Summer 2023: Innate Capacity for Creativity and Survival

Painting by Nelson Stevens
Painting by Nelson Stevens

Resilience and working with resilient people is sewn into Broadsight’s approach. Resilience is a capacity to be nimble and adaptive enough to sustain a center of gravity as one navigates continually changing environments and circumstances. This characteristic is relevant to individuals, communities, and to organizations.

Our research on clients’ strengths and opportunities for growth and improvement informs organizational leaders with a deeper understanding of the communities and people they serve and the environments in which they (leaders, communities, and individuals) adapt and respond to have a positive impact. Data-driven insights provide evidence to assess performance, identify emerging opportunities, and make data-informed decisions that enhance the ability to evolve through changing circumstances.

It is our intention that through working with Broadsight, clients can more readily build trust and genuine connection with their constituents. Trust fosters collaboration, open communication, collective-problem solving, and strengthens the ability to adapt and recover from setbacks. We also promote resilience by working across varied social sectors and breaking down silos that separate people and organization. Bringing more people to the table is our way to encourage innovative thinking, spotlight diverse types of expertise, and draw insight from people with various perspectives. Collaborative efforts that span disciplines and sectors allow those involved to more readily generate bold, responsive solutions and enhance adaptability to make the most of complex challenges.

Resilience takes many many forms and our clients and people in community settings are our best source of learning about what it looks like.


Client Spotlight: The Center for Resilience - Transforming Pain into Power

From 2017-2019 we offered pro bono services to the Center for Resilience in Holyoke, MA to help founder Jessica Prodis, LICSW  offer trainings to school staff, lead youth field trips and leadership sessions, develop funding proposals and evaluation plans, and strategize about organizational structure and programs. Prodis describes the Center for Resilience as “A therapy practice, based in Holyoke, focused on creating spaces and techniques for people to engage in the process of healing from experiences of trauma." The work, she says, "Is about moving from feeling like a victim of our pain to feeling a sense of empowerment and identity from the things that we've been through.”

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“My work has enabled people who were treatment resistant to re-engage in the possibility of building a healing relationship with somebody outside of their daily bubble.” 

Our interest in contributing to the Center for Resilience stems from the unique approach Prodis has developed in her work with young people. Her track record of retaining young adult clients from middle school age through their 20s is unparalleled. In our eyes, she is a regional treasure. 

“The demographic I work with have often been treatment resistant,” she explains. “As I’ve learned from my clients, there's a culture around therapy, at least in Holyoke, where there are long wait periods, inefficiencies, distrust, and fear. I have been intent on being a different kind of support person in the community and doing the extra legwork in order to earn trust. I worked very hard to become a paneled private practice therapist for MassHealth. I've had to get very creative, leaning into the gaps in our system, and focusing on the people who are going unserved. The need to go the extra mile, usually at my own expense, highlights a serious gap in services in our society. But it’s worked, because it’s allowed people who were treatment resistant to re-engage in the possibility of building a healing relationship with somebody outside of their daily bubble.” 

Broadsight’s founder Jessica Payne reflects that, “When Jess says she’s going the extra mile, she’s being both literal and figurative. I’m just as likely to find her driving to pick up a client who doesn’t have transportation, or heading to visit a client in lock up as I am to find her in her office. She literally does meet her clients right where they are, and that’s a level of understanding and flexibility that our current mental health system simply does not provide.”

See this month’s interview with Jessica Prodis to learn more about her work and the Center For Resilience


Broadsight receives digital empowerment grant from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation

We are pleased to announce that Broadsight was awarded a digital empowerment grant through the MGCC. Funds will allow us to continue developing our digital marketing capacity and to purchase needed equipment to run our agency nimble and lean. We’re thrilled to move forward in our ongoing work with Valley Community DevelopmentEmpowered Digital Marketing and Seth Gregory Designs. These grants are part of work by agencies in the state and around the country to support small and medium-size businesses like ours to keep building and growing through these unpredictable times.


Transforming Pain into Power through Youth-Centered Clinical and Group Work

A Conversation with Jessica Prodis, LICSW

J. Prodis Headshot

In March 2023, Broadsight’s founder, Jessica Payne interviewed Jessica Prodis, LICSW, a clinical social worker with a focus on supporting healing from trauma through individual and community empowerment. 

Prodis is the Founder of the Center For Resilience (CFR) in Holyoke, MA. She was first inspired to be a therapist after observing social workers at her New Haven, CT high school and witnessing the profound role they had in supporting students navigating the complexities of race, class and trauma. After receiving a BA in education and an MA in social work, both from Smith College, she began her work in Holyoke 13 years ago as a school-based therapist focused on client-led trauma treatment. CFR uses a youth-led approach to group work, youth leadership development, and community action that have become central in Prodis’ work. 

