Today I woke up trying to get some writing done on my show and something hit me in the face and reminded me that
I’ve only once began to softly approach the questions of how I came to exsist – once here. And at this moment, it wasnt even really an approach – it was a telescope view from afar. Here’s a piece from that entry.
“. . .Later last night – im at another gig at a bar in SF – and i want to call my best friend, and she is not home. I want to call my mom, but its too late. How can i explain this to my roommate? I realize i have no one to talk to and i get on my cell phone and text/email these words to myself:
“No one 2 email but me n all alone w a reminder i am born from that which i condem”.
What is it to be a product of rape? A body born out of violence? What is it to be unwanted and given away because of rape and more importantly – unknown? If the story is true. I dont exsist for the father.”
What is it to be a product of rape and how does one even begin to wrap oneself around such a question? I recently read an adoptee’s thoughts on this question and it all centered around the stigma of rape. Shame, violence, pain, trauma.
What is it to be born from that which I condem? I call myself a black feminist. Radical politics. I call myself a protector of women, my friends use my house as a safe haven. I call myself daughter of Oya. I call myself someone who would have gone to bat, bat, bat with those women who are raped and are never believed. Rape in any form is about power and dominance.
But how to explain life that is concieved from such an act?
and how to explain ME?
Im not ashamed. Im not even asking if I should be. Fuck that. Why? I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I’m loving and I am loved. Just like the circumstances of how I was given up – I have no control over my conception. It is one more thing in my life that I have to tunnel through, wrap around me and fight through. I know why I wasnt wanted. I am a reminder of trauma and pain. Shame and silence. How can I move forward, move any way at all if I dont let go of what my entire body represents to my BM? The blackness – the face- the hands.
I’m not saying I’ve let go. Im not saying I dont have days where I stare in the mirror and wonder at the flash of conception at the moment of violation. But I have such beauty in my life, my friends, my family, my writing, my work- MY FRIENDS – how can I explain my thankfulness for being born? and what if I was not here to speak?
and what also of the notion that I dont exist in any way for my birth father? That he doesnt even know I am alive. He doesnt wonder about my face, if I have his hair or his smile. I find this extremely soul-shaking, especially when I identify myself as being black, and not ness. as Filipino (the BM). Whose roots are mine? I dont have any?
I was trying to write a section about how second generation, third generation children of immigrants – when they get to a certain age – they return back to thier country of origin, but for adoptee’s, the travel path home – is complex. I heard someone say about their trip to their country of origin, “its the first time I ever really felt like I was at home”. Is that feeling forever lost to adoptees? and for those of us adopted OUT of not only our countries, but our cultures of origin? will we ever find our way home? and what if our home will never acknowledge us?
I know we create home, and what home means becomes what we do, who our friends and chosen family are – but how to think through that 1st connection, that primary womb-link that has been forever broken. and is that why I feel like I am constantly moving, all ways changing?
Thats all for today. Two more steps forward.
Stolen from Our Embrace is an important book in both adoption /foster care dialogues, and as a strong historical corrective action to histories of First Nation communities in Canada. This book chronicles the extensive history of aboriginal children from the early moments of European expansionism across Canada, the ‘civilizing’ projects of the Indian residential schools in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the more recent “Sixties Scoop” of First Nation children from all across Canada. The book positions the capture and movement of indigenous children alongside the 1950’s Korean baby importation efforts and the “Operation Baby Lifts” of the 1970’s during the Vietnam war. This positioning is important when we consider how adoption, whiteness, privilege and paternalism are part of larger critiques of international adoption. These parallels are also useful when considering the policies and practices of our own social welfare system here in the States, and drawing a connection between domestic adoption and our own shameful history of Indian residential schools and child removal.
One of the authors of the book, Ernie Crey and reveals in chapter two the story of his own family’s history. He recollects his father’s life as a child on a Sto:lo reservation before priests, police or social workers came and forcibly removed him and placed him in St Mary’s Residential school in Mission, British Colombia. Across Canada and the United States, the legacy of Indian residential schools are a major segment in First Nation community histories. After the Civilization Act of 1857, the residential school was designed to strip, most times violently, aboriginal children of any signs of native culture and language and to ensure the influence of Christianity to create ‘good Christian homes’ and eliminate the ‘contamination of Indian spiritual practices’.
Crey’s story grounds this book in an understanding of the suspicion of governmental agencies that during his childhood in the 1960’s utilized ‘child protection’ as a way to
exercise the jurisdictions given to them by the federal government to go into Indian homes on and off reserve and make judgments about what constituted proper care, according to non- native, middle-class values.. (30)
The authors encourage First Nations adults to tell their individual stories of violence and racialized sexual assault in Indian residential schools, and the subsequent years of pain along with the eventual process of healing. The combination of oral accounts with facts and supporting documents is quite a painful read, yet the larger questions of how institutional policies concerning the discourse around adoption, foster care and who is an ‘acceptable’ parent or guardian are themes that emerge in a very real way. Almost every chapter is filled with an account of a mother or father whose children were either stolen without reason, or were taken simply because of poverty or difficult timing,
Additionally, the conversation about how early colonizing efforts and later institutionalized racism shape and maintain the many times forcible removal of children from reservations dominates Fournier and Crey’s writing in their examination of how religion and religious institutions play a major role in the separation of families and shaming practices of punishment and abuse.
