– Educator and Advocate to Establish City’s New Office of Racial and Social Justice
SOMERVILLE, MA — Fulfilling a critical step in the City of Somerville’s racial and social justice efforts, a new Director of Racial and Social Justice, who will build out a new Racial and Social Justice Office, has been hired. Denise Molina Capers, Esq. began as the City’s first Racial and Social Justice (RSJ) Director on Monday, March 22. Molina Capers’s career has focused on supporting civil rights and equity, diversity and inclusion, and empowering others to advocate on the issues that matter most to them.
Molina Capers first started her equity and inclusion work as a teenager growing up in Brooklyn. She was initially drawn to this work by her father, and her interest and involvement in equity work grew through her work at a local community center at 14 and through mentorship by a teacher involved in civil rights activism. She graduated from Pace University with degrees in journalism and political science and went on to earn her Juris Doctor from the Massachusetts School of Law. Molina Capers also worked as a teacher, where she developed a passion for advancing equity in the education system. She has completed certifications in human resources, non-profit management, and advanced certification as a diversity practitioner, and is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish.
“I am honored to be the City of Somerville’s first Director of Racial and Social Justice,” said Molina Capers. “There is important work to be done, and the creation of this department is a testament of Somerville’s continued commitment in action to dismantle systemic racism and social inequities. Part of the vision is operationalizing the work across the board so that we go beyond conversations and create real transformative change that makes a difference in people’s lives.”
Along with starting her own consulting firm, Molina Capers has also worked at non-profit organizations. Most recently, she was the Executive Director of South Boston en Acción, an organization that works with and empowers South Boston residents to create change.
“We were very fortunate to receive many impressive applications for the Racial and Social Justice Director position, but Director Molina Capers’s history of advocacy, professional experience around diversity and inclusion, and work empowering others made her really stand out,” said Mayor Curtatone. “She will be a key member of the Mayor’s Office staff, deeply involved in our policy decisions, and I have full faith she will greatly strengthen and accelerate our work to address systemic racism and advance the City’s social justice progress going forward.”
The Racial and Social Justice Director position was created as part of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget process. Molina Capers was selected by an inclusive hiring committee that included representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, the School Committee, as well as community members who provided key stakeholder perspectives. The committee convened in August 2020 and embarked on a months-long process to recruit, identify, and interview qualified candidates to fill this position.
“I want to thank everyone who volunteered their time to help us find our first Racial and Social Justice Director,” said Mayor Curtatone. “While community processes can often take longer, they also bring in critical perspectives and can help us make the best decision possible.”
In the coming months, among other efforts, Molina Capers will assess needs and create a proposal to establish a new Racial and Social Justice Office for the City, which will be submitted to the City Council. She will also be working to establish community processes for re-envisioning policing and for informing and guiding the City’s racial and social justice priorities.