I’m thrilled to announce that my play “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls story of being adopted into a white family…that aren’t celebrities” will have its NYC Premiere at the 2012 NYC International Fringe Festival in August!! I got in!!! YEEEEEEE! NYC here I come!
I will be posting fundraising, production updates, and the specific show dates as soon as I get all that information!
HUGE HUGE thank you again to ALL of my donors, both individual, organizational and foundations! Huge thank you to the adoptee community who has has my back from the beginning. I could NEVER have gotten this far without your support. Lets DO this!!
in the shadow of this empty birth certificate
I live as (un) blank slate of memory
longing is a pain knowing can cure,
desire for your hand to cover mine
sweet sweet jane doe
something about ghosts living between us
people want to disregard,
silence the voices in their heads
as if they never were
Anyone who’s ever split apart
this grief can make you forget what they told you
try hard to remember the words
feel them on your tongue
like the name your mother says she picked for you
Anyone who’s ever had a dream
I will not cast out my name
even for you, who wish me away
who embroil me in your secrets
entice me to fall into your denial of my body
Anyone who’s ever played a part
this cannot be cured by unknowing
the empty space above your head in family photos
the void position next to you on the family wall
my face in the back of your mind, our fathers obituary
Anyone who’s ever been lonely
I carve my name over and over into my arm
tattooed and cut, mark red and blue
like the cord that ties us together
the death that rips our flesh
Anyone who’s ever split apart
sweet sweet jane doe
I’m thrilled that I’m featured in the January 2012 issue of River, Blood Corn: A Literary Journal!
I’ve been thinking so much about the incredible resilience of adoptees and fostered people. We move through our lives with so many things that are ‘lost’ or ‘missing’ or ‘absent’. I put those words in parentheticals because the words themselves don’t actually articulate well what it means to have these complete ‘unknowns’ drawn on pieces of our lives. Its not like I feel this ‘loss’ or ‘absence’ in a way that makes me sit around and bitch about it, I feel this loss in a deep, way that expresses itself as longing for something, or sometimes as loneliness, or sometimes as fear, sadness, grief. It is always there, like the impact of skin color or the death of a parent. Sometimes it overwhelms me and other times it is the barest register when someone asks, “where were you born?”. I am thinking about resilience because I think about how heavy this load can become sometimes. This article speaks to a way of reconciliation for my spirit, a way I hold on to accepting, healing and being with these longings.
Its been a long, cold and busy busy summer. I just came back from visiting my parents in WA state and it was warmer up there than it has been in the Bay Area all spring and summer! I just hope we don’t skip what is usually a warm fall for us and head straight into the rainy winter season.
I’m in full, unabashed production and promotion mode for the October 6, 7 & 8th shows of “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black girl’s story of being adopted into a White family… that aren’t celebrities” at La Pena Cultural Center here in Berkeley. I’m thrilled that for the first time, other than excerpts of the show, I’ll be performing the entire piece for my East Bay family. I also have a history of producing work at La Pena, so I’m doubly excited that they believed in my work enough to commission and fund the piece to help me get it up.
There’s gonna be stage, light and sound design – yeeee! I’m continuing my collaboration with local activist and visual artist Isaac Ontiveros for the further development of the multi-media aspects of the show and also with the talented dancer/movement artist Colleen “Coke” Nakamoto on choreography. There so much more, but ultimately, I just hope you all come out and check the full, finished piece. I hope this will be one of the final iterations before I do a full run in 2012 and head to festivals around the globe. Please let people know and buy your tickets here!!
