Q & A with NLADA’s New President & CEO

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Learn more about NLADA’s new President & CEO, her vision and her commitment to members.


Q.       What most excites you about this role?

A.       First of all I am honored to serve the members of the NLADA community and partner with them in advancing social and racial justice in America.  Specifically, it is a privilege to be able to work on these issues with all three communities --defender, civil, and client-- to ensure that we are centering our work around the lived experiences of directly impacted communities.  

I am also excited to be doing this work during a moment in history when our society is writing a new chapter in the fight for civil and human rights. In as early as the third grade, I was fascinated with the civil rights movement and wanted to be a part of moving America closer to realizing the dream of racial equity for all. After learning about the legal work of incredible legal giants, like Thurgood Marshall and Spotswoods Robinson, I knew I wanted to be an attorney working for oppressed, marginalized communities. I wanted to fight to change the system.


Q. How did the racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 impact you and your goals as a leader?

A.       The events of 2020 and the boiling point we reached when another innocent black man, George Floyd, was killed by police --and having to explain that horrible situation to my two young girls-- impacted me greatly. That year strengthened my resolve to fight harder for a more equitable country for my kids and for everyone.

This moment in time presents a tremendous opportunity for NLADA to have a collective and sustainable impact in moving America toward becoming a more anti-racist country. We have the collective power through our diverse membership (from civil legal aid to client to defender). And, as a membership organization, we can train our members and equip them with the tools and resources needed to change practices in their own work environments and in the communities they serve. Everything that drives me is rooted in the reality of the obstacles that people with the least resources face on a daily basis. I am excited to lead a national organization that tirelessly fights for these members of our community.


Q.       What past accomplishments are you most proud of, and how have they prepared you for this role?

A.       I was instrumental in the creation of Black Public Defender Association (a new section now part of NLADA). I intimately understood why a national group like BPDA mattered because of the time I spent working as a defender in rural Shelby County TN in 2014 under the Obama Administration. I saw how one’s level of access to justice is determined by their zip code. And, many people fight for racial justice not only in the courtroom but in their own office. It wears on you. We needed to create a national space for Black people doing the work from those communities to be able to share experiences and best practices and to receive training and resources. And we were able to create new leadership opportunities through that pipeline. 

Additionally, as chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association, I was able to appoint two NLADA client leaders to the decision making body, making it the first time people who have been directly impacted by the justice system could play a role in making the rules. I remain proud to be able to create seats for others who need a voice;  and I am willing to give up my own seat to do that.


Q.       Why is the new Racial Equity Initiative at the center of your leadership vision, and why now?

A.       NLADA’s new Racial Equity Initiative is definitely the legacy I want to create for the organization. I don’t know another national organization that could take this on. Now is the time to move the needle on racial equity across the board, and our civil legal aid defenders need more resources. We need to attack this problem in a deliberate and necessary way with cutting edge tools and ideas and through partnering with the private sector. Just as we, as a country, are addressing climate change aggressively and intentionally, we need to address this issue in the same way; because we can never achieve the true mission of the organization - equal access to justice - without addressing this systemic issue first.

*Please join us this Thursday, November 4 at 7pm EST for a special event to launch the Racial Justice Initiative and celebrate leadership changes at NLADA, including special guest Malcolm Jenkins. RSVP here. 


Q.       What is your vision for NLADA, and where do you see the organization being in five years?

A.       I see NLADA being rooted in racial equity, continually striving to be an antiracist organizational model for our members. Equally important, I see us able to change and respond to the ever evolving needs of our members. I see us advancing and serving our client community, elevating and centering their voices in everything they do. 

To achieve racial equity, I plan to start internally first, undertaking an organizational evaluation to get a baseline for where we are. Our practices and traditions, including how we make decisions and share power, are often unintentionally rooted in a white dominant culture. I want to ensure that as an organization, we value all voices and opinions, and we use equitable practices and processes. 

I hope we truly value people’s differences and allow them to show up at work as they are, confidently bringing alternative ideas and perspectives. I intend to be very transparent with members along the journey. This work requires courage. We will share whatever we can with members and other organizations, and hopefully encourage others to join us on this (not always easy) journey.


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