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Message from our Director of Creating Resilient Communities, Kahshanna Evans: An Unforgettable Year of Purpose & the Wisdom Gained in Tote


A year ago, determined to be the change I wanted to see in the world, I accepted the role of Director of Creating Resilient Communities here at PACEs Connection. I was not only driven by my interest in empowering people, families, and communities impacted by violence. I was inspired to take a deeper dive into the PACEs movement and eager to apply the transferable strengths and experience I arrived at PACEs Connection with: a combination of deep experience across various modalities of transformational wellbeing and heart-centered practices and communications strategy that I’d studied for a decade, and integrated marketing-branding, community member management, wellness tech, and my lived experience as an American woman of African descent who has been immersed in ACEs survivors for a lifetime.

During my time at PACEs Connection, I was the primary driving force for planning, executing, and managing the Creating Resilient Communities Accelerator certification program and CRC Fellowship program which launched in 2023. I launched weekly CRC campaigns across our blog, newsletter, and also The PACEs Advocate on Linkedin. In stride with collective healing, I was honored to share my perspectives on school shootings in America and my “why” for joining the PACEs Connection team on the History. Culture. Trauma. Podcast.

I was invited by fantastic teams at the 2023 Hanna Summit, 2023 Happy Minds Summit, and the 2023 Resilient Yolo Summit as a keynote speaker and workshop co-facilitator alongside Gail Kennedy. I hopped on the road to the PACEs Connection team-building retreat held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. In what felt like an opportunity of a lifetime, PACEs Connection was invited to co-organize Reparatory Justice and Education for Children of African Descent: A Whole Person and Society Approach in partnership with the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD).

Although I’ll continue to process new ways in creating a trauma-informed, resilient world where all people thrive, I couldn’t help but notice three themes:

  1. What got us here won’t get us there. We can proudly insist we’ve been the backbone of trauma-informed (TI) awareness and practices since the original ACEs study inspired a paradigm shift in our collective understanding of trauma. We’d still do so at a loss if we’re unable to identify the role territorialism plays in harming women of African descent in trauma-informed spaces. With the potential to advance to new heights, being an upstander for such an important cause as the PACEs movement means mastering our ability to support important practices that do not entertain re-traumatization. Power shifting is a lifestyle and is something everyone can do.
  2. To say connecting with others who are helping the PACEs movement expand is deeply rewarding, is an understatement. Beyond the technical facts we learn about PACEs and resilience science—including increased health risks, poor health outcomes, and early death caused by toxic stress—heart-centered listening across cultural barriers will remain an important priority. Without the ability to hear from the most impacted communities impacted by supremacy culture, whether they happen to be community members or peers, whether it’s through regular feedback forms or during team-building roundtables to bridge understanding, we increase the likelihood of decentering relationship building for a concept and leaving humanity out of the equation. Notably, that hasn’t worked yet.
  3. Without even realizing it, those committed to sharing best practices based on PACEs and resilience science can support access to PACEs and resilience science for the communities they serve, but forget personal care is just as important as collective care. There are benefits to harvesting passion for the cause with balance and making peace with the time it can take to educate on TI awareness and support communities in resilience building.

Highlights of my year include time spent and powerful discussions with CRC Accelerator and Fellowship participants. Insight shared by our dedicated participants, graduates, and fellows about what they learned about trauma-informed awareness, resilience building, and PACEs science as a result of the CRC will continue to inspire the movement:

“Through the Creating Resilient Communities (CRC) Accelerator Program, I gained a deeper understanding of PACES (Positive Adverse Childhood Experiences) science, distinguishing it from ACES science. This knowledge has been instrumental in educating my community about the

significance of fostering positive experiences to counterbalance adverse ones. Learning how to implement and emphasize the importance of PACES has equipped me with the tools to guide

my community toward resilience building, highlighting the transformative power of positive experiences”. —Brittny Ellington

“I like the focus of adverse community events and PACES being a big part of the conversation. I want to

be strengths-based and use those frameworks and lens in planning future programming and events.”—Christa Tipton

“Between the research findings and other learnings I have sought out personally (including developments in PACEs science), we are making changes to our community impact funding model that will incorporate considerations for historical systems and practices that have excluded segments of our community from accessing philanthropic resources. Combining this information with local data and applying strengths-based frameworks will help us to move towards a more humanist commitment to our community partners and the residents they serve.” —Frank Cardella

“So much! I appreciated learning about books, movies, and other additional opportunities for

learning that was shared to keep this going. thought this whole production was very well organized, and Kahshanna was very responsive and helpful throughout the process.” —Victoria Rondan

“We are just starting out, but I believe that everyone needs to know the interacting layers of trauma and healing. Being brown, I wasn't that surprised, we need to educate our educators, our child care providers and parents as well.” —Hilda Yepes Contreras

“My biggest takeaway is how to talk about ACES strengths and shortcomings.” —Jean Hartnett

“The importance of resource building including providing a safe space and access to their mental health awareness and learning.” —Sabitri Sanyal

“I really enjoyed hearing from colleagues across the country in our discussions about their experiences and initiatives in their communities. I am inspired to belong to a group of like-minded professionals that are working hard for change. This gives me a sense of hope for moving our agenda forward.” —Jennifer Liesen

“Resilience is built intentionally and the idea that ‘children are resilient’ have left room for all types of injustices to be done without regard to the impact of children, (and adults). PACEs has given me a different perspective on my life experience and more hope.” —Sabrina Garcia

“I was able to build a more complex training.” —Jodi Stuart

“I loved the CRC Accelerator Program because through a step by step process it provided a roadmap on the key pieces of how to build resilient communities. The information and resources that were made available are great tools that break down the science and the art of building a robust and resilient community.” —Robert B. Franklin

“The classes were well laid out with lots of room for discussion and questions. Great forum. This field is not restricted by race, social status or circumstance, moreover, trauma is what we all have in common as part of the global race.” —Zareen Hasan

I look forward to taking the wisdom gained from a powerful year with the extended PACEs Connection community forward. I welcome PACEs members and advocates of trauma-informed awareness to check out Centering the Black Feminist Perspective: Supremacy Culture is the Barrier Black Maternal Health Never Needed, an article I wrote published by the New York State Trauma-Informed Network and Resource Center (TINRC) founded by the NYS Office of Mental Health. Stay in touch by connecting with me on Linkedin.

About the author: Kahshanna Evans brings her passion for uniting people through stories and trauma-informed awareness to her role as the Director of Creating Resilient Communities at PACEs Connection. Kahshanna has been a leading strategic thinker in various industries, including communications, tech, professional services, and wellness.

Author's note: The personal views expressed in this article are a part of a larger effort at PACEs Connection to encourage personnel to share their lived experiences and offer commentary on how they are impacted by PACEs related topics.

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