National Lawyers Guild Issues Statement on Group’s Ex-President, a White Woman Who Pretended to Be Puerto Rican and Colombian

Jan 14, 2021
10:01 AM

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan during a 2016 Democracy Now! appearance, discussing the Puerto Rican victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. (Screen grab)

After mounting pressure from members reacting to a January 7 Prism article about a former president —a white woman who pretended to be Puerto Rican and Colombian— the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) released a statement on Wednesday night regarding Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan. The NLG statement noted Bannan will be removed from any association with the NLG and is also demanding an apology and other possible accountability actions that, if not met, would led to permanent revocation from the NLG. Last week, Latino Rebels, which had published Bannan’s work in the past, decided to remove her writings from the site and delete two video guest appearances she made on LR’s Facebook page. LatinoJustice, Bannan’s employer when the Prism article was published, said she has resigned from the organization. A January 14 follow-up story by Prism featured reactions from prominent Puerto Rican women leaders about Bannan, who has now also resigned from the Center for Constitutional Rights and MADRE boards.

This full NLG statement is below:

Dear NLG Members,

Last week’s revelations of cultural appropriation by an NLG past president, Natasha Bannan, have elicited expressions of outrage, hurt, dismay, from Guild members as well from people across the country and the world. We share in that outrage and commit to taking the necessary steps to support the healing justice and accountability that our members deserve.

NLG leadership learned of these revelations last week and have since been discussing next steps with members who have been most impacted. This includes members of The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC), Anti-Racism Committee (ARC), National Executive Committee (NEC), and other committees and chapters of the Guild as well as the independent working group of BIPOC members who originally came together to address this issue.

In October, this independent group convened outside any formal Guild body to exchange information about Natasha’s cultural appropriation. To be clear, this was the only group of NLG members aware of Natasha’s misrepresentations. This independent group provided helpful recommendations that we have reviewed. The members of this committee will continue their efforts through their involvement in TUPOCC. At this time a new committee of NEC, TUPOCC and ARC members will form to handle any accountability process that may follow.

The Executive Council (EC) of the NEC has decided upon the following plan, which will take effect immediately: 

Natasha’s membership and leadership positions within the NLG, including but not limited to: the International Committee’s Puerto Rico Subcommittee, Colombia Subcommittee, and Taskforce on the Americas, will be suspended.

Steps are being taken to design an appropriate accountability process. The EC is in the process of hiring a professional facilitator to devise and implement an accountability plan. ARC has contacted Natasha in regards to this accountability process. Should Natasha not agree to the process, or if the accountability process is unsatisfactory to those in our NLG community who have experienced harm, Natasha’s membership will be permanently revoked.

Furthermore, we will demand that Natasha issues an apology to the National Lawyers Guild —including all of the committees she has participated in and often secured leadership positions within, including The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) and various subcommittees of the International Committee— acknowledging the fact that as long as she identifies as Latinx, she is engaging in cultural appropriation and causing harm.

We will also take steps to:

  • Remove Natasha’s authorship from essays for forthcoming NLG publications
  • Remove Natasha from the NLG Scholars speaking list
  • Disallow Natasha from accepting speaking engagements on behalf of NLG
  • Suspend Natasha’s access to NLG listservs pending accountability process
  • Provide funds to support TUPOCC’s efforts to support those directly impacted by Natasha through a process of their choosing

We recognize that Natasha’s ability to take up leadership positions using a false identity as a Latinx woman and co-opt space intended for Latinx leaders of color are symptoms of a larger problem of white supremacy that exists within many institutions and movement spaces beyond the NLG.

We see this moment as an opportunity for NLG leadership bodies, chapters, and committees to strengthen our efforts to challenge white supremacy within the Guild, and our movements as whole.

We also know that BIPOC leaders and their white allies have been struggling for decades to confront manifestations of white supremacy in the Guild. That work must be acknowledged and appreciated. There are BIPOC leaders throughout the Guild working toward a just and accountable path forward, including staff, committee and chapter leadership, and a majority BIPOC EC. This has been a very stressful time for them in many ways. We urge our members and the public to act in ways that do not perpetuate harm to other women of color and people of color in their pursuit of healing justice.

In Solidarity,

NLG Executive Council (EC)