ESJ book winners and the continuing conversation on racism, new series to begin March 21

By Rowena Johnson, Department of Natural Resources and Parks

Earlier this year an Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) project team in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks held a drawing to give away five books by poets featured in the 2016 “Reflecting on Race and Racism through Spoken Word, Story, and Conversation” series.  To be eligible for the drawing, King County employees were asked to submit their reflections on the 2016 reading series, particularly on what they had learned and what they hope to see in future ESJ literary events. Those who had not attended were invited to express what would have inspired them to come.

ESJ book winner Cynthia Adams

ESJ book winner Cynthia Adams

John Miller, who won Diglossic in the Second America by Quenton Baker, wrote that the most important thing he learned was “how many of us employees are passionate about our cultures and the racial/social injustices that our communities have had to confront for many, many years.”

Carl Grodnik, winner of This Glittering Republic by Quenton Baker reflected on the practice of empathy. “The most important thing I learned was to listen. Really listen. And to try to put myself in someone else’s shoes when they’re talking. How would I feel in that situation? Empathize. Be human. Allow yourself to feel.”

Other winners were

  • Cynthia Adams, who received Digging for Roots by Kiana Davis
  • Mary Rabourn, who received Aux Arcs by Shin Yu Pai.
  • Lusha Zhou, who won Adamantine by Shin Yu Pai

Carl attended two of the events last year and believes that “the conversation needs to continue.” The ESJ project team will indeed continue the conversation with a new literary series in 2017.

ESJ book winner Lusha Zhou

ESJ book winner Lusha Zhou

This new series, launching on March 21, is titled “Reflecting on Race and Racism: Deepening the Dialogue.” It will provide King County employees the opportunity to listen, exchange ideas, and confront discomfort on issues of race and racism.

Employees will participate in a candid conversation on race and racism with a panel of literary artists of color and a skilled facilitator. The panel will include five of the artists who performed in the 2016 reading series: Quenton Baker, Kiana Davis, Anis Gisele, Shin Yu Pai, and Djenanway Se-Gahon. They will each share a poem and talk briefly about what inspired it. To delve more deeply into the issue of racism, Caprice Hollins of Cultures Connecting will guide the ensuing conversation with questions for both artists and the audience.

To learn more about the artists and to register for this event, visit our Eventbrite page.

Deepening the dialogue through story sharing can elicit new ways of thinking, bring self-awareness to unconscious biases, foster understanding and compassion, and guide us in cultivating a workplace culture of equity and social justice.  Please join us for:

Reflecting on Race and Racism: Deepening the Dialogue
A facilitated discussion with a panel of literary artists of color
Tuesday, March 21, 9:30 to11:30 a.m.
8th Floor Conference Room, King Street Center, 201 S. Jackson St.
The artists’ 2016 performances at King County can be viewed online.

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