WLALA President 2020-2021
Mary Church Terrell – founder and president of the National Association of Colored Women – wrote: “And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long. With courage, born of success achieved in the past, with a keen sense of the responsibility which we shall continue to assume, we look forward to a future large with promise and hope.” Ms. Terrell was a tireless advocate for Black women’s suffrage. This August, through a series of programs put on with the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) and the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), WLALA celebrated the Centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. In these programs, we recognized and celebrated the efforts of heroic women who fought for, took and ultimately gained the right to vote for women. We also recognized that the right to vote did not extend to all women equally. During the Women’s Suffrage movement, Black women often had to march separately from White women in suffrage parades. Additionally, in writing the history of women’s suffrage, White suffragists rendered women of color, and their important and significant contributions to the fight for equality, invisible.
Over the years, WLALA gained a reputation of being the “White Women Lawyers Association.” This year, we are committed – now more than ever – to shedding ourselves of that reputation and to amplifying the previously stifled voices of women of color. On August 22, Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Inc. (BWL), Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance (APAWLA), Latina Lawyers Bar Association (LLBA), California Women Lawyers (CWL) and WLALA put on the first of a series of courageous conversations on “Women & Race.” This program came together through grit, determination, getting comfortable being uncomfortable and incredible teamwork by the dedicated women in all of these organizations who planned this program, as well as the inspirational panelists. At this program, Senator Holly Mitchell reinforced that White women should strive to be “Accomplices” to women of color. To the women of color in the Los Angeles legal community, I will be your Accomplice. As Senator Mitchell recommended, I will walk next to you, sometimes in front of you and never far behind you.
I am proud to introduce the members of WLALA’s first ever Racial Justice and Equality Advisory Council (“Advisory Council”). Recognizing that systemic racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have and continue to have a devastating impact on society, the legal profession, and on our own members, this year, WLALA committed purposefully to identifying, discussing and challenging racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We further committed to understanding and correcting racial and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (“LGBTQ+”) inequities we discovered within WLALA. To assist in advancing these goals, we created the Advisory Council, whose mission is to advise and support WLALA’s Board of Governors in the areas of leadership development and committee programming and to advise WLALA’s Board in ways to support and amplify the voices of women of color, the LGBTQ+ community and allies, both within WLALA and in the broader legal community. Thank you to Charlene Usher, Hon. Yvette Verastegui, Nina Huerta, Rebecca Aragon, Brigit Greeson Alvarez, Michele Anderson, Diane Tan, Leana Taing and Celene Chan Andrews for serving on the inaugural Advisory Council. I am honored to work with you.
My theme, “Lead Like a Girl,” was inspired by two women: Mia Hamm and Melissa Viviane Jefferson, professionally known as “Lizzo.” Ms. Hamm was born with a club foot and wore corrective shoes as a toddler. She won four NCAA Division I National Championships, two World Cups and has been inducted into several Halls of Fame. She is regarded as one of the greatest women soccer players of all time and one of the most remarkable female athletes of her generation. She famously said: “My coach said I ran like a girl[.] I said if he ran a little faster, he could, too.” Thank you, Ms. Hamm, for your willpower and your tenacity and for inspiring generations of women athletes. Ms. Hamm stood up for herself, and by doing so, stood up for all women athletes.
Lizzo, who aspired to be a professional flautist before dropping out of college when she was 20, for a short time, lived in her car when she struggled to make ends meet. She moved to Minneapolis where she was one of the few Black women rappers in the city. Prince was a fan. Think about that! After a decade of hard work, in 2019, Time named Lizzo as “Entertainer of the Year” and this past January, she received eight Grammy nominations. Lizzo wrote and fiercely performs her song, “Like a Girl.” She opens “Like a Girl” with “Woke up feeling like I just might run for President. Even if there ain’t no precedent, switchin’ up the messaging, I’m about to add a little estrogen.” In the chorus, she bellows joyously, “’Cause I throw it like a girl.” Listen to it. Dance around to it, too. You’re welcome. Thank you, Lizzo, for your relentless self-confidence. Lizzo highlights inclusivity while celebrating diversity and individuality.
This year, Lead Like a Girl is a commitment to action that celebrates diversity and relentless self-confidence, highlights inclusivity, and stands up for the rights of all women. I am and have always been an avid sports fan and a dedicated athlete. I also have a small but significant obsession with Peloton®. Please find me on the leaderboard! My leaderboard name is #sportsandheels. Peloton is a cycling term – a word for a pack of riders that works together to fight the wind. One of Peloton®’s themes is “Together We Go Far.” The theme resonates particularly this year as I have the honor and a privilege to lead and work with the leadership of the Sister Bars. To BWL President and President-Elect Michelle Kazadi and Lisa McLean, APAWLA President and President-Elect Calimay Pham and Sandy Yu and LLBA President and President-Elect Lorrina Duffy and Cinthia Flores: Congratulations on your installations. I look forward to being part of this peloton. We are stronger together and together we will go far.
This year, WLALA turned 101 years old. Marian Wright Edelman turned 81 years old. Ms. Edelman is one of my heroes. She was the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi State Bar. She founded the Children’s Defense Fund so that poor children, children of color and children with disabilities would have a voice in the legal system. She fought tirelessly for the disadvantaged and voiceless. Ms. Edelman said: “Understand and be confident that each of us can make a difference by caring and acting in small as well as big ways.” Two of my first and forever heroes embodied these words: My maternal grandmother, Eva Schenk, and my paternal grandfather, Arnold Kronstadt. Each, through her and his caring and dedication to doing what was right, left the world a better place than it was in which each found it. Grandma Eva and Grandpa Arnie, I dedicate my presidency to your memory.
Thank you to all of WLALA’s 100 Past Presidents for your leadership and guidance. Thank you to the women on this year’s Executive Committee, Board of Governors and Foundation Board of Governors, to WLALA Foundation President Stacy Horth-Neubert and to WLALA’s Executive Director Kay Burt and WLALA’s Administrative Assistant Janelle Battaglia for serving with me. I am humbled and honored to serve as WLALA’s 101st President. Together we strive to attain, as Ms. Terrell described, “a future large with promise and hope.” Together, we Lead Like a Girl.