WASHINGTON (Jan.30, 2023) — The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) is excited to announce a multi-year grant from Walmart Foundation to support the Black Public Defender Association (BPDA), a section of NLADA. The $500,000 grant through the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity will allow BPDA to advance racial equity by expanding its national network of Black public defenders and increasing its community engagement efforts.
“We are a relatively new organization that has made huge strides in providing leadership pathways for Black defenders while simultaneously supporting future defenders,” said Alaina Bloodworth, BPDA’s Interim Executive Director. “We could not be more thrilled about the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity’s support of our ability to train and promote public defenders to serve as a catalyst for change in their communities.”
BPDA’s ultimate goal is to help public defenders to become more powerful advocates and transformational leaders. As a leader in the public defense space, BPDA is working to ensure that public defenders are meaningfully informed about how the profession can advance more equitable outcomes.
“I am extremely proud of the work that the Black Public Defender Association is doing every day to center racial equity in the work of public defense,” said April Frazier Camara, NLADA President and CEO. “I am happy to see that the Walmart Foundation has chosen to support BPDA’s efforts.”
This grant will help expand the BPDA Community Engagement Fellowship, which provides public defender offices access to a fully paid, full-time intern for the summer at little to no cost. The goal is for public defender offices to be able to implement a project or program that expands their outreach to the communities they serve to promote racial equity. These projects can include but are not limited to Know Your Rights training, expungement clinics, and community conversations on public safety and race.
BPDA defines “public defender” broadly to include anyone who works in the public defense space, regardless of whether or not they are attorneys. Public defenders include social workers, investigators, community advocates, and other professionals who work tirelessly on behalf of those who are impacted by the criminal legal system. The BPDA Community Engagement Fellowship is open to students seeking careers in all areas of public defense.
Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity
The Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity was founded in 2020 by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation through a $100 million commitment over five years to address the drivers of systemic racism in society and accelerate change. The center’s initiatives fund research, advocacy, innovation of practices and tools, stakeholder convening and non-profit capacity building with a focus on four systems: finance, health, education and criminal justice. The mission of the center is to complement and extend the societal impact of Walmart business initiatives to advance racial equity within these four systems, and its work extends the overarching philanthropic work of Walmart.org. To learn more, visit Center for Racial Equity
The grant from the Walmart Foundation will also help BPDA create a customized course for public defender offices to align their internal policies, practices, and capabilities with the interests and needs of communities of color. BPDA will also build the capacity to support staff training and professional development among public defense offices nationwide.
The Black Public Defender Association aims to improve the quality of defense provided to low-income communities across the United States by creating and maintaining a national network of skilled Black public defenders that identify with and are committed to the populations they serve.