Charmel Gaulden
New Foundation for Louisiana CEO Charmel Gaulden Credit: Christine "C-Freedom" Brown

After 15 years of leading the Foundation for Louisiana, Flozell Daniels, Jr. has passed the organization’s CEO baton to Charmel Gaulden. Daniels has embarked on a new mission to serve the needs of 11 southern states at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. He said he is confident Gaulden is the right person for the task.

“She is excellent, thoughtful, gracious and humble. I’ve been watching her for years. It’s gratifying for me to see her step into this role,” Daniels said. “She is more than my equal and capable. She’s creative and you need creativity to be a leader. She will bring new energy.”

Gaulden, a Xavier University graduate and civil rights lawyer with a record in litigating fair housing and domestic violence issues, transitions from the foundation’s chief operating officer to CEO, making her one of the few Black women leading a foundation in Louisiana.

Formerly known as the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund, The Foundation for Louisiana began its work addressing Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts in 2005. In 2012, Daniels knew the work of recovery in Louisiana needed to continue and expand — which led to the conversion of the  Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund to the Foundation for Louisiana.

The foundation’s website says its “programs address the longstanding inequities that have shaped life outcomes for the most marginalized of Louisianans. We accomplish this via a three-pronged strategy of investing, building and transforming. We are proud to support freedom work statewide.”

Its early roots would be an incubator for Black philanthropy professionals to emerge, including Daniels’ successor.

Gaulden’s 15 years of philanthropic leadership, nonprofit administration, program design, and strategic advocacy experience made her the logical candidate for CEO. Gaulden is also known for her leadership in criminal justice reform.

Gaulden credits the mentorship of Daniels, a supportive board — mostly made up of women, and staff for providing a nourishing space to grow her leadership skills.

“We are well-positioned to continue his efforts,” she said of Daniels. “Flozell’s professional transition does not mean the end of the work. If it did, it would indicate we are not strong or prepared as an organization.”

Gaulden said being one of five children developed her leadership and organizing skills early. She unapologetically admits she’s ambitious and that rising to this status in her career was always a professional desire. Prior to joining its staff, she did consulting work for the foundation and worked as a lawyer in the South, and even did a stint as a co-host with Oliver Thomas on WBOK AM radio years ago.

“I’m excited to see where she will take the work,” Daniels said. “I trust Charmel, the staff and the board to go beyond what any of us can imagine for the Foundation for Louisiana.”

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Kelly Harris-DeBerry

Kelly Harris-DeBerry is a poet and freelance writer. "Freedom Knows My Name" is her debut book. Her website is www.kellyhd.com