What else is up? Well, its that time of year when AFAAD is in full swing planning mode for the Fourth Annual Gathering, November 11,12 &13th this year at the 2100 Building in Seattle, WA! For all of my supporters, all of you parents of black, brown and multiracial children, we continue to develop this organization for your child! and we continue to do this as an all volunteer board. Please spread the word to any Black/Multiracial/African/Caribbean – adoptee of African descent over 18 that you know and tell them to join us in Seattle!! Here is the Call for Sessions, so people can submit panel or discussion ideas and also so potential participants can understand the depth of the weekend! Finally, here is the full information about this year’s Gathering. Don’t forget, if you know any families or organizations in Seattle that support adoptive families and foster care alumni – let them know about our Education Event that is open to EVERYONE on Saturday night, November 12th!
In addition to spreading the word – WE NEED YOUR FUNDING SUPPORT!! Please, please DONATE TO THE FOURTH ANNUAL GATHERING! The only way we are able to continue our work is through generous donations from people like you. We need at least $15,000.00 to cover basic expenses, and what is especially important for this year, to cover special guest speaker travel, hotel and honorarium fees, to keep our Public Education event low cost and accessible to everyone in the adoption triad, and to provide scholarships to at least two Foster Care Alumni who otherwise would be unable to make it to join us and have access to the network and the activist space of the weekend. We have 28 days! Please help us spread the word.
Crazy busy my friends. School has started, teaching, students, academic work as well as balancing my creative work. You know how artists do. I have two or three other creative projects in the works and all I will say about that is one is adoption related and the rest, thankfully, are not! In academia, we call it “racial fatigue”, I think we adoptee writers, activists, scholars need to come up with the right phrase for us. “Adoption fatigue”? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my personal life is part of my professional life, and its great, but its also very tiring. I look forward to the weekend of the AFAAD Gathering where we will spend time talking together about being and adoptee or foster care alumni and being a professional and ensuring we are engaging in ‘self-care’, so we don’t burn out.
What seems contrary to what I just wrote, (ha!) I recently noticed that my subscribers to the blog have increased. I’m so excited about this – welcome to the blog. I look forward to engaging in conversation with you and answering questions! I’m here as a resource for parents as well as for my fellow adopted folks.
Finally, I have a special gift for the first 10 people who donate $50.00 or more to the AFAAD Gathering Campaign! I’ve recently finished a writing project that I want to share with folks who support AFAAD, its a secret, so you will be privileged to it before anyone! Donate, and I will get it to you in the mail asap!!
I’m already a fan of Jackie Kay’s book of poems, “Adoption Papers” so I was very excited to hear about a new autobiography from her about her search and reunion with her birth family.
from: The Guardian
Red Dust Road opens in the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja. Jackie Kay is confronted by the man who is her natural father. He is a born-again Christian and self-styled faith healer who prays over her for two hours. He is disappointed by her failure to give herself to Christ, the condition required by him to acknowledge her publicly as his daughter. “I am sitting here,” writes Kay, “evidence of his sinful past, but I am the sinner, the living embodiment of his sin.” Kay resists. They do not meet again.
For the previous 40 years Kay’s existence had been kept secret from the families of both her natural father and her birth mother. Kay was born in 1961 in Edinburgh to a Scottish nurse and a Nigerian student. Soon afterwards she was adopted. Red Dust Road is Kay’s 20-year search for her birth parents and for her existence to be recognised.
From Abuja, Kay returns us to a 1960s Glaswegian childhood with her parents John and Helen, delightful people, communists who spend their summer holidays singing in the car, who cross Russia by train, and raise her surrounded by caring comrades. Her mother tells her the little she knows about Jackie’s birth parents and imagines what she does not know: they were madly in love, but he was already betrothed to another, they were heartbroken to give her away. These moments are offered as shared reminiscences, and are interspersed with other memories taken from different times, mainly of Kay tracing and eventually meeting the real people behind her mother’s fairytales.
Also, check this audio clip where she reads an excerpt from the book about meeting her birth mother for the first time.
Its been a minute since I’ve posted something and I know I’ve been neglecting this blog. So just checkin in, sayin whats up. I hope you all are doing well.
Susan over at ReadingWritingLiving is writing some great stuff around the new show, Find My Family on ABC. Personally, I’ve been too afraid to watch it, but am getting together with a group of adoptees in Jan to watch it together.
