Honoring Juneteenth 2021 - Dorian Capers
This Juneteenth, we want to acknowledge and recognize the historic, systematic injustices and oppressive discrimination that Black Americans continued to face. While we find joy in celebrating the progress that has taken place, we also know there is work to be done. At ERC Pathlight, we want to work in solidarity to be a catalyst for change in our hearts and in our communities, working to build a world where all individuals can live without fear.
Dorian Capers, a digital marketing specialist for ERC Pathlight, shares about what Juneteenth means to him, who has inspired his life and career, and offers some advice for the next generation.
What does Juneteenth mean to you?
Juneteenth, as a celebratory holiday, has felt like a fairly recent occurrence in the last five years of my life. At the time I began to take notice of the celebration, I was also becoming less enchanted with the "American Dream." Politically, to say things have been difficult would be an understatement. Police shootings, political vitriol and injustice has been such a force to combat.
In the midst of that, Juneteenth has been a way for me to proudly celebrate my heritage, and what I feel is an honest American heritage. It acknowledges the complexities, nuances and atrocities in America’s history in lieu of the shining July 4th celebration I grew up with. It has become my July 4th. It has become a day I can honestly celebrate America with my heart, and the contributions and vibrance that African American culture has had on America. However, I have to note that celebration may not be the key to properly honoring Juneteenth. It has to be education and awareness. I believe it is imperative that instead of viewing this holiday as a day of rest or jubilee, it must be seen as a day of service, honor, education and remembrance.
How do you acknowledge and celebrate this historical day each year?
I like to celebrate by consuming black media and reflecting on the collective experience of Black America.
Who is your biggest inspiration in life and why?
My mother is my biggest inspiration because of who she is and her story. She was born one of 18 children. My grandfather, her father, was born only six years after Harriet Tubman passed. As a 5th grader, she was the first in her family to be bussed to the desegregated white school where adults threw slurs and rocks at her. In high school, my mother was considered for the Olympics in track and when her father refused to let her compete, she went into the military. My mother raised two boys as a single mother, put herself through law school, and despite hardships like poverty and homelessness, she now works at the Pentagon as Chief Records Officer for all of our combat and command battalions. I am an adult now, and I am truly in awe to have been raised by such a loving and courageous individual. My mother is my angel, rock and my hero.
Why do you feel called to work in mental health care?
I’ve always been inspired by the human experience. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety myself, I have a personal passion to not only be knowledgeable about positive mental health but to be an avid practitioner as well. I tailored my entire college education toward counseling and art therapy, however, professionally I found myself in digital marketing. ERC Pathlight has merged these two passions of mine and I feel blessed to be able to be a part of such an amazing mission.
How do you support your own mental health and unwind after a long week?
I like to stay in touch with close friends and family, video calling in this era, or being able to safely visit a few individuals. My dogs have also been an indomitable force of love and healthy living in my life. We go on walks and their company is truly cherished. Music, painting, writing poetry and playing video games round out that list.
What have you learned in the past year about yourself while experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic and the national reckoning around racism in America?
I’ve learned I must take care of my mental health first if there is any possibility of me being of help to my loved ones or my community. There were so many heavy, heartbreaking instances of racial violence and injustice over the past 10 years and especially during COVID that I could only shed tears at some moments. I’ve learned that I must protect my emotional space and levy my time performing self-care and advocating against bigotry in America and the world. There is a balance between rest and activism that I’ve been more diligent about practicing.
What’s one personal goal you have for 2021 that you’re able to share with us?
I am looking to continue practicing positive mental health, loving kindness meditations, and continue growing as a person in 2021. I would also like to begin writing/illustrating poetry chapbooks this year.
What is one thing not many people know about you that may surprise them?
I was born on Incirlik Air Force base in Turkey!
What would you tell your 18-year-old self that would have better prepared you for your life today?
Mental health is health. We all experience the world differently, and your journey is no less magical or extraordinary. Enjoy and follow your passions with all of your heart.
What advice would you give to the next generation?
Practice kindness. Be as kind as you would to a child you love to yourself, to those you love and strangers you interact with. You never know what someone is going through, and your kindness may be the thing that gets them through that moment or day. And we all have that power.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think we all should celebrate Juneteenth as Americans. Black history is American history, and the celebration of that heritage is something to love and revere. I’m proud to work for a company that recognizes that importance and I look forward to that continuing to grow.