May 23rd, 2013
Joyce and Joe Ybarra
May 23rd, 2013
Joyce: Joe and I both grew up in West Covina, a city in Los Angeles County that is heavily Mexican-American and Filipino-American. I am Filipina and Joe is Mexican-American. Both of us come from families with high expectations for their kids; my parents wanted me to be a doctor. Joe was raised by a single mom, who is one of the smartest, hardest working women you’ll ever meet. We went to the same Catholic high school; we were friends, but we didn’t date until well after high school. After high school, Joe went off to Dartmouth for college and I stayed local at the University of California at Irvine.
Joe: I definitely had culture shock at Dartmouth, where most of the students come from privileged backgrounds. I survived by hanging out with the other minority and scholarship students, we created a mutual support system to survive. I am the proud product of affirmative action. I never would have had the opportunity to go to an Ivy League school or to law school without it. As a result of my education, I now work at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson, where I am one of 6 Latinos out of 200 lawyers. I believe that this is not because I am exceptional, it’s because I was given the opportunity.
Joyce: I was raised very traditionally, but I “found my politics” in college because of Prop 187, a ballot initiative aimed at excluding undocumented immigrants from health care, public education and social services and Prop 209, an anti-affirmative action initiative. I realized that communities of importance to me were under attack. While I was working toward my master of public health degree at UCLA, I was privileged to intern at The California Endowment, which was a new health care conversion foundation. The Endowment approaches public health holistically; they focus on causes not symptoms. They understand that inequality and injustices hurt individuals and communities. They valued a diverse staff to direct resources to minority communities which they represent. I eventually became a senior program associate responsible for a $12 million dollar program to support smaller community-based organizations.
Joe: When I came back to LA for law school Joyce and I started dating seriously and got married, which was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Shortly after starting at my law firm, I had an opportunity to work on an affirmative action case that went to the Supreme Court, Gratz v. Bollinger, which challenged the admission policies at the University of Michigan. I helped file an amicus brief for The National Council of La Raza. It felt really great to defend affirmative action, since I had benefited personally from it. My law firm is very committed to pro bono work. I also had an opportunity to litigate a case challenging a gang injunction in Orange County, California. We were co-counsel with the ACLU. In this case, the Orange County District Attorneys’ Office served an injunction on a number of young people, alleging that they were members of a criminal street gang and thus should not be permitted to do any number of otherwise lawful actions, such as staying in public past 10:00 p.m., or being in public at any time with any other person subject to the injunction. Importantly, the District Attorney claimed that these young people were subject to the injunction even though they had not been given any opportunity to contest the allegations against them—to prove that they were not a member of a criminal street gang. We argued that this violated due process—one of the most sacred and important individual rights provided by our Constitution.
Joyce: Even though my formal training is in public health, my experience with the CA Endowment turned me into a professional grantmaker with a passion for reducing disparities across communities. Since my time at the Endowment, I have served as a Program Specialist for Southern California Grantmakers and as a Program Officer for the LA Immigrant Funders’ Collaborative. Now I work at the Weingart Foundation, a private foundation that does great work supporting marginalized communities in Southern California. Joe earns most of our family income, but I still work because I love what I do.
Joe: We brought our values to our marriage. When we started making enough money to give some of it away, Joyce always encouraged us to do more. She has a lot of ties in the philanthropic community in LA. She helped found the LA chapter of EPIP, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and she’s on the local steering committee of AAPIP, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. She also serves on the Board of KIWA, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance. We support inclusion and opportunity and we don’t put restrictions on our gifts. Unrestricted gifts are like gold to non-profits. We give a lot to scholarships. For example, we support the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund scholarship fund, because both of our lives were changed by access to higher education.
Joyce: Joe is on the Board of the Liberty Hill Foundation and Homeboy Industries, which helps gang members and formerly incarcerated people turn their lives around. Joe plays an important role at Liberty Hill as treasurer and one of the few lawyers on the board. Liberty Hill is an incredible organization. They are very committed to diversity and inclusion. They fund communities in LA like the community we grew up in. They make a huge difference in this city, stepping up to important issues, like their Boys and Men of Color Initiative which challenges the school to prison pipeline.
Joe: Joyce has helped found a couple of Giving Circles, where people pool their resources and make grants together. It’s been a great way to engage our peers who don’t traditionally give. It’s exciting to think what a difference we could make if more professional people were philanthropic.
Joyce: Joe and I now live in a neighborhood we could only dream of when we were kids. We can help out our parents and families. We have two children and we are trying to give them the best education and at the same time preserve the values we learned from our parents: hard work, respect, understanding, and empathy. These values, and public policies that support them, changed the arc of our lives. We are both committed to making sure those opportunities are there for the next generation of Americans.