Are you listening? The Untold Story Project offers hope and healing as employees share their untold stories of racism and visions of a more equitable future 

Kelly Westhelle, Wastewater Treatment Division 

The Untold Story Project is launching its 2019-2020 program. Employees of color are encouraged to submit their untold or unheard stories of racism or vision for a more equitable future here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/untold-story by August 30, 2019All submitted Untold Stories will be posted at www.untoldstoryproject.blog. Stay tuned for an announcement on performance dates later this year.  

Pictured: Employees present at the Untold Story Project performance at Wing Luke Museum in Seattle on November 13, 2018.

I believe storytelling is foundational to the human experience. Stories bridge time across generations, and bridge space by linking different communities and cultures. Stories teach us about life, the world around us, the people around us, and ourselves. 

I also believe that with diversity comes resilience, and that all people deserve an equitable chance at success and happiness. Before the Untold Story Project, when I thought about my community—both in workplace, and in my personal life—and the inequities that exist locally and in the country at large, I was quickly humbled. I had a lot to learn about everyone I live, learn, and coexist among. I wasn’t sure where or how to start, but when I heard about the ESJ Literary Arts Program’s Untold Story Project, a door opened. 

The Untold Story Project offers a space for King County employees of color to respond to the question, “What’s Your Untold Story of Racism?” from the workplace, childhood, or daily life. This year, in its second iteration, employees are also invited to share their visions of a more equitable future. The Project is sponsored and supported by the Solid Waste and Wastewater Treatment Divisions. 

Submitted untold stories are published on a dedicated blog, and selected stories are performed live by the authors, or by local artists on their behalf. 

Last fall, when I attended the live performance at the Wing Luke Museum, the room was heavy, gripping—the stories, brought to life, fully demonstrated the unifying power of expression. Following the performances, I was inspired when the stories cracked open difficult conversations about race, and foster a space for healing and genuine connection in our workplace community. 

Pictured: Poet/artist Natasha Marin facilitating discussion at the Untold Story Project performance at King County Elections Office in Renton on September 20, 2018.

We can all stand to benefit by slowing down, being fully present, and listening—to better understand those we see and work with everyday, and to forge linkages with those we don’t. Through connection there is support, and with support we can raise each other up, toward equity. 

Are you listening? 

For questions about the Untold Stories Project, if you would like assistance, or prefer an interview for your story, please contact Julia Yen at JYen@kingcounty.gov or Tristen Gardner at TGardner@kingcounty.gov.