Significantly, and perhaps surprisingly, healing the mind, body and spirit is a major theme in Stolen. In chapter four, Fournier and Crey examine multiple cases where after years of sexual abuse in adoptive homes, residential schools or foster homes, the men and women impacted by these years of violence discover how important utilizing the justice system is to their healing process. In addition to bringing cases against their abusers, engaging in traditional healing practices such as entering the sweat lodge, spiritual cleansing, druming and pipe ceremonies. These practices, combined with therapy and other more contemporary healing practices have begun to create a strong culture of children and adults in First Nation communities that are active in resisting the generational child abuse and allowed for a reconnection to a home culture that had either been beaten or shamed out of their lives.
Stolen From Our Embrace is an exceptional historical and oral account, I recommend its reading to deepen your understanding of how aboriginal communities have been impacted by the polices of social welfare systems and why contemporary discussions of Indian child welfare and transracial adoption and foster care are ultimately shaped by their histories. For me, this book was also another example to help me make parallels between of the ways in which colonization that impacted First Nations communities and the ways in which colonization and slavery impacted the stolen and sold African peoples and the consequent ‘civilizing’ projects that changed African Diasporic communities forever. I’ll be commenting on this in my presentation in Atlanta.
I moved this month. and on top of moving physically, I’m taking this moment to do a major purge of the files and folders in my office. I’ve got a zillion crates of files – crates that only take on the “appearance” of organization. As I mentioned in the last entry, Im dumping tons of files from years gone.
I’ve managed to gain quite a collection of readers from all of my years in academia. I came across this one from “Women as Agents of Social Change” course by Nancy Rose, PhD. This class changed my way of understanding myself as a woman and gave me my first introduction to Women’s Studies, Gender and Feminist Theory. freakin 1994!! I’ve been reading, studying and writing feminist theory since then! wow. That does seriously make me an expert. Im claimin it.
During the move, I also happened across this. Now clearly this wasnt in my files. Where it was is of some interest – as it was in what my mother would call my “hope chest” and what I call “the cedar chest”. Its from a boy, lets call him Matt (not his name) from Tacoma Baptist School in Tacoma Washington. When I was growing up, I had crushes on lots of boys, starting when I was probably in like 4th grade or whenever that shit started to happen. When I was in 6th grade, I moved from Central Lutheran Christian Day School to TBS. Let me just state for the record, I hated TBS. When I first arrived, I was not an outcast, and I was on some level actually well liked by my friends. But every semester I was there, it seemed I got blacker and blacker. It seemed all my teachers saw was a black girl, and treated me as such. My brothers (white and birthed to my parents) both went to TBS with me, but they were in the high school, and quite seperate from my experiences. It was at TBS, where my understanding of myself as different from the other kids at school began to become very, very real. It was at TBS where I began to see the cracks in “Christians” and “Christianity”. It was at TBS where my skin began to reveal itself to me as a ‘problem’. There was incident after incident with students and teachers, until at some point around 9th grade, I began skipping school, hanging out at the mall, running away from home or simply hiding at lunch time inside a classroom where I wouldnt have to be with the other kids.
In 6th grade, all of my friends seemed to be “going with” someone except me. I look back at my journals from this time and its not pretty. Private school, all white church, all white friends, all white camps. I felt ugly then. I thought I was ugly, I hated my hair, I hated how it wouldnt stay curled, how it just got frizzy. I never had boys like me and I thought it was just because I was ugly.
and Matt. Blue eyes, jet black hair. cutie. I had the biggest, most raging crush on him ever. I was in love with him for over a year before he paid any attention to me. When he finally ‘decided’ that it was ok to like me, or to even try to like me – he made sure he had permission from the other boys at my school. He actually asked them if they thought it was cool. We ‘went together’ for two days before he broke it off, saying that he was ‘afraid of getting black on his hands’ – direct quote from on of my boys Craig (not his name) and verified the next day.
So here’s to you Matt. Here’s to the pain and confusion you caused to a little black girl who was surrounded by white boys – all of which whom she later learned didnt like her and would never like her because … well, they were afraid.
