Last week I had the honor of serving as the Emcee at the Awards Ceremony for the California ChangeLawyers Leaders Summit. Click here to learn more about their work. The event venue at San Francisco’s UC Hastings Law School looked like the United Nations, with folks from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. There we were - gay, straight, trans, disabled, wearing hijab, suits and jeans. I love being in these spaces, which feel so welcoming. It was an informative and inspiring set of presentations, panel discussions, audience participation, and improv performances that asked us to reimagine what a leader looks like.
One of the speakers was Kevin de Leon, the President pro Tempore Emeritus of the California State Senate. He was warm, and down to earth, and had so much to say about why we belong everywhere, and why we must work on every sort of challenge, not just social justice issues typically associated with low income communities and people of color. He reminded us that it is much easier to change laws than it is to change a culture, but change we must, and change is definitely underway.
In the evening’s awards program, I had the pleasure of presenting three awards. First, to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who received the ChangeLawyers Leadership & Community Advocate Award for his extraordinary fight against unjust and inhumane federal policies, and his lifetime work advocating for the working poor.
I first met Xavier when I was a young lawyer working at The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and he was summer law clerk from Stanford Law. Bright, conscientious, and dedicated to public service, the type of law student we all love having at our offices. Among his remarks at the LeadersSummit that most stuck with me is that the Trump Administration (whom the AG’s office has sued some 60 +/- times) wants to take us from 2019 to 1920 in terms of its policies. And we are NOT gonna let that happen.
I was thrilled to present an award to Rocio Ávila, whom I first met when she was a law clerk at Equal Rights Advocates where I served as Executive Director. Rocio is the Policy Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and was recognized for her outstanding work shaping and advancing NDWA’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in various states. I deeply value Rocio’s friendship and admire her commitment. It fills me with great joy to see career paths that were chosen by so many folks I first met when they were law students.
The third award recipient was Rukayatu Tijani, who started the First Generation Purpose Project which helps diverse First Gen professionals “formulate actionable steps in their workplace, their career, entrepreneurship, and in life by using the grit and tenacity that is already in them.” Rukayatu who is Nigerian American is also the first in her family to achieve a professional degrees, and knows first-hand the many personal and professional challenges that we, First Gen folks, encounter.
Heartiest congratulations to the California AG, Xavier Becerra, Rocio Aviles and Rukayatu Tijani.
California ChangeLawyers also presented scholarships to 56 law students enrolled at universities throughout the United States. As amazing as it is to see a room of several hundred lawyers and law students who are so diverse, I also know that people of color are enormously underrepresented in the legal profession. Kudos to ChangeLawyers for promoting the diversification of the legal profession.
On the way home that evening on a standing-room only BART (Bay Area’s subway) train, I was chatting with a friend who had also been at the event. A women taps me on the shoulder and says, “Excuse me, are you Irma Herrera?” (pronouncing my name perfectly). “I saw your play at The Marsh a few months ago, and I loved it. I see you are performing later this month in San Rafael, that’s so great.”
Things like this happen to me occasionally. At a friend’s dinner party in San Francisco, one of her guests says: “You look so familiar, I’m wondering if we’d met before?” We concluded we had not, and that she’d seen posters with my photo which were on walls and windows in San Francisco and Berkeley for a few months when my play was on stage. Friends would occasionally snap a picture when they saw my poster and send along to me. One of our son’s school friends from their K-8 years, who now lives in Europe was visiting family and friends in San Francisco over the New Year’s holiday a few months ago. She snapped a picture of my poster and texted our son at midnight. “Hey Tony, saw your Mom hanging out on a wall at the Haight-Ashbury. What’s up with that?”
My upcoming show in San Rafael on October 13, 2019 in The Best of SF Solo Series has presented some media opportunities -- radio interviews, invitations to appear on podcasts, and a TV appearance, coupled with ABC’s Latino Heritage Month programming. Click here to watch the five-minute interview on Midday Live. This may be my 15 minutes of fame, which Andy Warhol predicted would come each and everyone's way.
I’ll be sharing links of these guest appearances with you over the next few weeks, and if you are interested in watching or listening, you can do so. Although I post some of these links on social media, I know that a few of my blog readers aren’t social media fans.
If you haven’t yet seen my play and if you reside in the SF Bay Area, come see it at The Showcase Theater, Sunday, October 13, 2019 at 7 pm (run time one hour, no intermission). If you have friends in Marin County or SF or the East Bay, tell them about it, it’s easy to get to San Rafael.
Click here to connect to my website which has a purchase tickets button linking you directly to the theater's website.
Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name?
The Best of SF Solo Series
Showcase Theater, San Rafael, CA
Sunday, October 13th @ 7 pm
If you'd like my play to come to a theater near you, let me know, and maybe YOU can help make it happen. Wishing all a great week.