community will endure for generations.