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FunTimes Magazine

Salima Nicole Pace

Today, I am the Secretary-Treasurer for District 1199C National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees but I started in healthcare at the ground floor as a Dietary Aide and later, as a Certified Nursing Assistant. However, I came to the union after being laid off from my position as a financial counselor at a local behavioral hospital. I was uncertain of my next career move and one of the union organizers that I knew suggested that I come down to the District 1199C National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees’ union hall and volunteer. I followed up on that suggestion and I treated my volunteer work with the same seriousness that I would have treated a paid position. In 2013, I was hired as an Executive Assistant and a year later I also became the union’s Political Liaison and Office Manager. One of my responsibilities was to be the Grassroots Canvass coordinator for the Primary and General elections where I worked closely with other unions, including AFSCME, AFL-CIO, DC 33 and DC47. I’ve worked on every municipal election for the past six years, leading our union’s efforts to get out the vote. This has fueled my interest in grassroots politics and playing a pivotal role in making the city a better place not only for our members but also for the community. Today I am a very active volunteer in the 51st Ward in Southwest Philadelphia including holding the positions of Ward Chair and committeeperson. I also held the position of block captain as well as serving on the Neighborhood Advisory Sub-Committee at the Southwest CDC (2018 – 2019). Before being elected as the union’s Secretary-Treasurer, I served as an Administrator Organizer for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). I was very proud to receive the 2017 Next Generation of Leadership Philadelphia’s Rising Stars Award from city councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

QUESTIONS 1. What is the defining moment in your career and life? Becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of District 1199C was the culmination of a career vision, and it took a lot of hard work, resilience and faith. To become the secretary-treasurer, you have to be voted in by the membership. Their vote represented a vote of confidence in my ability to handle this job. However, one of my greatest career accomplishments was organizing the Rally for Respect that was held at HUP in October 2018. Our members fought back in solidarity and showed the hospital that workers united can never be defeated. Through tenacity and organizing with HUP delegates, over 300 people came out to show their support against unjust treatment. That was truly a career defining moment.

2. What challenges have you faced as a woman of color in your field and how did you overcome them? I once read that when you overcome a challenge you become stronger. So, I welcome challenges and one of the biggest challenges I faced was learning that as a leader you sometimes stand alone. That at times people won’t understand your vision or your challenges, so they won’t be able to provide the support you need. For me, the best way to overcome this was to understand that this is just a natural part of leadership and to also hold on to my faith.

3. What woman inspires you and why? There are so many inspirational women of color, some extremely well-known and others who have received no fame. However, it was my mother who inspired me from the very beginning. She believed in me and she believed in my potential even when I didn’t. But more than that, she was my can-do role model. There was no problem too big for her to tackle and that was a powerful lesson to live with which I still incorporate in my life.

4. What is your advice to the younger generation of women who come after you? I think of a quote from Shirley Chisolm the first black woman elected to Congress and who ran for President in 1972. She said, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” I tell young women, and especially young women of color, that racism and sexism and discrimination and sexual harassment are real. But we can’t give up and we can’t give in. It is our turn to make a difference. I remind them that we stand on the shoulders of so many women who have fought on our behalf and we must continue this battle for equality for the girls that come behind us. My advice then is for them to have faith in their vision, and like Shirley Chisholm said, get off the sidelines and march on to the battlefield.

5. What does being a part of the Black Diaspora mean to you? When I think about being a part of the Black Diaspora, the first thing that comes to mind is the word ancestor. Just think about it. Centuries ago, millions of us were brutally dispersed from Africa against our will but we all carried within us the common wisdom of our ancestors. Their words of wisdom protected us and allowed us to survive some of life’s most difficult conditions. Even today, whether we are in Africa, North America, Europe or South America – wherever we may find ourselves - the ancestors’ wisdom is still beating within each of our hearts and helping us to thrive.