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.
Jackie Kay’s work is a major part of my dissertation. While reading / researching her work, I found this poem written by her. I thought I would share it, as representative of the conflicting emotional and political relationships that many of us adoptees of color who are transracially adopted have with this weird thing, “National Adoption Day” that argues ‘any family’ is better than ‘no family’.
and me? I remember the day, at my grandmother’s 85th birthday party, she patted me on the knee and said, “you’re just a little white girl, Lisa”.
My grandmother is like a Scottish pine
Tall straight-backed proud and plentiful
A fine head of hair, greying now
Tied up in a loose bun
Her face is ploughed land
Her eyes shine rough as amethysts
She wears a plaid shawl
Of our clan with the zeal of an Amazon
She is one of those women
Burnt in her croft rather than moved off the land
She comes from them, her snake’s skin
She speaks Gaelic mostly, English only
When she has to, then it’s blasphemy
My grandmother sits by the fire and swears
There’ll be no Darkie baby in this house
My grandmother is a Scottish pine
Tall straight-backed proud and plentiful
Her hair tied with pins in a ball of steel wool
Her face is tight as ice
And her eyes are amethysts.
Jackie Kay is a black Scottish poet who was born in Edinburgh and raised in Glasgow. She has published her poems widely and her volume The Adoption Papers won an Eric Gregory Award in 1991. She has also written three plays, Chiaroscuro in 1986; Twice Over in 1988; and Every Bit Of It in 1992. Her television work includes films on pornography, AIDS and transracial adoption, and Twice Through the Heart, a poetry documentary for BBC2.
This poem was first published in 1991 in That Distance Apart, London: Turret Books.
AFAAD’s 3rd Annual Gathering (Mini)
Saturday November 13th, 2010.
Hosted by Georgia State University
in Atlanta, GA
3rd Annual AFAAD (Mini) Gathering for Adoptees and Foster Care Alumni of African Descent and screening of the film, “Off and Running” (co sponsored by PBS’s POV films) in Atlanta, GA.
1-day event, 2 sessions for AFAAD members only, film screening open to the public
FULL SCHEDULE AND INFORMATION HERE
Saturday November 13th
10am-5pm, with some evening activities
Announcing the 3rd Annual Gathering of adoptees (transracial / international and same race) and foster care alumni of African descent in Atlanta, GA.
This year our Gathering is a 1-day Mini- Gathering, with two sessions for adoptees/ fostercare alumi and our main event, Film screening and discussion of the recent PBS POV documentary, “Off and Running” from an adoptee/ fostercare alumni perspective, which is open to the public.
“Off and Running” tells the story of Brooklyn teenager Avery, a track star with a bright future. She is the adopted African-American child of white Jewish lesbians. Her older brother is black and Puerto Rican and her younger brother is Korean. Though it may not look typical, Avery’s household is like most American homes — until Avery writes to her birth mother and the response throws her into crisis. She struggles over her “true” identity, the circumstances of her adoption and her estrangement from black culture. Just when it seems as if her life is unraveling, Avery decides to pick up the pieces and make sense of her identity, with inspiring results.”
“Off and Running” is a co-production of ITVS in association with the National Black Programming Consortium and American Documentary/POV and the Diverse Voices Project, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
AFAAD’s 2010 Gathering is being hosted by Georgia State University, ideally situated in the center of downtown Atlanta, GA, close to all forms of public transportation. Individuals visiting Altanta must make their own hotel reservations separately from AFAAD Gathering registration.
Events are held in the Urban Life Building, 10th Floor and the CineFest Film Theater at GSU
Please join us and share the info with the local adoption community in Atlanta!
AFAAD Panel Report from the USSF by Guest Blogger, new mommy and AFAAD MN chapter co-founder Shannon Gibney
Another World Is Possible for Poor and Neglected Children, and Communities of Color:
Are adoption and foster care social justice issues? During the first U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in 2007, the consensus seemed to be a resounding “no.”
I remember being in an elevator in my hotel in Atlanta with a number of fellow activists, discussing our workshops. The folks beside me talked about labor, gender equity, grassroots organizing, and solidarity economy sessions they were leading. When I mentioned mine on transracial adoption, I might as well have been speaking Greek. “What?” someone asked, while others looked on in confusion. “Transracial what?”
Luckily, the second USSF, held this past June 22-26, 2010 in Detroit, proved that adoption/child welfare activists and allies have been doing our work, and doing it well, because these issues have now made it on the radar screens of many participants I spoke to. And no one looked at me like I was attending the wrong conference when I told them about the workshop I was leading.
Our session was titled “Where Have All Our Children Gone? Linking Child Removal From Communities of Color to Larger Social Justice Issues,” and was facilitated by fellow members of Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora (AFAAD) Connie Galambos Malloy and Ian Hagemann, and Sahngnoksoo (SNS) member Sunny Kim.
