Ep 194: Leaders of Color in Nonprofits: Challenges and Opportunities (with April Frazier Camara)

by Joan Garry

In this episode, I chat with April Frazier Camara about how diversity is the secret sauce in nonprofit leadership. Her insights? Eye-opening. You’ll see our sector in a whole new light.


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In this powerful and insightful episode, we welcome April Frazier Camara, the esteemed president and CEO of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA). With her profound expertise and passionate advocacy, April delves into the nuanced experiences of leaders of color in the nonprofit sector. She sheds light on both the challenges they face and the remarkable opportunities that arise from these challenges.

Throughout our conversation, April underscores the critical need for diversity and inclusion within nonprofit organizations, not just within staff but also at the board level. She emphasizes that this is not just about representation; it’s about actively creating systems, cultures, and policies that truly support leaders of color, setting them up for success.

One of the key themes of this episode is the significance of honest internal evaluation in organizations. April encourages nonprofits to have forthright conversations about their readiness to hire leaders of color and to invest wholeheartedly in their wellness and professional growth.

April also touches on the broader societal context, discussing how the political and legal climate shapes the nonprofit sector’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In these turbulent times, her message is clear: challenges should be viewed as pathways to growth and opportunities to fight for equity and justice more fiercely.

April is a beacon of positivity. And she advocates for surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who offer support, thought partnership, and collaboration in tackling social issues.

This episode is both a discussion and a call to action for self-care and appreciation. April reminds us of the importance of looking after ourselves and recognizing the significant impact we make in striving to create a better world.

Key Takeaways:

  • Embracing new solutions for greater impact within organizations.

  • The necessity of supporting leaders of color through systemic change in culture and policy.

  • The crucial role of diversity and inclusion in staffing and board membership in nonprofits.

  • The importance of readiness for hiring leaders of color and investing in their development.

  • Understanding the influence of political and legal environments on the nonprofit sector’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • The power of community and collaboration in advancing social causes.

  • The significance of self-care and acknowledging the contributions of each individual in making a difference.

About April:

April Frazier Camara serves as President & CEO of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (“NLADA”). She has been a champion for equal justice for two decades. A graduate of Howard School of Law, she worked as a public defender and a national policy reform attorney.  Prior to joining NLADA, April worked as a community public defender at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, which is widely recognized as the national model for quality public defense.   She later served as the Special Assistant in the Juvenile Defender Unit at the Law Office of the Shelby County Public Defender where she was responsible for implementing Department of Justice reforms and helping to build the first-ever holistic and team-based juvenile defense practice in Shelby County that employed both social workers and attorneys.  She also has experience working on national policy reform at the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C. and Legal Action Center in NY.  

She has been a part of the NLADA leadership team for the past five years, most recently serving as Vice President for Strategic Alliances & Innovation and prior to that Chief of Lifelong Learning. She is a nationally recognized trainer in the area of public defense, leadership, racial equity, diversity and inclusion, and criminal legal reform.   She is a co-founder of NLADA’s newest section, the Black Public Defender Association (BPDA), which aims to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in public defense and promote racial equity in carceral systems.  

She is a leader within the legal profession and served as a member of the ABA Women in Criminal Justice Taskforce and co-chair of the ABA CJS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which created and implemented the CJS Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Program.  As the 2020 Chair of the American Bar Association’s influential Criminal Justice Section, she led the adoption of important ABA policy on race equity and prosecution, raising the age for juvenile prosecutions, reparations, abolition of private prisons, and other complex criminal legal issues. 

Her most recent publication is “Facing Our Silence and History on Race” in the ABA Criminal Justice Magazine and “Save Black Lives: A Call for Racially-responsive Strategies and Resources for the Black Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In addition to her J.D. from Howard University, she holds a B.A. in from Tennessee State University.


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