Other news: AFAAD is collaborating with AKASF on an adult adoptee group for adoptees of color. Its a multi-session based group that will focus on deepening our group discussions of race, identity, adoption and healing and self care. Please, tell any adult adoptee of color that you know! Have them email me afaadinfo(at) gmail (dot) com .
The 2009 AFAAD Gathering went off without a hitch. You can read all about it over at the AFAAD Blog where there will be photos and video and writing about it posted very soon!
I’m well, trying to finish up this dissertation and also importantly, trying to begin to start writing again and finishing my play about transracial adoption, Ungrateful Daughter. I know a few of you have seen pieces of it already, but its my goal by May 2010 to have it complete and ready to put back up on the stage. hell yeah!
I, too – am an egomanic and, apparently, a major procrastinator. I’ve been hit up to do this interview meme by my gurl Susan over at ReadingWritingLiving. If you are interested in having me hit you with 5 questions – let me know and I will write 5 questions for you!
1. I have not seen you in the classroom, but I bet you are an awesome teacher. What kinds of things do you like to do with your students; what engages them in your classroom?
I have to say, I freakin love teaching and I’m actually kind of bitter about classes or workshops I take now with horrible teachers. Mostly because I’m convinced my success/ failure in school at all levels (kindergarten through my PhD work) has been incredibly impacted by my instructors. I am convinced that one of the major things that makes a great teacher is the ability to understand yourself as also in a constant state of learning. I am an ‘expert’ to an extent on many issues, but there are many more things to which i have no experience or knowledge. It is my belief that instructors who shut themselves off from learning from their students, actually close doors that can lead to their students making powerful, critical connections.
hell.. I can talk about this forever.
2. I know that you are AKA “Ungrateful Daughter.” But you strike me as being a very joyful person. What are you grateful for in your life?
ha! Another long ass answer. I am grateful for the love and support from my family. When I say “family”, I mean not only my immediate family, but my partner, my best girl friends, my creative family, my writing family, my TRA familia – all them. Because when I say ‘ love and support’, I dont just mean it in that cheesy Hallmark way. I mean these people surround me with this incredible amount of love that I KNOW is what keeps me going when I feel like all i want to do is hide in my room for weeks. I am loved. I can do anything because my family believes in me. I can fly . . . want a ride?
3. If you could listen to only three songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Since Im a huge music lover and I support live local music, attend a ridiculous amount of performances – thats a hard ass question. How about 3 albums? (1)Zap Mama’s “Ancestry in Progress”, (2) Etta James “At Last” and (3) Miles Davis – anything. (but damn.. what about Mos Def and Ledesi? this is too hard!!)
4. If your adoptive family could know one thing about you that they do not know, what would it be?
Wow. I think they know alot about me already! Maybe that I love them (they know that tho!) ok.. maybe that even thought race is at the heart of some of our challenges as a family, addressing it head on and acknowledging it does nothing to change the fact that we ARE a family with a common history, shared memories and a deep love for one another.
5. If your birth family could know one thing about you that they do not know, what would it be?
That I dont want anything from them except stories, photographs and a history that I can pass to my own children. I hope they will be willing to open themselves to me as a presence in their lives. It doesnt need to be a constantly visible, constantly ‘there’ presence, but our shared history and blood ties us together. We have to figure out ways to have all of our needs as individuals met when it comes to this complicated situation. In other words, it aint all about you.
I just got off the phone with someone who was working with an organization called Probusqueda in Central America. I was really excited to hear about the work being done here, particularly for my Latino/a brothers and sistas who are now in a place where they may need to travel back to a country they have never been to, this organization looks to be one resource for them. Has anyone had any experience with this group?
You all know I’ve been working on the development of AFAAD, and really, Ive been modelling the organziation on the work I see done by IKAA and others who have support services for adults beginning their searches across borders. I mean really, if I am adopted from Africa – how do I go back? What do I do? Where do I begin? As a domestic adoptee, I’m pretty versed in the process, but for my international folks, I’m just learning as we speak. And Im determined to make sure these services are in place. Especially when Madonna’s kid, David freaks out and wants to see his family. heh.
Do you all know of any organizations that are specific to adult adoptees whether international or domestic that are geared for our counterparts with birth parents who are in Central or South America? or even Adult adoptee orgs for Latino/ Chicano adults in the U.S.?
Im back in WA for a visit with moms and dad for a few days.
Aunt Jemima says hi. (if you dont understand that.. come see my show)
She’s still hangin out in the kitchen and was watchin me today, not so subtlety as I was vacuuming the kitchen, cleaning off the picnic tables and chairs getting ready for the 30 people my parents are having over for their annual 4th of July party. next year for sure im going to bring a huge posse of my friends. I can freak out all my parents church friends and my mom’s side of the family by having a huge multicultural mess of folks over. They wont be able to make one racist joke from confusion.
I just sat down after doing the vacuuming, and after spending about an hour helping my mom shovel up the dog ‘dumps’ as she calls them from the front yard where 4 dogs have made their comfort zone across the 2 acres. Last time I came home I was actually shoveling horse manure on the 1st day helping moms fertilize the yard.
Its nice to be home.
On a side note for ‘the search update’ – I finally got my non-ID papers from Olympia that I ordered last December or whenever that was. All I know is that it was an 8 month wait and that during those 8 months the other search techniques I was using came through instead. I haven’t done anything with making contact again for a while. It really was a good thing to do. So now I have the non-ID papers from both the county I was adopted in and the state. It was a good batch of information and actually filled in some of the questions I still had even after talking to G*****. If you remember, we did about 3 intense phone calls, and then I had to take a few steps back. She mentioned taking a blood test, but after getting this last batch of papers, I don’t see the point. I’m not in denial about who she is to me. Doing a blood test aint gonna change the fact that – I have her middle name. She never told me that in the times we talked and she knew my middle name is Marie. How do I feel about having her middle name? Its kinda cool, but is also kind of freakin me out. Like I dont belong to me anymore. I dont know how to explain that, maybe in a few days.
If you remember she was really resistent to letting the family know that i have ‘resurfaced’. What she has done however (after a looong while) is hook me up with my half-sister. yay! I got pictures of her and we have emailed each other back and forth for a bit. She’s 18 yrs old. We have the same smile.
but more importantly – I’m ready now I think, after it being about 5 months from the first contact with G**** to go ahead and start making contact with her again, see where she is in her head space and to start looking for the birth father. It’s been a really strange thing to need so much time and space to re-center myself. But hell.. Im not gonna act like I wasn’t thrown off kilter emotionally.
So my next performance is at the Brava Theatre in SF for the San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) on June 30th.
Im at rehearsal, standing up in front of this room full of women who have one way or another been touched by the violence and silence of rape and the sadness mixed with rage begins to wash over me and suddenly I am crying and overwhelmed. I have performed this particular piece "Song for Siren" about 4 or 5 times and have never experienced what i felt last night. The piece is a piece – not about adoption (?)- but about rape and the historical and continued rape of black women by white men. The piece itself was written as my own response to a few things – first, to the Duke Lacrosse case. If you havent heard about this – Duke University on March 13th, A sex worker was hired as an exotic dancer for a party thrown by the Lacrosse players. At some point in the night, the woman alleges she was raped in the bathroom by three of the players by force. For me, whether or not this story is "true" is not what I am interested in. What I am interested in is this incidents relationship to the history of black women raped by white men and the comment one of the men made to the woman – “hey bitch – thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt”.
Additionally, the Duke incident rung a bell in me from the past – Sherice Iverson. For some reason I cannot let go of this little girl and the total disregard for her life in place of the men who raped and murdered her.
I said its not about adoption.
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.