It was attended by more than 30 people, who represented a wide range of backgrounds, ethnically, racially, culturally, regionally, and terms of class and age. There were a few members of the adoption triad present (adoptees, adopters, and biological parents), but the vast majority of folks attending work everyday on the frontlines of child removal, from a young woman who is starting up a reproductive justice center for Black women in Philadelphia, to an anti-racist workshop facilitator at the Peoples’ Institute of New Orleans, and a Native American activist who spoke about the catastrophic effect child removal has had on her community.
This was quite a different demographic than that of 2007, when the majority of participants were either white lesbians considering adoption to grow their families, white adoptive parents, or transracial adoptees (TRAs). Everyone was welcome, of course, but I really, really appreciated the input and expertise the adoptees present brought to the conversation – and in fact, took control of the workshop itself, steering it clear of the usual personal narratives into much more political territory.
But I am getting ahead of myself here.
For one thing, you are probably wondering what the USSF is, exactly – unless you attended, had friends or colleagues who attended, or are otherwise involved in the activities of the American Left. As I said above, the first USSF was held in 2007, in Atlanta, and represented a major breakthrough in grassroots organizing in the U.S. It was the first time such a large gathering of organizers and activists from the American Progressive Left came together under the guise of building a sustained movement for social change – and led by those most oppressed by neo-liberal economic policies (mainly lower-income, people of color). Over 12,000 people attended, which was amazing in itself, since many people thought that you could never get a Left as splintered as ours together to discuss the great justice issues of our time, coherently, and set an agenda of action, to boot.
This initial event, strategically held in the American South, the cradle of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, laid the groundwork for the second forum in Detroit. But the real roots of the USSF stretch way beyond our borders, to the Global South. Indeed, the mechanism that initiated the USSF was the World Social Forum (WSF) .
The first WSF, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001, was primarily organized by laborers there, in response to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “which, since 1971, has fulfilled a strategic role in formulating the thought of those who promote and defend neoliberal policies throughout the world,” (World Social Forum India). Since that time, multiple WSF’s have taken place around the world, as have regional gatherings in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East. For a list of Social Forums happening around the world this year, click here .
The World Social Forum website explains the Forum philosophy and methodology: “The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, to formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. Since the first world encounter in 2001, it has taken the form of a permanent world process seeking and building alternatives to neo-liberal policies. This definition is in its Charter of Principles, the WSF’s guiding document. The World Social Forum is also characterized by plurality and diversity, is non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party. It proposes to facilitate decentralized coordination and networking among organizations engaged in concrete action towards building another world, at any level from the local to the international, but it does not intend to be a body representing world civil society. The World Social Forum is not a group nor an organization.”
The WSF’s slogan “Another World Is Possible,” asks participants to not just formulate responses to the newest global assaults on humanity, but to actually come up with viable and sustainable alternatives to the way the world is currently organized. With this in mind, those working on a variety of issues that often do not intersect are encouraged to do so.
There came a point in all this cross-sectional work that a critical mass of people from the Global South looked to we in the Global North who say we are committed to equity to organize our own Social Forum in the U.S., since so many of the most difficult issues the Global South is grappling with are actually the result of the behavior and policies of our government and corporations. This challenge was the first step towards the 2007 USSF, which organizers defined as “a movement building process. It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the economic and ecological crisis,” (USSF website).
Selecting Detroit as the site of the 2010 USSF fit nicely into this vision. The city is a stark example of the shape of things to come if free-market capitalism is allowed to take precedence over community needs and relationships, and also exemplifies the kind of do-it-yourself, don’t-wait-for-someone-else-to-save-youingenuity that is at the heart of the Forum philosophy. Detroit’s consistently high unemployment, White Flight, decaying infrastructure and urban core, and failing schools are all the result of neoliberalism gone wild in some way, while its flourishing urban garden movement, and dedicated organizing communities inspire those facing similar problems around the country.
As someone who grew up in Ann Arbor, a smallish university-town about 45 minutes west of Detroit, the USSF was an amazing opportunity for me to really experience Detroit for the first time. Sure, our family frequented the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend every year when I was growing up, but Hart Plaza was just about as far in as I got. My perceptions of Detroit were largely formed by the media, and the middle-class friends and classmates I was surrounded with: Abandoned houses, corrupt politicians, rampant crime, and poverty. Detroit was seen as A VERY DANGEROUS PLACE in this context, some place to be avoided, and certainly not visited alone, or God-forbid, alone with a baby, as I did last week. And, to be fair, this is all of this is true in some way. Detroit has major problems that no one can reasonably deny. The issue is that this is only one reality, amongst many others.
