Black Defender Leadership Institute


The tumultuous nature of the criminal legal system, the hundreds of racial justice protests around the country, and the effect of the global pandemic have all impacted the way the world operates and how Black defenders lead. In response, BPDA developed the Black Defender Leadership Institute (BDLI) to train emerging Black leaders and support them in becoming the next generation of leaders in public defense who are equipped to dismantle systems of racialized oppression.

BDLI is the first of its kind in the country. It provides specialized leadership training for Black defenders along with professional support tailored to the unique lived experiences of balancing their professional development in an overwhelmingly white profession while helping their fellow Black brethren navigate through traumatic systems of oppression and harm. BDLI is unique in its mission to offer continuous personalized support to Black emerging leaders as they reach new benchmarks, assume new positions, and achieve career goals.

The curriculum for BDLI is based on NLADA’s Six Core Competencies of Transformational Leadership, which supports leaders in creating big shifts in thinking among any audience they encounter. The Transformational Leadership Six Core Competencies are: Race, Culture Change, Movement Lawyering, Research + Data, Scaling, and Technology.

BDLI was designed to encourage participants to see themselves as part of the movement and to seek leadership positions at their organizations whenever available.

The BDLI program employs three strategies for the optimal learning experience:

Leadership training from Black experts, mentors, and defender leaders.

Online learning community for asynchronous learning, collaboration, and discussion.

Ongoing evaluation and assessment, undergirded by the Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) participatory approach to outcomes assessments, which is culturally relevant to Black defenders on their leadership journeys.

The goal of BDLI 1.0 is to introduce 15 participants to the core competencies of transformational leadership and create a pipeline from the field to leadership within public defense and beyond. BDLI 2.0 is designed to provide emerging Black leaders with access to resources and wrap-around leadership support to implement the six core competencies of transformational leadership through a specific community-based project or leadership goal.

If your office would like to host its own BDLI or any other training offered by BPDA, please submit the Anti-Racism Training Request Form.