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation: 

Resilience is transforming our pain, struggles or challenges into a source of strength, power and confidence. It's a process of moving from feeling like a victim of our pain to feeling a sense of empowerment and identity based on the things that we've been through. That’s where I center my clinical, group, and community practice.

There is a conception that some people are more resilient than others, and there is a big question around what makes one person more resilient than another. This very question signals a value judgment on individuals that negates their developed skill set for safety and survival and their expertise based upon their own experience. This question also perpetuates an oppressive societal paradigm where one must show up with socially acceptable behaviors to be integrated into the institutional human service systems established over many generations. It assumes that there's something wrong with the individual, not something wrong with the society. What's the measurement of somebody's resilience? Is it their capacity to function in our society? Whose society is our society? 

As an example, I work with many young men who have been living with untreated PTSD. Invariably, before coming to me they have all been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) and/or ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). They have all performed poorly in our mainstream academic settings and they all believe that they are not good at school and have either dropped out of high school or are at a high risk for dropping out. I would love for our society to see people as differently resilient and move out of a paradigm that judges, exiles and disempowers individuals, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We need to start assuming that, when a student is “failing” it actually means that our schools and institutionalized “support” systems are failing to see that child or young person’s strengths and failing to integrate that individual’s brilliance and skill set into the community. This is an endeavor that will benefit the dominant groups and marginal groups equally within our society. 


Read the whole conversation here.

Learn more about Jessica Prodis and the Center for Resilience here.


Black Life, Art, and Music as a Force: A Conversation Honoring Artist, Educator, Activist Nelson Stevens

Color Rapping

A native of New York City, Nelson Stevens (1938-2022) captured and celebrated Black culture and Black life in his paintings and teaching. In 1969, he was one of the early members of the African  Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA), a Chicago-based Black artist collective formed as an aesthetic expression and extension of the Black Power Movement. Later, Stevens moved to the Springfield, MA area to teach visual art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he served for 30 years. Early in his tenure, he involved his students in creating 37 murals in Springfield, MA, all but 2 of which were later removed, covered, or otherwise destroyed. 

In April 2023, Broadsight’s founder, Dr. Jessica Payne interviewed Rosemary Tracy Woods, founder of Art for the Soul Gallery (Springfield, MA) and Britt Ruhe, founder of Common Wealth Murals (Granby MA) about Stevens’ work. With encouragement from Ms. Woods, in 2022, Common Wealth Murals (CWM), a non-profit dedicated to producing high quality public art that reflects those most impacted by the art, worked with Mr. Stevens to recreate two of his murals as part of CWM’s Community Mural Institute.

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation:

Woods: The message of his artwork is that we as Black people still have struggles, but there's hope. There's beauty. There's color. We don't do black and white. We love color, it speaks to us. In general, artists of color, and Black artists in particular, tend to work in bright colors, and they’re mixed so well. Another difference is the subject matter. We didn't grow up looking at trees and flowers. We grew up in urban areas and we saw people and situations. We used to see the guys in the pink, yellow, and purple suits and the dandy dappers. We're colorful and loud and funny. And that was Nelson. He was the fun of the party. He was a very, very humble, kind person. But he could also be very radical. He believed in Black people. He wanted to express them in all manners and in all scenes, and represent what was happening in Black America.

Photo by Clyde Santana
Photo by Clyde Santana
Portrait of Stevie Wonder by Nelson Stevens
Portrait of Stevie Wonder by Nelson Stevens

Ruhe: Stevens’ daughter Nadya shared at the exhibit opening that there's rarely any brown or black in his paintings. A lot of his work involves breaking things open and creating this fractal effect in the way he was depicting people. Clyde Santana, a student of Stevens’, told me that while they were painting murals they would talk a lot about color theory—particularly Munsell color theory—the relationships colors each have, and what emotions, feelings or affect they created. Nelson was reflecting his community, as Tracy said, with this embrace of color. And he was very intentional and thoughtful about it, from an artist perspective, thinking about the impact to the viewer of the particular colors he was using in each stroke. His work instills a sense of awe and it’s a counterpoint to feelings of discouragement, and frustration. Having a sense of awe is what gives you the energy to keep going and fighting the good fight. That's how I feel when I'm in the exhibit. It’s amazing how a person figured out how to communicate so much emotion, insight and directness with a blend of abstractness, realism and color. It's awe inspiring.

Read the whole conversation here.

Learn about Rosemary Tracy Woods and her gallery here

Learn about Britt Ruhe and Common Wealth Murals here and about our ongoing work with CWMLearn about Nelson Stevens’ exhibit here.


Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City

New York City through the eyes of a resilient young girls and her family

By Caroline Gurek, Broadsight Impact Data Analyst and Operations Associate

Andrea Elliot is a New York Times journalist who in 2012 began the process of documenting and reporting on the experiences of residents in the city’s homeless shelters. These spaces are often hidden from the public eye;  employees and representatives rarely offer access to outsiders, let alone a reporter. Elliot found a resident willing to talk about their experience, Dasani and her family, catalyzing a decade-long journey documenting the family’s thoughts, feelings, and actions while trying to navigate welfare, homelessness, addiction, grief, disability, violence, racism, education, and other systems that are intended to help them. In addition to news stories for the Times, Elliott published Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City in  2021 to capture what she observed and learned.

