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Monica Foster of The Skanner
Published: 07 February 2007

Photos featuring the legacy of Seattle's African Americans, like the one shown here, will be featured at "Speaking Out! Voices of Seattle's Black Community," from 5 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11 at McEachern Auditorium, 2700 24th Ave. E.

The Black Heritage Society of Washington State will present a Readers' Theatre performance of "Speaking Out! Voices of Seattle's Black Community" at the Museum of History and Industry.
The reading will take from 5 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11 at the museum's McEachern Auditorium, 2700 24th Ave. E.
The scriptwriters wove together oral history interviews; historic newspapers; speeches; journal entries; autobiographies; songs; poems; journalists' reports; and other research. The staged performance includes key members of Seattle's Black community, who helped shape the city over the past 150 years.
The cast of prominent Seattle residents scheduled to read includes Micki Flowers, retired reporter/anchor for KIRO TV; Carver Gayton, executive director of the African American Museum; Larry Gossett, chairman of the Metropolitan King County Council; Mona Lake Jones, author and poet laureate of King County; and Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, pastor emeritus at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
The idea for the reading came from Lorraine McConaghy, MOHAI historian who also served as primary researcher and scriptwriter.
McConaghy got the idea for the project after doing several Readers' Theatre events, including one on the centennial celebration of King Street Station. Since there is no oral history about events that happened 100 or more years ago, McConaghy used primary material to complete her script. She dug into history collections from the Black Heritage Society, the MOHAI, the University of Washington and others to tell the story of Seattle's African American community from the 1850s to modern day.
"The primary source from the script comes from the Black Heritage Society's collection," McConaghy said. "Their collection of oral history is very, very good. I think it's the most wonderful way to open up a collection and take oral history and make it theatrical so that it's engaging."
Historic photographs will accompany the readers on stage.
"It gives a whole other dimension to these five readers to see these beautiful historic photographs through time," McConaghy said.
The Black Heritage Society's Oral History Committee Drafts reviewed the script and McConaghy said the process of researching started in the early fall and took about five months to complete, while the editing process took about six weeks.
"It was a huge undertaking to try to tell the story of African Americans in Washington State over the past 150 years so a lot of research and editing went into this so it was a collaborative effort." McConaghy said.
"The wealth of material in our archives on African American in Washington State is so amazing. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to share with our community some of the local history," said Ruth Howard Starke, chair of the BHS Oral History Committee. Starke led the project with assistance from committee members Jacqueline E. A. Lawson, Michaune J. S. Ogiale and James Bell.
"We are very excited to bring this presentation to the community, there was a lot of hard work and a lot of time researching and editing that went into this Readers' Theatre." Starke said. "We have fantastic readers and invite the whole community to this wonderful program."
"There is no better historian than the person who has experienced those social, economic and personal events that are generated with time. The Black Heritage Society is the repository of much of this history and proposes to bring it back to life through this presentation," said Bell, president of the Black Heritage Society.
Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for children 17 and younger, and may be purchased through www.brownpapertickets. com or by calling 800-838-3006.


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