In recognition of Women’s Herstory Month, I honor my mother Sally Hong. Born in the countryside of Jeonju in South Korea, she first immigrated to a town outside of Hanover, Germany, to work as a nurse in the 1960s. She lived there for five years before coming to the U.S. alone with no family and no friends. Unable to speak English and with her nursing degree not valid in the US, she answered an ad in the classified section of the LA Times and landed her first job as a housekeeper. She then became a private duty nurse for a German woman who loved my mom because she spoke German. My mom eventually started her own business: first she ran a Mexican food stand downtown and then worked as a sewing contractor in South LA for over 20 years.
My mother has led a life of service. Every aunt, uncle, cousin, and second cousin that immigrated to this country was able to come because of my mother.
She has been very active in her church for many years. Each year she travels to Bolivia or Peru with fellow church members to help local communities. For years, she spent time on Skid Row with her church members cutting hair. She refused to wear gloves because she said, “I don’t want to give them hurt feelings.” For my mom, her volunteerism was as much about service as it was about preserving another person’s dignity.
At age 80, she became the President of her retirement home association. When she decided to accept the position, she said: “This is my last chance to serve.” She coordinated Bingo games for the residents. At the first Bingo soirée, the residents cooked their favorite dishes to share with everyone. My mom was ready with prizes for the winners. Everyone had a great time. All the while, she was building community.
I am proud to be my mother’s daughter. I also strive to build community with other women lawyers. I hope you will join WLALA on March 16th at a fundraiser for reproductive justice with our Sister Bar Associations. All proceeds will benefit Black Women for Wellness, a reproductive justice organization. Let us build community and serve where we are needed with humility and humanity. We may even fit in some rounds of Bingo.
President, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
Inner City Law Center
Inner City Law Center (ICLC) fights for housing and justice for low-income tenants, working-poor families, immigrants, people who are disabled or living with HIV/AIDS, and homeless veterans. As the only full-time legal-services provider located on Skid Row, ICLC advocates for equitable housing policies and provides legal services to prevent and end homelessness.
The Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) has not only served as a dedicated pro bono partner on ICLC’s housing work, but the WLALA Foundation has also sponsored WLALA fellows to work with ICLC’s Homeless Veterans Project on issues affecting women veterans, including those who have been victims of military sexual trauma, as well as with ICLC’s Preventing and Ending Homelessness Project, where they address a variety of legal issues that create barriers to stable housing.
These exceptional WLALA fellows have passionately worked alongside ICLC attorneys to reduce barriers to income and housing stability for Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable residents.