Employees of Color Share Their Stories of Racism

Earlier this year the King County ESJ Literary Project invited employees of color to share stories of times they were affected by racism. The project reflects King County’s commitment to addressing the historical and persistent inequities in our communities that result from race. Such inequities are experienced by the county’s own employees, both on and off the job.

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The project received more than two dozen stories, which are available now to read at http://untoldstoryproject.blog.

Sign up to attend one of the performances in which local poets and performance artists will read aloud the untold stories of racism. Each performance will be different, with the stories divided up among the three dates. Employees are encouraged to sign up for the performance that best fits their work location and schedule.

Performances are directed by writer, actor, and storyteller Jekeva Phillips.  Each performance will include a discussion with the audience about the stories and the issues they raise. Natasha Marin, poet, conceptual artist, and community-builder, will facilitate the discussions.

Performance dates and locations

September 20, 2018, 1:30-3:30 pm

Alvine Room, Elections Office

Renton

October 9, 2018, 1:30-3:30 pm

8th Floor Conference Room

King Street Center, Seattle

November 13, 2018, 2-4 pm

Tateuchi Story Theatre

Wing Luke Museum

719 S. King Street, Seattle

Read the opening paragraph of a few of the stories below. The links will take you to the full stories.

I grew up in Southeast Alaska, in an environment of land loss, racism, and poverty. But at the same time, our community is very proud and continues to fight for justice, self-determination, and tribal sovereignty.  I am Pamela Stearns. My traditional name is Kajaastee.

From Alaska Indigenous Resurgence by Pamela Stearns

I was a child farmworker. My family immigrated to this country. My parents came first and I came at the age of two or three. There were nine of us in the family and we all had to help out picking fruit. We harvested apples, strawberries and blueberries, and cut asparagus.

From Child Farmworker by Jose Reyna

I was working for a hospital in Enumclaw, one of the only people of color there. The other person of color worked in the kitchen. I worked in the ER and registration. I had this one doctor who wouldn’t talk to me. When she needed my help, she would go and ask another person to come and ask me to help her. She would never address me directly.

From Cultured by Shai Malone

I am a Mexican immigrant. I’ve lived in Washington State for almost thirty years. I have been working with King County for 24 out of those 30 years. I feel very fortunate that I have come across amazing people who have provided me with many opportunities, but I have also experienced racism as a person of color, as an immigrant. Maybe in subtle ways, maybe not as aggressive as others have faced. But it’s still there. Often.

From Speak vs. Talk: The Vocabulary You Use Defines You by Penny Lara

Growing up in Memphis during the era of the King assassination meant being socialized to the ins and outs of white domination, without having to learn a single word of it. As a girl, I heard from my grandmother, who grew up in the Mississippi Delta, the importance of certain customs of the South, and that to be Black and ignore these customs was to invite danger to yourself and your front door.

From White Domination VS. White Supremacy: Why Precision in Language is Key to Dismantling Racism by Cecelia Hayes

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The ESJ Literary Project is a joint effort of the Solid Waste and Wastewater divisions.