About the Department of Racial and Social Justice

The Department of Racial and Social Justice is the City's leading department in equity work and collaborates with city departments, constituents, and stakeholders to eliminate the institutional and structural systems that create racial inequities, social disparities, and injustices.

 

  • Updates & Announcements

  • Initiatives

  • About the RSJ Department

  • Accessibility Services & ADA Compliance

  • Commissions

  • Get Involved & Stay Informed

The City of Somerville is committed to eliminating institutional and structural racism and its intersections with other forms of oppression. The work of the RSJ Department has prioritized six key areas:

  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Reimagining Policing and Public Safety
  • Civilian Oversight 
  • RSJ Fund Disbursement
  • ADA 
  • Commissions
     

The City of Somerville is committed to eliminating institutional and structural racism and its intersections with other forms of oppression. The work of the RSJ Department prioritizes six key areas:

  • Equity & Inclusion: The RSJ Department equips City of Somerville staff and partners with strategies and tools to make City programs, services, and opportunities equitable and inclusive. RSJ is tasked with evaluating each department, then developing recommendations to eliminate institutional and structural systems that create racial and social disparities.
  • Reimagining Policing & Public Safety: The RSJ Department is leading a community-driven process to develop a new public safety model that includes civilian response, holistic thinking, and other approaches.
  • Civilian Oversight: The RSJ Department is charged with developing actionable recommendations for the purview, composition, and implementation of a civilian oversight and advisory structure for the SPD.
  • RSJ Fund Disbursement: The RSJ Fund was established in 2020 to provide a sustainable and enduring source of funding to dismantle systemic racism and social inequality. The RSJ Department oversees its administration and makes funding recommendations.
  • Accessibility Services & ADA Compliance: The RSJ Department leads and manages the City in policy-setting, coordination, and training for ADA compliance and proactively ensures the City's programs and services are compliant with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable state and local disability rights laws. The ADA Coordinator within the RSJ Department also acts as the City staff liaison to the Commission for Persons with Disabilities and key City staff. 
  • Commissions: The RSJ Department supports the work of the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Human Rights Commission, and the Somerville Commission for Women through staff attendance and participation in monthly meetings, activities, and events. 

RSJ Department Leadership & Staff


Denise Molina Capers, Esq., Director  

Denise began as the City’s first Racial and Social Justice Director in March 2021. Her 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. She 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. Denise 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. Along with starting her own consulting firm, Denise 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. 

Steven Flythe, Deputy Director

Steven has worked with the City of Somerville since 2020 as a Case Manager with the Department of Health and Human Services. He brings innovative energy with his rich educational and professional background. Prior to this position, he helped design and launch the City of Cambridge's Office of College Success. He served as a facilitator with Cole Civil Rights and Safe School Consulting working with school districts on issues of civil rights, race relations, and equity, including a year-long consultation with the Lincoln-Sudbury School District. He is an artist, museum-goer, and gardener. He is a graduate of Rutgers College (BA, Political Science) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div, Theology).

Adrienne Pomeroy, ADA Coordinator

Adrienne has a diverse background that leverages the City’s work around ADA compliance and training. She holds a Master’s in Public Policy from Simmons University with expertise in disability policy. As an educator, she was dedicated to creating equitable access to education and opportunities for all students. She has extensive experience managing programs and initiatives from inception to implementation, considering all stakeholders, budgets, and scope to achieve mission-driven results.

R. Mason, Project Specialist

Mason will be working diligently to keep our high-priority initiatives progressing and meeting key goals. Mason has been recognized for his years of dedication in being a voice within the fight for racial and social equity. He has helped world trade centers, corporations, and nonprofits establish employee resource groups and be intentional about their initiatives to be more inclusive.

Lauren Spengler, Commissions Coordinator 

Lauren comes to the RSJ Department most recently from Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, where she served on the Antiracist Task Force. The bulk of her career has been spent serving the community in non-profit women’s organizations, helping to administer low-cost and flat-rate mental health services and support women’s entrepreneurship focusing on low-income, refugee, and immigrant women creative entrepreneurs sustain their lives, create livelihood, and engage in an empowered community with one another. Earlier in her career, Lauren spent time in direct services in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault hotline work and a multitude of volunteer spaces along with the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. She received her BA in Women’s Studies from Dickinson College. Lauren leads and engages with compassion and humanist values and looks forward to working for and serving the City of Somerville, the Racial and Social Justice Department, the Somerville Commission for Women, the Somerville Human Rights Commission, and the community at large. Connect with Lauren here: lspengler@somervillema.gov

Elizabeth Ronan, Analyst

Elizabeth graduated from Northeastern University in December 2021 receiving a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with minors in Data Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She completed two co-ops during her time at NEU, first working in the financial industry as an intern and then working as a research analyst at uAspire, a Boston-based nonprofit whose mission is to help students get the resources they need to find an affordable path to college. Elizabeth enjoys looking at problems through a racial and social justice framework and using data to create meaningful change. Contact Elizabeth at eronan@somervillema.gov.

The Accessibility Services Division leads and manages the City in policy-setting, coordination, and training for ADA compliance and proactively ensures the City's programs and services are compliant with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable state and local disability rights laws. This division also acts as the City staff liaison to the Commission for Persons with Disabilities and key City staff.

RSJ supports the work of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Somerville Commission for Women (SCW) through staff attendance and participation in monthly meetings, activities, and events. Any questions on these commissions should be directed to Lauren Spengler at lspengler@somervillema.gov.

1) Contact us: Text the RSJ Department at 781-808-7502 or email rsj@somervillema.gov.


2) Sign up for the City Newsletter for announcements and updates


3) Join the RSJ Community Panel: The RSJ Community Panel is a group of people willing to participate in surveys, focus groups, and workshops several times a year to inform and advance the RSJ Department’s work. 

Building this large, diverse group of Somerville residents, workers, and students will help ensure we can gather public input that is inclusive and representative of the local community. 

Panel members should be:

  • Age 16 or older 
  • A Somerville resident, worker, or student
  • Interested in racial and social justice issues 
  • Willing to complete the occasional survey or take part in a workshop or focus group 

How it works:

  • The RSJ Department will contact Community Panel members several times over the course of a year, asking them to complete a survey or participate in an upcoming workshop or focus group.
  • You can choose your preferred contact method (online, phone, mail). 
  • You can choose your preferred language (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Nepali, Mandarin). 
  • Your personal information will not be shared or used for other purposes without your permission.  
  • You can leave the Community Panel any time. Email rsj@somervillema.gov or text the RSJ Department at 781-808-7502 to remove your name.