Lupita Parra
Lupita Parra

MLK50’s first development director, Lupita Parra, has joined the nonprofit newsroom’s team as its first employee devoted solely to revenue. Her first day is Feb. 1. 

Parra, who has a track record for helping organizations forge a path toward long-term sustainability, most recently served as the development director for Enlace Latino NC. During her time at the organization, Parra helped triple Enlace Latino NC’s annual budget and secured a number of general operating and project-specific grants.

Parra’s work in the journalism sector began at SembraMedia, where she gathered data to help measure the impact of independent newsrooms in more than 16 countries throughout Latin America. In addition, she led impact-tracking efforts for the first phase of a new digital media accelerator program involving 10 newsrooms. 

Parra, who is based in San Diego, believes her professional journey – from managing and securing grants to designing and implementing impact-tracking tools – provides an excellent starting point to dive into her new responsibilities as MLK50’s first full-time business-side hire:

“I am very excited about being MLK50’s first development director. I was also the first development director at Enlace Latino NC, so I have some familiarity with building the structure and process for long-term sustainability. I am really looking forward to applying everything that I’ve learned over the past three and a half years to MLK50. I know that the impact story matters, and I am always looking for ways to share that story with readers, stakeholders and funders.”

MLK50 was on Parra’s radar for some time before she ever considered joining its team. Enlace Latino NC and MLK50 have a few funders in common, and the two newsrooms have worked together in two industry development cohorts, including the Facebook Accelerator program. This gave Parra several opportunities to learn more about MLK50, and what she learned piqued her interest. In addition to the high-quality journalism content, what stood out to her was the organization’s dedication to redefining the role of journalism in Memphis and the Mid-South:

“I feel really committed to learning about Memphis and establishing a relationship with our readers so that fundraising doesn’t feel transactional.”

Lupita Parra, MLK50 development director

“I loved how MLK50 always communicated its stance clearly and how it has always been sensitive to the relationship between the community and news media. They provide resources for how community members can interact with the media and are dedicated to helping to reshape that relationship and change the dialogue.”

Parra is eager to jump right in at MLK50. She is keen to begin building relationships in The Bluff City, as she considers community support to be a key factor in the quality of journalism produced and achieving development goals. 

“I really want to be involved in sketching a solid revenue growth plan for MLK50, one based on the connection that the community has for the organization. I feel really committed to learning about Memphis and establishing a relationship with our readers so that fundraising doesn’t feel transactional.”

Founding editor and publisher Wendi C. Thomas had this to say of Parra: 

“After five successful years, we’re transitioning from a startup mentality to a more stable, future-forward mindset. We’re laying the groundwork now to support our goals and mission for the long haul. We are so excited about having Lupita on board and can hardly wait to see how she works her magic to implement new ideas and get us to the next chapter in our story.”

Parra is a first-generation Mexican immigrant and was raised in Salem, Oregon. She comes from a family of farm workers and her first jobs were picking cherries and blueberries, and packaging produce in Oregon’s fields and canneries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, French and Spanish (with a minor in neuroscience) from the University of Portland, and a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, San Diego. Parra is a fluent native Spanish speaker and mother to a bilingual and tri-cultural 6-year-old boy.  She has spent time studying and working in France, Spain and Ecuador but currently lives in San Diego with her husband, Héctor, and son, Emiliano.

Parra can be reached at

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.

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