As told by Elliot, Dasani is an energetic, athletic, artistic and resilient child of New York City. The oldest of six children, she is the backbone of her family. Her and her siblings could often be found performing dances choreographed by Dasani in the subway. Her’s is a tight-knit family who love to be together. The family is under near constant surveillance by DCF for neglect, often perpetuated by the lack of humane assistance from the New York welfare system. The family lives eight to a room in a homeless shelter that is in serious disrepair.The public schools they attend are underfunded and often cannot accommodate their needs. Welfare and food stamps assistance hardly sustain their family of eight. Two of the children are disabled, the parents struggle with addiction, and the entire family suffers from intergenerational trauma and poverty. 


Photo from the New York TImes
Photo from the New York TImes

Elliot traces the family’s lineage from David Sykes, an enslaved man from North Carolina and Dasani’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, through the damages wrought by segregation, Jim Crow laws, and redlining, and into the present day. The story Elliot unfolds shows the workings of institutional racism in preventing the family line from accumulating wealth, practically guaranteeing that each generation would remain trapped in poverty. 


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Elliot does not shy away from the trauma and struggle in Dasani’s story and that of her family. But it is clear that her subjects have had a transformative impact on the author, who frames their story to elevate their resilience and unrelenting “Survival and Hope.” Dasani’s parents encourage her to follow her dreams and educational goals and do their best to provide for their children. Elliot takes a hard look at what it looks like to be impoverished in New York City, where the wealthy and poor can sometimes live down the street from each other yet live such different lives. Throughout Dasani’s story, there are many times when institutions, such as DCF, whose goal is to help, actively undermine the family and create more despair. 

“To be poor in a rich city brings all kinds of ironies, perhaps none greater than this: The donated clothing is top shelf. Used purple Uggs and Patagonia fleeces cover thinning socks and fraying jeans. A Phil & Teds rain shell, fished from the garbage, protects the baby’s creaky stroller.”

Andrea Elliot’s Invisible Child is an incredible narrative of contemporary New York City told through the experiences and indomitable spirit of a young girl. It is absolutely captivating and illuminating. Elliot shows how resilient one has to be to survive poverty and how our systems have failed so many. The book is an essential reading on what urban poverty looks like in the U.S. and how difficult it is to get ahead with so many barriers and under-funded, under- resourced systems. By writing this book and telling Dasani’s story, Elliot gave the US a mirror with which to look at itself. What do we see and how do we support change?


A Note on Gratitude by Cinamon Blair

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To be grateful or to have gratitude is a daily acknowledgment, a mediation, which is what I usually focus on in my meditation. All the good things in my life, all the things I am capable of, all the supportive, loving, and honest people that I can count on to hold me accountable and lift me up and remind me of who I am when I forget. 

Another way for me to show gratitude is to be supportive and honest with the people I spend time with. This includes family, friends, and the individuals I work with. I also want to mention those souls I meet in passing that I make a once in a lifetime connection with.  If I were not being present, in the moment, I might miss how powerful those interactions are. 

I am grateful for opportunities to quiet my mind, slow my breathing and pay attention to my breath because this forces me to reflect, which fosters growth.

Gratitude is something that keeps you humble and hungry simultaneously.  In working toward my musical goals, I am especially grateful for being involved in Broadsight’s client partnerships related to music, art, and performance.

I am grateful for a business trip to Berlin, Germany this July with Broadsight’s founder & lead consultant, Jessica M. Payne, where we will meet with our German counterparts doing similar work and participate in the spiritual practice of attending live musical performances.

In gratitude,

Cinamon Blair



The Broadsight team is collectively grateful for our ongoing interactions with incredible supporters, partners, and clients. 

Jessica serves on the board of Common Wealth Murals and is ever grateful for this opportunity. In helping to develop a funding proposal to Mass Humanities, she's grateful to connect with Mass Humanities staff (shout out on the fantastic equity workshop in the spring!) and to reconnect with colleagues in applied folklore. Conversations with Dr. Diana N’Diaye of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and with  Dr. Maggie Holtzberg of the Mass Cultural Council are a starting point for what I hope will be some ongoing connectivity, productivity, and friendship.


We're grateful to be in touch with practitioners who are doing fantastic work:


Finally, Jessica was honored to attend the memorial service of Dora Robinson who passed unexpectedly this June. Her vital and loving spirit and her key roles in uplifting her community in and beyond Springfield was on beautiful display. We extend our love and condolences to her husband, Frank Robinson and her extended family. 

With gratitude,

The Broadsight Team - Jessica, Cinamon, Ariana and Caroline


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