Black Public Defender Association
“Fighting daily for our clients and communities against racism and other systems of oppression”
Black public defenders are American freedom fighters; they are on the front lines of this generation’s civil rights movement.
-James Forman, Jr.
The role of Black defenders in the struggle for justice in this country is often untold. The creation of BPDA elevates the necessary and valuable voices of current and former defenders in the fight for racial equity and justice.
The unique experiences and challenges of black public defenders prompted Patrice James, a founding public defender of Still She Rises, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to reach out to April Frazier Camara, then Director of Defender Legal Services at the National Legal Aid Defender Association (NLADA) in the fall of 2017, to inquire about national organizations that provide support and training for black public defenders. Patrice’s inquiry prompted a long-overdue discussion at NLADA about the need to form an organization that would serve as a safe space, refuge, and training ground for black public defenders throughout the country. During initial discussions at NLADA, April learned from NLADA President and CEO Jo-Ann Wallace, the idea for this organization had been discussed for many years in the black defender community. Jo-Ann recognized the long-standing desire and need for such an organization and readily supported its creation under April’s leadership.
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. BPDA is a section of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.