Travelling from Cobo Hall to Wayne State University, back to Wayne County Community College (WCCC) on foot or on the bus during the conference, I was amazed by the hustle and bustle of folks all around me – despite boarded up buildings and houses. Trying to get my son and assorted baby paraphanalia on and off the bus was already a complete nightmare, and would have been logistically impossible, were it not for the assistance of fellow passengers, and the drivers themselves. But people were more than eager to help, and clearly adored my son (you don’t see too many infants being carted all over downtown Detroit). All of the faculty and students I encountered at Wayne State and WCCC were clearly in engaged in the business of getting educated, running their farmer’s market, and helping us directionally-challenged attendees find our way around.
Walking down Woodward Avenue during the Opening March, cars were honking at our signs for environmental justice, job equity, and hundreds of other causes, while people we passed on the street looked entertained, and asked us what was going on, and why.
That’s what wins you over about Detroit: No one puts on airs there, in the way that bristles me when I visit cities like New York, DC, Seattle, or Atlanta. Nor did I experience the coldness or overly-friendly-in-order-to-mask-the-fact-that-you-Black-people-scare-me behavior I have become accustomed to, living in the Twin Cities. Everyone is just out there in Detroit, on the street, doing their thing. There doesn’t seem to be room for a whole lot of pretense, because everyone is really just trying to live.
Was the city gritty? Yes. But that grittiness conveyed a deep sense of history and ongoing struggle that I could appreciate. So, that’s all just to say that the chance to get to know Detroit a little, and on a deeper level, the USSF’s approach to place, were huge highlights of the week for me.
It will probably come as no surprise that our workshop on linking child removal in communities of color to larger social justice issues was another highlight of the Forum for me. Collaboration is never easy, but it its rewards pay dividends. Working with Connie, Ian, and Sunny to facilitate a coherent workshop that would be useful to participants in their work and lives was daunting, but I think ultimately successful. We didn’t agree on everything, but came to a consensus on what we most wanted attendees to take away from the session: That adoption and foster care are major social justice issues. All of us have grappled in some way with the all too common idea that the American family is sacrosanct and beyond reproach – as are the institutions that create, define, and destroy them – so we were therefore committed to making sure we politicized them. We knew that we only had two hours, so there wouldn’t be time for much else. In this sense, depth was much more important to us than breadth.
We began by having participants respond to various images of child removal we had hung up around the room. This was a simple Popular Education activity, in which people wrote down whatever came to mind when they viewed each image, not worrying over any response was “right” or “wrong.”
The image below generated the following responses:
“It seems easier to love as children.” “Everyone is happy.” “Her eyes are so trusting.” “And will the brightness of her eyes fade when/if she takes time to think about the implications of ‘missionary’ work on adoption when she’s older?”
For this image, participants wrote:
“Happiness on a child’s face.” “Who is not in the picture?” “Where are their families?” “Do they know any adults who look like them?” and “Children create community in absence of families?”
This image from the Vietnam Babylift, generated these comments:
“War babies.” “Colonialism/imperialism.” “Forced removal.” “Terrorized children.” “Children lost their homes because of the war.” “PSTD normal.” “Whose tank? Whose bombs? Who’s funding? Then who is adopting?” “Old eyes, old story.” “How will the definition of ‘home’ and ‘identity’ change for them?”
Finally, a photo of a suburban-looking white woman, flanked by two young Black boys generated a flurry of discussion:
“White folks – no matter how well-meaning – are unable to provide children of color with what they need to survive in a white supremacist society.” “I agree.” “Where is the black male who created these young boys?” “I wonder what ‘lens’ these children see through?” “Role of white American women in child removal. Lady smile while kids don’t.” “Children finally have a home to go home to.” “Oh God…Reminds me of a friend’s aunt who is making a habit of adopting Ethiopian children. She is white. And liberal. So she doesn’t get her own racism.” “What makes a family. Sticky situation. Children seem to be in a loving home, but at the cost of losing identity.” “Makes me think of Angelina Jolie – WTF?” “Makes me think of Angelina Jolie – WTF?” “Missionaries ‘saving’ poc.” “Note their hands are all in the same position. Whose idea was that, and is that supposed to mean unity?”
As you can see from all of these comments, participants clearly had some familiarity with issues surrounding child welfare and communities of color – and plenty also had an emotional connection to it, as well. This made our time together all the more meaningful, as folks were eager to engage with the problem on a deep level. The photos made it easy for everyone to do so, as we used a few pictures and written responses to initiate discussions on the role that U.S. war and militarism play in opening up “new markets” for international adoption, the ongoing effects of Indian boarding schools on Native communities today, the Evangelical impetus towards adoption, and the underlying narratives that lie at the root of all discourse surrounding child removal.
“I feel like the idea underlying all of this is that poor, women of color are terrible mothers, and should not be allowed to parent,” said one woman. “That’s why all this apparatus is designed to make real. So that, if an environmental crisis like the one in Haiti comes along, or if there’s a war or something, this whole system can just swoop in, and take advantage.”
