Boulanger, an attorney at Malone Frost Martin PLLC, shares how she explored her Filipino culture over time and the importance of finding a community for support during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
05/18/2022 9:45 A.M.
5.5 minute read
ACA International’s membership and the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry are increasingly diverse. In May, ACA is highlighting member voices as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
The U.S. has recognized Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationally in May since June 1978; however, the full month as we know it today was not recognized until May 1, 2009, when former President Barack Obama signed a proclamation declaring May as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, according to whitehouse.gov.
Marissa Boulanger, an attorney at Malone Frost Martin PLLC in Dallas, Texas, is connected to the Asian American community, having grown up as a Filipino American and now as a volunteer director for the Dallas Asian American Bar Association.
“I am half Filipino and half white. My mom is originally from the Philippines and emigrated here when she was in college,” Boulanger said. “I was born in Connecticut, raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and studied for my undergrad in Chicago before moving to Texas for law school. I am married to a Texan, so I guess I am here for the long haul.”
Boulanger shares more about her heritage and career here.
Q. How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?
A. I can pivot and adapt well because of my Asian American heritage. But I also think the biggest impact it has for me is the importance of community in my life. That is one of the reasons I wanted to stay in this industry after interning at Malone Frost Martin. We have a strong bond and sense of community here and a growingly diverse staff.
In Tennessee, there were not a lot of Filipinos, or even Asian Americans, and I think that had an impact on learning about being Asian American and my identity. I didn’t realize I was Asian until about 5th grade, when another Filipino student started at my school. My family ate Filipino food and had certain Filipino traditions—I just didn’t realize that other people didn’t do that, too.
Growing up Asian American and Filipino American, I found that I had a lot of circles, because you do find the 10 other Filipinos that are in Memphis and the one spot you can get groceries they import from the Philippines.
In college, I started exploring that identity and differentiation from other cultures more. I spend a lot of my time outside of work involved in AAPI legal organizations. I am a director with the Dallas Asian American Bar Association. We put on events, fundraisers, awareness programs and outreach. I chair the Connections Committee, which is holding an AAPI Heritage Month Celebration Dinner and donation drive for a women’s shelter. We do a lot of recognition for Asian-American attorneys across the Dallas-Fort Worth Area.
I find that as an Asian American in the legal field, there is a sense of underrepresentation, but a bigger issue for women of color—and specifically one that I find with AAPI women—is we tend to not want to boast or talk about our accomplishments too much.
The organizations I work with, like The Podium, help bring recognition to Asian American attorneys and professionals because we should be proud of what we’ve done and that should be celebrated.
There needs to be a push, so that is something I focus on with my volunteering. I also work on mentorship with law students. I find it important to foster mentor relationships, especially with young attorneys.
I have a sense of community and alignment with the people around me, and that his heavily because of my heritage.
Q. Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?
A. Filipinos are passionate about food and cooking. Meals are something I cherish from growing up. Sitting down and making adobo and eating lumpia are the traditions that are most important to me.
When my mom came to the U.S., she was adamant about celebrating being American, so it wasn’t until college that I also started to celebrate my Filipino heritage and was really surrounded by more Filipino kids my own age that introduced me to more traditions.
The one thing that has been consistent from my heritage in my life was food.
Q. Who are the role models or mentors who have influenced you or helped guide you in your career?
A. My career mentor was Robbie Malone. She was an incredible woman, an incredible attorney, and an incredible businesswoman. I think she really got me interested not only in this field but in litigation and pursuing it as a passion.
Malone was a founding managing partner of Malone Frost Martin and a former ACA member active in the Members Attorney Program and Judicial Committee since its inception. She passed in 2021.
She was incredibly helpful in my development in law and being bold in an industry that is male dominated. I feel that way both about law and the ARM industry.
There are a lot of women coming up in the ARM industry, and Robbie liked seeing more female general counsels and CEOs. Robbie instilled in me to bond with other “boss ladies” and to know that we’re making a difference for girls out there now. She always told me that when she was growing up, there weren’t a lot of female businesswomen or female attorneys. Because of that, I see the importance of women empowering women in business.
Q. What brings you joy about your heritage and culture?
A. The community of my heritage brings me joy, including recognizing others and being respectful of how others grew up. I grew up biracial and I think that the experiences that provided me in living with a foot in two worlds has given me respect for everyone going down their own path in life. That is something I value and that makes me happy.
Q. What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
A. I think it means a point of recognition that there is a space to discuss AAPI issues. It’s a reason and reminder that there are issues to talk about and there is progress to be made to build on where we are today as a culture and society.
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