This year an Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) project team in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks organized a series of four literary readings called “Reflecting on Race and Racism through Spoken Word, Story, and Conversation” that was open to all King County employees. The purpose was to provide a forum for employees to discuss issues of race and racism to help reject stereotypes, practice empathy, and come to a greater understanding of the roots of inequity and injustice that the county’s Equity and Social Justice Initiative seeks to address.
Following the presidential election, Executive Constantine recently reaffirmed the County’s commitment to equity and social justice:
“The tenor of this campaign has been toxic. It was fragmented and marginalized people. But King County is a place that values women, that values racial minorities and the disabled, that values immigrants and refugees, and people of every religion, or of no religion. Wherever you began your life, you are welcome here in our county.”
Part of that toxicity and marginalization happens when women, people of color, people of non-Christian faiths, and the disabled are not valued as full human beings, which often stems from stereotypes.
In her application to be part of ESJ literary series, writer Djenanway Se-Gahon referenced one of her favorite authors, Chimamanda Adichie, who warns that if we hear only a single story about a person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. Adichie says, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
One way to resist the stereotypes of the single story is to read, listen to, and consider many stories. That was the idea behind the ESJ literary project and it’s the idea behind this book giveaway open to all employees. To be eligible for the random drawings to receive one of six books by the poets featured in the 2016 “Reflecting on Race and Racism through Spoken Word, Story, and Conversation” reading series, simply respond to one of the following prompts:
- The most important thing I learned …
- What I hope to see in future events …
- I didn’t attend any of the events, but I would’ve if …
Send your entries to Rowena Johnson with the subject line ESJ Book Drawing (King County employees only). Deadline for entering is December 30, 2016. All responses will be included in a random drawing, with winners announced in January 2017. Titles to be given away are
Aux Arcs by Shin Yu Pai
Adamantine by Shin Yu Pai
Digging for Roots by Kiana Davis
Diglossic in the Second America by Quenton Baker
This Glittering Republic by Quenton Baker
Where Bullet Breaks by Casandra Lopez
If you are not among the winners, you can still get easy access to the books. A set will be available for checkout from the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program library.
Turning to books is always a good move. As Sherman Alexie says, “I firmly believe in the power of stories to change the world, and I firmly believe in the power of one story to change one life at a time.”