Racial Equity Initiative

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Like many organizations, NLADA is extremely troubled by the racial unrest taking place in our country. While we are searching for new bold ways to create a path forward to advancing racial equity, one thing we know for sure. We are much stronger when we work together as a community to tackle societal challenges. 

NLADA as an organization understands that racial equity must be centered in our work to promote excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. 

In order to get there, we must exhibit courage to speak to the dark history and current disease of racism in this country. We can no longer be comfortable with avoiding difficult issues of racism, slavery and white supremacy in order to make ourselves comfortable. 

We understand that our members need tools in order to exercise moral courage. If you are looking for those tools and resources, we encourage you to join the NLADA racial justice listserv and visit this page often.

We are hopeful that this moment in history will propel us to higher levels of seeking truth regarding the legacy of racism in America. To read our Statement on the Killing of George Floyd and Standing Up with Communities to Defeat Racist Violence, please click here

NLADA leads a broad network of advocates on the frontlines to advance justice and expand opportunity for all by promoting excellence in the delivery of legal services for people who cannot afford counsel.  At the heart of this work are our values of diversity, equality, and inclusion – a recognition that the principle of racial equity must be present in our hiring decisions, in our practice, and in our engagement with our communities.

We do not conflate poverty with racism.  To say that because the majority of our clients are persons of color, we necessarily perform racial justice work would be to simplify the difficult issues of poverty, racial injustice, and racial injustice that flows from poverty.  These issues are neither proxies for one another nor are they mutually exclusive.  In fact, the connection between the two is longstanding and deeply rooted in American history.

In commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission’s Report and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded that economic and racial justice have long been connected and that one cannot be achieved while leaving the other behind.  Dr. King’s words should push us forward in our work to secure justice and promote equality: “[M]ankind's survival is dependent on man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man's squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony.”

NLADA always recognized the importance of racial justice in its activities and the work of its members. Our joint statement on racial justice with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and our Fight Against Implicit Bias and Racial Inequality Pledge acknowledge that our work to provide access to justice for people who cannot afford counsel is advanced through our efforts to promote racial justice.  

In 2018, NLADA issued its Racial Justice Action Plan, which is intended to propel this work forward and commits NLADA and its members to:

(1) speak with clarity about poverty and racial equity;

(2) improve our internal governance to reflect the racial equity we seek to secure in our communities;

(3) support a purpose-driven practice that employs strategic advocacy to advance racial justice in our communities. We encourage NLADA members and other organizations interested in advancing racial equity to develop and adopt your own action plan.

Racial Justice Action Plan


NLADA Racial Equity Initiative is a three-year campaign designed to build the resources and capacity within the client community and civil legal aid and public defender organizations to advance anti-racist practices aimed at dismantling racial inequities in America. Through this Initiative, NLADA will leverage our collective power within the client, civil, and defender community to eradicate systemic racial oppression.

NLADA is uniquely positioned to lead this effort. NLADA has been at the forefront of new and creative solutions addressing race equity for over a century.  NLADA members dedicate their lives to promoting equity and justice and are positioned to be change agents.


Watch NLADA's President announce the Racial Equity Initiative



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