Holding Space for People to Tell Their Own Stories: Meet Dori

Dori poses behind a bouquet of flowers


The Minerva Strategies team is super excited to introduce a new team member! Meet Dori Valerio – a former TV and news producer, an inclusive communicator, an aspiring farmer, and our newest associate.  

I had the good fortune of speaking with Dori about her experiences working on TV and in radio, what it takes to make communication inclusive and kind, and what it means to make time for yourself as a new mom. We also bonded over our passion for Black maternal health equity, because Black moms and parents deserve better care as they birth their children and raise their families. 

Welcome to the team, Dori! 

Tell me about you–where have you called home in the past and where is home now? 

New York. I’m from Long Island, New York, specifically a place called Brentwood. I lived there my entire life, until I moved to Virginia about five years ago. So, Virginia is currently home. 

What made you move? 

My husband got a job working at a shipbuilding company out here. We were engaged at that time, and I was down for the ride. But New York is home. I feel like I will eventually make my way back. I think one of the best parts of life is experiencing new places, but eventually going back home – wherever that is for you.  

You have previous experience in news and TV production. What has that work taught you about communication? 

Your audience is important. People want to feel like they are a part of the conversation. They want to be contributors. There has to be room for that to happen. Sometimes media communication can feel like an echo chamber, so you have to make sure you’re allowing different perspectives to be heard – especially those belonging to people who have historically been silenced. I’m thankful to have worked in spaces where that was important, and I look forward to continuing to help amplify those voices in my role with Minerva Strategies.  

Do you have an example of a time you presented information or told a story through inclusive communication? 

It was during the pandemic and most of the country was protesting police violence against Black people. There was a situation where people were not identified correctly. They were lumped into a group that diminished the very thing that distinguished them. I reached out to my director and shared why we needed to be specific in how we reported that story. My comments helped create guidelines that focused on responsible and inclusive reporting.   

Listening to people who have been marginalized because of certain aspects of their identity is a form of practicing inclusive communication. As a communicator, I’ve always been drawn to tell stories. But every story is not mine to tell. Inclusive communication is holding space for the right people to tell their own stories in ways that feel authentic to them.  

What drew you to want to work for Minerva Strategies? 

I was in the news industry for seven years. That’s not a lot of time. But news cycles can be short and brutal, and some stories are hard to shake off.  I got to work with amazing award-winning news teams, so I knew I wanted to work with a diverse team whose members were bold and creative. But I wanted to tell different stories.  

Minerva uses smart communication to create positive change. The organizations we work with strive to make the world a better place. They are doing the hard work; we are supporting their communication needs. That type of work is important to me.  

What Minerva principle resonates with you? 

One principle that really resonates with me is “making time for yourself.” As a new mom, I prioritized the things that were important. In the beginning, I didn’t think I was important enough. I only focused on loving, caring and protecting my baby. I want to say that making time for myself came easy. But it took a while for me to understand you can only give what you have. Making time for yourself is how you honor your body. The body listens. When you actively and intentionally make time for you, you’re telling yourself you matter.  

When I read through Minerva’s guiding principles in the research part of my job search, I was intrigued.  To find a company that genuinely wants its employees to make time for themselves felt aligned, because my time wasn’t something I was willing to sacrifice anymore. It feels good to work with a team that not only believes in self-care but asks its team to practice it.  

I recently went to the movies by myself. It was after 10. The movie was 2 hours long. A part of me just feels like I can’t hang anymore. 10 P.M. feels like 3 A.M. But I really wanted to see that movie. So, I went and had a blast. It was an amazing movie, and I had a great time laughing by myself in an empty theater on a Tuesday night.  

If you don’t commit to making time for yourself, it’s easy to forget you need to. I needed that time. Oddly enough, I was energized the next day.  

Dori and her son Dash are wearing hooded sweatshirts in a grassy field. Dori extends her hand to a peacock nearby

If your livelihood did not depend on your income, what kind of work would you like to do? 

I would for sure be a farmer. I would grow my own vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs and share them with my people. Nature nurtures, so to be able to pour into earth and watch it give back must be a powerful and profound experience. I also want a cow or two. I recently saw one for the first time in my life and I couldn’t believe how big they were.  

Black Americans make up roughly 1 percent of all farmers. I envision having a community farm, where people who have historically been prevented from owning land can honor their ancestors and nourish generations to come.  

A fawn-colored cow grazes on grass. Two cows are in the background and the sky is blue. Behind the cows is a barn.

What is a social cause that is near and dear to your heart? Why? 

Black maternal health – during and after childbirth. My mom had a horrible experience when she was pregnant with my sister. She was ignored and that resulted in a very traumatic birthing experience. I hoped my experience with my own baby would be different, but things happened that made me feel invisible. And that’s the case for many Black pregnant women across the country.  

Black mothers don’t get the same care. They experience medical racism that affects their pregnancy, and they are 3.5 times more likely to die while giving birth than white women. After delivering their baby, many Black parents are sent into the world without the support they need to thrive in their new or expanded roles.  

There are a lot of great organizations advocating for Black women – working tirelessly to keep Black moms alive.  Because Black women are often overlooked, a lot of women who need these services and support don’t know about these organizations…I didn’t. If there is an exposure void there, I want to help amplify the work those groups are doing. That’s my personal goal and one way I’ll give back to my people: a community of Black mothers who deserve to be cared for, supported, and protected.  

About The Author

Gaby España

Gaby España

Senior Associate

Gaby puts people first, whether as an educator, researcher, or, now, as a senior associate at Minerva Strategies. In their various roles, Gaby learned clear communication is not only kind, but powerful. When our message is easy to understand and meets the needs of our audience, we empower people and encourage change! Learn more about Gaby.