Written by Jenny Huang
In August, hundreds of friends, family, and colleagues gathered on both the East and West Coasts to celebrate the life of Joannie Chang. Among her many accomplishments, Joannie was a NAPAWF Founding Sister who helped to build the platform for NAPAWF soon after graduating from law school. Joannie touched the lives of many people through her dedicated work as a civil rights lawyer and as a loving, generous, and wonderful friend to many. Joannie was a fierce sister in every respect – she was a leader in the civil rights community, she worked tirelessly to fight for social justice, in her personal life she was carefree and fearless, and she lived her life proud to be a lesbian and a Taiwanese native.
As a diehard public interest lawyer, Joannie rejected the more profitable path of corporate law in order to serve poor, working class, and underprivileged communities. She worked for various nonprofits in the Bay Area, including Equal Rights Advocates, Employment Law Center, and the Asian Law Caucus. More recently, Joannie worked for the San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, where she helped to implement San Francisco’s ground-breaking health care coverage ordinance. In her professional life, Joannie was a mentor to many, she was always a positive force in any working environment, and she was very loved by her colleagues.
Joannie was not only a fierce advocate in her professional life, but she was equally fierce in how she lived and enjoyed her life. She had a huge community of friends around her, she loved to eat, travel, and eat more, she adored her pets and took them to work with her, and she was an AIDS ride fanatic who clocked thousands of miles on her bike to raise money for AIDS treatment. Joannie was also a loving partner to Luna Yasui, a fierce sister in her own right, and together they worked hard, fought the good fight, and played hard too.
Joannie lived her dream of starting a family with Luna and gave birth to twin girls in June of 2010. Sadly, Joannie was diagnosed with stomach cancer late in her pregnancy and died just four weeks after giving birth. While her friends and family gathered to mourn the tragic circumstances surrounding Joannie’s death, we witnessed an amazing community come together to give love and support to Joannie’s twin girls and to celebrate the beautiful lives that she left behind. If you would like to contribute to the fund started by Joannie and Luna’s friends to help with medical expenses and care for their twin daughters, Ayumi and Yuuki, please e-mail Jenny Huang at firstname.lastname@example.org.