Update: I started thinking heavily about this post, after I posted it, and I want to make clear my intentions. This post is not just about me releasing pain and demons from my past. This post is about every single little black girl out there adopted by white parents, whose parents refuse to acknowledge the isolation they impose upon their little girl (or boy – except when little black boys get older there’s an entirely different sexualization of them by little white girls, but dont get me started here either). This isolation is completely about them not wanting to move their asses out of their neighborhoods to a more diverse part of the country, state, city whatever. I dont care what you think your child is getting at the school you are sending her to – what I am arguing is that her sanity, her self esteem are paramount here. There is no way you can tell me that your daughter doesnt feel isolation, that she doesnt hear racist comments (just because she’s not telling you doesnt mean its not happening) or that she doesnt wonder at times where she fits in. Just because you acknowledge that racism exists, and that you tell her those people are ignorant or stupid – doesnt suddenly then make it okay for you to continue to keep her in an all white community. Get over yourselves and think about the best interests of your child.)
Its been a helluva month my friends. Finally, the end of the semester – which always has me grading mad essays, meeting with students, trying to wrap up my own academic work and trying to stay sane. I also MOVED this month! AAAAAAAAAAA!!! We all know how hectic moving is.. and this one was no different. Im moving from a spacious 3 bdr flat with a huge backyard back to a 2bdr. I wont have a roommate, but I have no yard and no dining room. (sigh). But its a cute cottage and Im happy happy to have my own office again. There is seriously something about being able to write in isolation. I’ve taught quite a few writing courses, both creative and composition and I like to argue that writing is many times a collaborative process – I love the workshop setting. However – there is just something about being able to get up at 2am and write for 3 hours and pass out on the couch without feeling inhibited. I’m still moving out of boxes and trying to do a mass cleaning of my office files, but my kitchen is together and my bedroom is so lovely with a nice tree out my window! I’ve hired a student to help me go through my crates and crates of files. I think I counted freakin 17 crates! Yesterday I found stuff from my students when I was a freeway flyer, lecturing at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, CA, LaVerne University AND Cal State Long Beach in 2000. I was like.. ok.. I think I can throw this away. But I also had flashbacks of how powerful those classes were. I taught “Women of Color in the United States” – I loved that class.
I’ve got two essays / presentations to write by June 26th, and one 40 page piece by July 16th. I’ve got grants and of course the annoucement/ donationa campaign for AFAAD that I’m determined to get done by the end of July.
Shameless Plugs for my Upcoming Stuffs:
No seriously – this time its a longer piece – about 35 minutes and I’m performing with two other amazing solo artists, who have shorter pieces.
Buy Tickets Here for $10 - Tell your friends!!
I’m presenting at USSF! yay! Im excited to be presenting on a panel at the United States Social Forum. Im looking for some addtional funding to help me pay for my plane ticket – so if you can support me – even with something like 20 bucks. I would appreciate the love.
Here’s the deets:
The Global Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption
Featuring Outsiders Within contributors Kim Diehl, Shannon Gibney, and Soo Na, and adult adoptee activist, performance artist and scholar Lisa Marie Rollins.
The panel will be held sometime on Friday, June 29 (please check website for updates), at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta.
Kim Diehl is a multiracial woman adopted by white parents and raised in the US South. Kim grew up in Miami, FL where she currently lives and works. She is a National Organizing Body member of Critical Resistance, a national organization that works to build an international movement to end the prison industrial complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.
Shannon Gibney was born in 1975 to an African American father and Irish American mother. Raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she was adopted by a white family five months after she was relinquished. Shannon describes herself as (in this order) a creative writer, journalist, and activist, and has been exploring the potential of the written word to transform social reality for quite a while now. She is deeply indebted to all her teachers and friends (living and deceased), who have contributed to her aesthetic and political development. For more information, or to read Shannon’s work, visit www.shannongibney.net.
Soo Na lived in Korea for six years before her migration through adoption to North America. Soo Na’s life work includes working at unclotting the throat and loving without exploitation. She is a teacher, and received her BA from Hampshire College.
Lisa Marie Rollins is a poet and performance artist and author of A Birth Project. She is a PhD candidate in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley and is currently developing her one-woman show, “Ungrateful Daughter.” She was born in Renton, Washington, adopted and raised in Tacoma, Washington, in 1970. Her adoptive family is of German/Yugoslavian immigrant descent and “good ol’ Mayflower folks, combined together to form one posse of conservative, Christian, farmer folks.” Lisa Marie is the founder of AFAAD (Adopted & Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora).
The panel will be held sometime on Friday, June 29 (please check website for updates), at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta.
The first-ever U.S. Social Forum (USSF) will provide space to build relationships, learn from each other’s experiences, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, and bring renewed insight and inspiration. It will help develop leadership and develop consciousness, vision, and strategy needed to realize another world.
The USSF sends a message to other people’s movements around the world that there is an active movement in the US opposing US Policies at home and abroad.
We must declare what we want our world to look like and begin planning the path to get there. A global movement is rising. The USSF is our opportunity to demonstrate to the world Another World is Possible!
Event Website: www.ussf2007.org/