President's Message -November 2022

Janet Hong On Native American Heritage Month

Janet Hong 

WLALA President 2022-2023

Saddle Rock Ranch Pictograph Site, drawing by Chumash people on the National Register of Historic Places depicting the Chumash encounter with Spanish colonizers at Portola. Malibu, California. 

The recent racist remarks by LA city officials shook our entire city. These statements reminded us all of the importance of speaking out and standing up for each other. I am grateful to the leaders of our sister bar associations – Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance President Aimee Camua-Contreras and President-Elect Nina Hong; Black Women Lawyers Association of LA President Jasmine Horton and President-Elect Ronni Whitehead Otieno; Latina Lawyers Bar Association immediate Past President Lucero Chávez Basilio and President Cinthia Flores; and Co-President Lauren Greene of the LGTBQ+ Lawyers Association of LA – for mobilizing so quickly, issuing a joint statement denouncing the remarks, and demanding these LA City Councilmembers step down. Building solidarity with our sister bars is crucial to the advancement of all women.     

Among the groups denigrated were Indigenous Oaxacans. Curious to learn more, and in honor of Native American Heritage Month, I read several articles and found resources that I would like to share. I learned there are about 200,000 Oaxacans living in LA and over 140,000 Native Americans/Alaska natives in LA County, more than any other county in the U.S. As a native Angeleno, I found UCLA’s story mapping of Indigenous LA fascinating. I browsed an on-line exhibit at The Autry Museum entitled, “When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California,” and discovered an art piece called “First Light,” which highlights the central role that women play in Native American communities. I learned about Toypurina – also known as California’s Joan of Arc – a Kizh woman who lead a revolt against Spanish colonial rule in 1785. Understanding the breadth and depth of our history allows us to better acknowledge and appreciate our neighbors and our communities today.

What these councilmembers failed to understand is that the true beauty and power of Los Angeles lies in building bridges amongst our diverse communities. This is why WLALA is focused on ensuring that equity, belonging and anti-racism efforts are interwoven into our work every day. To that end, we will hold an Inclusive Leadership program for our members in February 2023. Because WLALA should be a place where inclusive women leaders are fostered. Because diverse women lawyers at all levels of leadership is not charity but a necessity. And because Angelenos – all of us – deserve better.

Janet Hong
President, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles