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.
I just watched these and wanted to share. I’ll post more soon.
Its been a painful and powerful trip home. Every time I come home I’m more and more overwhelmed with the isolation of my family and their community from the realities of people of color not only in their own backyard, Indigenous people, Mexicans and Islander peoples but people of color across the world. I continue to try my hardest keep myself separate from my parents friends who are evangelical Christians and who live in their white privilege, and live inside it in ways that are SO similar to the liberal, educated white folks of the Bay area I cant begin to talk about it. Its so time for me to begin to start speaking some truths around that again that I cant believe how long I feel I’ve been silent. I’m just now able to talk about how the past work I did doing adoption education has had an major impact on my relationships with white people. I thought I had worked through a lot of my anger, its been renewed with a vengeance and vigor I had forgotten. All I can say here is, AFAAD is my response, a response that is solely about the children who grow up in transracial adoptive families.
At the same time I’m channeling positive responses to the pain I feel when I am reminded of how deeply racist our world is, I’m more and more impacted by how much I love my family, my parents, my cousins and aunts and uncles, and how much they love me. It was actually evident to me this year that they really missed me being here since the snowstorm prevented me from being here for Christmas, and they like it when I come around. It was so nice to just be my immediate family and miss all the Christmas hullabaloo that forces me to have to be around a bunch of people I don’t give a shit about and who don’t give a shit about me, and who in every other instance would never be interested in knowing who I am. and for the most part, still aren’t. This may be a change in the way I spend my holidays. I’m just sayin.
Its such a contradiction to live inside such love and such pain at the same time.
I spent a few days in Seattle, networking for AFAAD and Third Root a little, but mostly just catching up with the new friends who I’ve made who are meaningful to me and hiding in a coffee shop for hours on University Ave working on my chapters.
One significant thing that happened is that I spend some time in the amazing Seattle Public School archives looking at high school yearbooks from the 1960’s. I was looking for my birth fathers photo, based on a name my birth mother gave me.
I got lost on the way to the archives, but it was in this great building, the John Stanford Educational Center, where it looks like the Seattle school district offices are located. Ah teachers. How do I love thee? I made it there about a ½ hour before they closed and a lovely young woman, with a rockin vintage shirt and cool ass glasses with a green tint, (I love Seattle!) Althea, came up to take me upstairs to the archives. I love the smell and look of historical archives. Being an academic, I have a healthy respect for history and the preservation of it. and to see the history of the Seattle schools being care for so lovingly and .. I always worry about funding for these things. If you can – after you donate to AFAAD (ha!) – donate some money to them or to your local school district historical archive!
Althea brought me the years 1966-1969. I had estimated that since he was supposedly 20 to 22 when I was conceived, that those were reasonable years to think he had graduated. I put on the white gloves and started though, reading over pages, laughing at hairstyles and clothes, while trying not to listen to my internal voice. In my head I kept saying, what if she lied to me to keep me off track? What if she doesn’t want me to know who he is? What if she just picked some random person? (which is still a possibility).
I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t anywhere! I kept looking over and over the pages, thinking I had missed something. Parrish, Patton, Peterman, Perkins, Peth. Pittman, Powell, Purvis, . . . nothing. Finally, after looking through 2 high school 4 years each, I stopped and started packing up. Althea came up and asked how it was going. I sighed and told her that I hadn’t found anything. She asked me a few questions about who I was looking for. I hesitated, because as an adoptee who has done mad reading on the negative responses to when we are searching for our birth families, we have been warned to be cautious about what we share with people.
I looked deep into her face, took a breath and said, “well, it’s a name that someone, well, it’s a name that my birth mother gave me for my birth father. Perhaps its not the right name. Perhaps it was just one of those leads that I have to live with not working out.” But inside, I wasn’t connecting to how much I was putting on this. I was really hoping to find something. I was disappointed, and it was starting to hurt. Althea’s eyes looked at me and she said, “why don’t we try 1965, just for the heck of it? Just to say you did it?” I shrugged, thinking, sure, why not, whatever.
When she brought back the books, she paused and then told me her story. A story about her own family, and so closely aligned with the narrative of lifelong secrets and lies, shame, truth, longing and have that impacts our adoptive families. I am always overwhelmed and honored when strangers can open themselves to me and share their stories.
I put the white gloves back on and began to thumb through the pages, starting with the seniors. It was a flash. There it was. 1965. on the bottom corner of the page. I felt the tears start coming, I took a deep breath, don’t cry, don’t cry, it may not be him, it may be a wrong lead, don’t cry.
Its him. His face looks light in the photo, but all of the photos at that time look like they are lightened, so I think he is medium or brown skinned. In another photo I found of him posing for the Dance planning committee, he look much darker than his senior photo. It lists some of his interests and his honors. I found it.
I wanted to start dialing a phone right then, but I didn’t have a middle name. Something that would distinguish him from all the other people in Washington state who have the same name who I have come across. We got copies, and I think I made it part way back to the elevator before I started crying and just had to be me and give mad love and a hug to Althea to thank her for the help.
I got back to where I was staying and checked my email and whaaaatt? Got an email from Althea, with his middle name and his birth date. Are you kidding me? Dammit, started crying again but with a big cheese smile.
Look people, if you are in a position of power, if you are an archivist, I want to just reiterate how important your job is and not just on the organizational, administrative tip. You being open to people, being non-judgmental about the people who come to your world – people who need histories, need truths, need the stories of our lives – your not questioning our personal motivations is SO extraordinarily important in an archivist and as someone who has ‘control’ over the archives. So many adoptees experience people being ‘gatekeepers’ and trying to keep us away from the truths of our lives. The narrative of the outside world is that we don’t need to know and that we shouldn’t want to know. and thats just bullshit.
I have no idea what I’m going to do next, knowing me I’ll sit on this for another 6 months to a few years. I still haven’t processed this at all, but I just wanted to share and thank Althea deeply and publicly for her consideration, patience and openness. Gurl, you rock, and you just changed my life.
Even though for many adoptees the first line of this article is a no-brainer, it should add to the response to the general idiot who still tries to argue that Madonna’s (still not offically) adopted ‘son’ “David” is ‘better off with her” even though David’s family is alive. Ack.
Hyderabad: A CNN-IBN Special Investigation has revealed that not all children given in adoption are orphans and families are sometimes duped into surrendering their children.
Take for instance 31-year-old Chaya Maria Schupp, who has come from Germany looking for her birth mother from Mangalore.
“My mother was good but she was a single mother and there was no father,” said Chaya.
Chaya spent the first seven years of her life with her Indian mother before a German family adopted her. Chaya’s is still to find her mother.
“In my case there are no records. I cannot believe it,” says Chaya.
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.
Had to take a few days off from the intensity of this. Ended up driving to my best friends house in So. Cali. It was nice and warm, and relaxing. I didn’t make it to the beach to talk to Yemanya, but I did do some major thinking on the road between here and there. Thank goddess for the 6 hours each way.
I think the biggest thing I figured out was that – while I pretty much knew I was ready for this whole thing, considering its been about 10 years on and off that I have been searching, and only in this past year made a strong effort – that while I was prepared for the situation – I truly wasn’t prepared for how much emotional impact it would have on me. So I'm giving myself a bit more permission to be a little more emotional and let myself cry at any given moment if I need to.
Before I left – I spoke to ***** (birth mother) again. It was another long hour conversation, and by the end of it – I found myself wanting to get off the phone. She is very talkative, and actually called herself a "drama queen". I left that one alone because after the FIRST phone call – it was something I mentioned to one person I was talking to, exact words even.
She has this weird resolve that I am finding difficult. She is very accepting of her decisions, understanding they are part of her life – which is a great thing, and not what I’m finding hard. I’m just not sure I can give her the 'props' she keeps suggesting she is good for because she is the one who made the relinquishment decision, and she keeps saying it was a good decision, her prayers were answered, I was raised by a white family (she keeps saying this too) and given everything that she wasn’t given.
I’m not convinced I can let her take responsibility for me turning out the way that I did. It was my mom and dad who raised me, taught me, punished me, cried with me, made me laugh, taught me how to love and respect myself, taught me that I am precious. It wasn’t her. So I am not convinced she gets to claim that. It really was like – a crap shoot. She gave me up – but there was no guarantee that I would be blessed the way that I was.
RE: *****(birth pops). The rape issue is also something I’ve had a bit more time to think about. I'm not going to act like I was shocked or that I never thought about it, because I think (like most adoptees) I've gone through almost every scenario thinkin about the circumstances of my birth. Yet, like i mentioned before it doesn’t make the next part of this search easy. Its going to be a diffucult thing to find someone who doesnt have a clue you exsist.
One interesting note: She talked about being perceptive when she was very young. this kind of tripped me out because I’ve been perceptive and spiritually guided since I was very young. There are many other things that are trippin me out too, as I look over the years of my creative writing. I have a story about a woman I’ve been writing for about 3 years now. Her mother has a 3 day affair with a stranger whom she never sees again. The daughter goes to look for him after she has a dream about him dancing in the sugar cane fields. She finds him and follows him around for many days, just watching him to see if she feels anything for him. She turns into a werewolf one night and shows up on his door to keep him company while he writes his music. I haven’t gotten to the part where she appears to him in human form.