Shared Experiences Through PACE

VISIONS’ PACE training is a four-day, intensive workshop that covers ways to respect and work with human differences, instead of around or through them. 

In July I took part in a virtual PACE training. As a social media and marketing intern for VISIONS, the opportunity to have first-hand experience with PACE was important for me to better understand VISIONS, our model, and our values. I’m an undergraduate student at Worcester State University studying psychology and visual and performing arts. As a mixed race, BIPOC student, I frequently advocate for myself and others. Since I am passionate about social justice and addressing inequality, I went into my PACE training with my own perspective about how to have difficult conversations about inequity.

I was surprised by my own paradigm shift through PACE. I had a brief description of the activities, but was not expecting the authenticity, the camaraderie, and, at times, the intimacy of our interactions. For me, it was important that these moments came from different participants at different times. I greatly appreciated the space created for each person to share when they were ready, and nothing was forced.

Some of us came in feeling a little reluctant to share openly, but I noticed that all of us found the space to share. It helped to affirm that my thoughts and feelings are important and don’t need to be trivialized for the sake of those around me. This was an important take away for me as I held space for others and others held space for me.

Because it was such a shared experience for me, I was happy to catch up with my fellow PACE participants Elisa Meza and Gwen Frisbie-Fulton to hear about their experience with PACE.

Elisa Meza is a trained mental health practitioner based in the Bay Area in California. She was introduced to PACE through her work consulting with Hideko Akashi through Liberation Consulting. Elisa comes from a multicultural family, being of Mexican and Filipino descent, and her work in community mental health is rooted in anti-racism.

“I didn’t realize how intensely I’d be reflecting on who I was,” she told me. Elisa asserted that the experience was a deep reflection of herself, which she did not expect from the training, and that those reflections translated to her life after PACE.

Elisa and I discussed the way that we felt safe in opening up as others opened up about their experiences. I agreed, saying, “It could not have been the same experience without every single person who was there.”

Elisa also remarked on the attentiveness and care from the facilitators, having experience with consulting work herself. She noted how intentional the facilitators were early on in the training, and that their attentiveness helped her to become more deeply involved.

Gwen Frisbie-Fulton is based in rural North Carolina, with roots in Appalachia as well as labor organizing. She attended PACE with two of her colleagues from Down Home North Carolina, an organization that works to build political power with poor and working class people in rural North Carolina. She is a single mother who helps others with childcare during the day. Gwen came to PACE looking for tools to support her team as Communications Director within her organization.

“I went in looking for this [tool] and found it, so that was good,” Gwen explained to me with a laugh. “I’m very interested in how we create space for and contain conversations about identity and self within a professional workplace. Because I come from a background where that’s not what you do at all.”

Gwen appreciated the way that our facilitators used the tools shared in our training to hold space for those conversations within our group. She and her colleagues each left PACE with a unique “to-do list” to implement what they learned, and her own list was focused on putting her learning into place within her organization  to “welcome in people’s experiences, people’s feedback, people’s valuable input; people’s emotions.”

I personally feel that what makes the experience of PACE special is the opportunity to share and connect with people across our different identities. I truly would have liked to check in with and catch up with each person in our group, and I’m so grateful to Elisa and Gwen for reconnecting with me. I am also very grateful to our facilitators who took the time and care to make space for reflection and sharing over our four days together.

By Tori Parham, VISIONS Marketing Intern; and with much appreciation to Elisa Meza and Gwen Frisbie-Fulton for sharing their stories.