Amazing Grace Community Award
Teresa Mejía is a community activist, feminist, single mother, Puerto Rican and the Executive Director of The Women’s Building, which stands in the heart of the Mission District brilliantly painted with a mural dedicated to women, Maestrapeace.
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.
On May 5th 1977, the Thursday before Mother’s Day, while she was a BA student, she felt odd. Teresa took a nap at her friend’s house. She remembered vaguely that she had a dream where her mother was talking to her. When she woke up, she knew that something had happened to mother. “I asked my friends and they told me the truth, that all my family; my mother, who was only 55 years old, my sister, who was 28 and my two little nieces, 2 and 3 years old, were killed by my sister’s ex- husband.”
Teresa buried her family and directed her energy to working with and for those experiencing domestic violence. She went on to co-found two grassroots women’s organizations. Both 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 worked in the Commission for Women’s Affairs educating the District Attorney’s office, police officers and the judiciary on domestic violence issues.
In 1991 she immigrated 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. Still a client of The Women’s Building, she learned of a job opening. For 6 years Teresa worked as the Receptionist and developed the bilingual Information and Referral Program. And in the last 15 years she has served as the Executive Director, moving The Women’s Building through a $6 million dollar renovation process.
She has expanded programs and Teresa is proud of her Caribbean culture. She loves salsa dancing, Puerto Rican food and is still celebrating Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s historic confirmation as the first Latina Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
Happy that she made it through the rough years of raising a small child, her daughter Nadia graduated from UC Berkeley with a Masters in Social Welfare after completing her BA at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Nadia works as Kaiser Permanente as a Social Worker.