9 Ounces – A social justice play that carries weight 

This article is featured courtesy of Donna Miscolta, Project/Program Manager, King County Solid Waste Division      

ESJEventLuna, Alice, and Saraphina are friends. They live in the same building. They’re of different generations – Luna is a kid, Alice an adult, and Saraphina a 90-year-old widow. But these three black females are bound together by something burdensome – a fear of not being safe in the world.

They’re fictional characters in a one-woman play by local writer, performer, and educator Anastacia Tolbert. In 9 Ounces, the characters come alive, expressing in realistic actions and speech, their joy, hope, anger, and the everyday tenacity required for them to “keep it moving.”

In her review of the play, which Tolbert has performed at various venues in Seattle, writer and activist Natasha Marin describes the opening:

We see a black woman with short hair and an oversized white dress shirt and jeans trying not to smoke a cigarette.  She paces and stops in front of the audience before removing her shirt to slap her own ass, check her teeth, and admire the muscle tone of her arms. The audience is her mirror and what we are seeing is a black woman appreciating, or trying to appreciate herself. This is already kinda radical. Fer real.

King County employees have the opportunity to see 9 Ounces as part of the ESJ Literary Project. The performance is being paired with a workshop titled “Privilege, Point of View, Perception, and Poetry” that will explore the social justice issues in the play.

Using the play 9 Ounces as a foundation, we will discuss privilege, point of view, and perception as it relates to social justice issues (racism, classism, sexism). We will examine societal perceptions of Luna, Saraphina and Alice and engage in meaningful and challenging small group and large group discussions. We will actively use our creativity as a conduit for social justice poetry and wrap up with tangible ways to be better allies and change makers.  

The play will be performed at the Wing Luke Museum’s Tateuchi Theater on June 22 at 2 pm. The running length is approximately an hour and 45 minutes with a brief Q and A to follow. Attendees of the performance will sign up for the follow-up workshop on either June 26, 1:30 to 3:00 in the King Street Center 8th floor conference room or June 27, 10:30 to noon in the Chinook Building in room 121.

The performance and workshop are part of the Reflecting on Race and Racism series begun last year as part of the ESJ Opportunity Fund. The series is now funded by the Solid Waste and Wastewater Treatment divisions. The first event of 2017 occurred on March 21 and featured a panel of five literary artists who shared their poetry. Hate crimes, implicit bias, and cultural stereotypes were among the issues that arose from these works and formed the basis for a discussion facilitated by Caprice Hollins, co-author of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. About a hundred King County employees attended the event. Here are a few of the numerous comments received:

I hadn’t considered the emotional toll creating art to clarify, address and combat racism would have on artists of color. I felt disappointed in myself for not recognizing that earlier. How did I miss this very important piece of the puzzle?

The candid conversation was the most influential and thought-provoking.

This fed my soul. I think that working for the government can easily become dehumanizing with the bureaucracy and politics, so having a space which allowed for emotions and creativity completely refreshed me. This is the kind of stuff that matters to me, and it’s the kind of stuff I think we should be discussing more and more. I loved this!

King County employees can sign up for the 9 Ounces performance on the King County Employees Trainings page. Once you register for the performance, you will receive instructions for signing up for the workshop.