The rest of the session was taken up by going through, and responding to, a Timeline of Child Removal From Communities of Color, headed up by Ian. I am not going to include sections of the timeline here, as it is still very much a work-in-progress. The timeline is a project that many scholars and adoptees of color have taken on recently, including Jae Ran Kim, Lisa Marie Rollins, and members of the Adoptees of Color Roundtable. AFAAD is interested n creating a collaborative document – something that folks can contribute to online, through Open Source file sharing, not unlike Wikipedia. The issue is, as always, finding funding to do so. Please contact us if you have any leads on financial or human resources we could use to make this a reality, as seeing the sheer visual reality of child removal from communities of color forces us to grapple with how successful these policies have been, and then, hopefully, strategize on realistic interventions we can make in order to make families and communities less vulnerable.
Sunny gave an excellent summary of Andrea Smith’s “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of WhiteSupremacy,” in order to ground and contextualize the discussion during this activity, which was eminently helpful. I, myself, have been mired in the “oppression olympics” paradigm when attempting to organize or even discuss shared oppressions with other adoptees and people of color, so it is very helpful to have a framework to use that acknowledges the destructive and overwhelming power of white supremacy, while simultaneously acknowledging the very distinct ways that Native, Black, Latino, and Asian bodies are racialized in this country, based on our separate histories.
Although I attended, and tried to attend a few workshops and Peoples’ Movement Assemblies (PMAs…and I say try, because carting my son around the festivities was more or less successful, depending on his mood. But he was a trooper!), the one which affected me the most was called “Poverty Is Not Neglect and We Are Not Powerless: Mothers Reclaim Our Children Back From the Child Welfare Industry.” This workshop was organized by Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network, which self-describes as, “self-help, multi-racial action and support groups of mothers, other family members, former social workers, foster parents and supporters in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, working together against the unjust removal of children from their families by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Children are often snatched, not because of abuse or neglect, but because of poverty, sexism and racism. We fight individual cases, build public awareness, educate the media, work to change unjust policies and practices, and challenge discrimination against mothers throughout the system. We are part of a national movement,” (DHS/DCFS GIVE US BACK OUR CHILDREN flyer).
Although Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network put on the session, they invited other women and organizations who are fighting similar battles for their families to the table as well, including The LaStraw, Inc., Family Connection Center, Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor, and ODVAct. This openness was exemplified by the fact that several women from Every Mother Is a Working Mother came to our workshop on child removal, and contributed their thoughts and experiences to the discussion. I can say that I personally also really appreciated the fact that one of their members also watched my son during their session, so that I could participate and get educated.
One of the woman who came to our workshop also asked me to go to the microphone and speak about my experience and activist work as a TRA, at the end. I told her that this was their space, and I wanted to respect that, since I knew that they didn’t have many places to do so and build together, but she said that she thought it was very important for us to know about each other, and share. She was right, of course. Many of the women in the room approached me afterwards, and wanted to get AFAAD’s information, since they didn’t know we existed, and want to keep in touch with folks who are working on the other side of the issue. I have included their contact information below, because this is such a big and important issue, so please contact them yourself, to organize!
Beginning with a short film these women had produced, DHS – Give Us Back Our Children! (and I encourage everyone reading this to contact Every Mother Is a Working Mother, and get yourself a copy and share with friends and colleagues, as it is just $7), the session was hard-hitting, filled with energy, and inspiring.
Women told short but personal stories about how they had regrettably found themselves at the mercy of DHS and its paternalistic case workers, trying over and over again to comply with their unrealistic demands, only to have their children taken away and placed into foster homes, where they were often abused. One woman told the story of her physically abusive husband who almost killed her, and the subsequent DHS interventions, which were too little, too late. After more abuse, and years of threats, her husband finally kidnapped her child, who she has not seen for years. Another woman discussed the repeated harassment she received from DHS, when she called them and asked if they had any programs to help with food and utilities, as she had barely $150 left from her welfare subsidy after paying rent each month. In fact, a key issue that many of these groups are working on is reforming the new welfare rules, which have made it even more difficult for poor mothers to raise their own children.
A commonly heard refrain was, “I asked them [DHS] why they just couldn’t give me the money to pay for my rent and food, so that I could take care of my own child, instead of paying someone else in the foster care of child welfare system to do it?” This idea is further explored in a hard-hitting series the Philadelphia Daily News published earlier this year, featuring some of Every Mother’s members: “Group of mothers and its common foe: DHS and its ‘adversarial’ system,”
“Is home where the heart is? Should poverty and inability to find & keep housing tear mother from child?”
Attending the USSF is a priority for me every three years, as I find that the older I get and the longer I fight various social justice battles, the more important it becomes for me to be inspired. Otherwise, I start to feel completely overwhelmed and cynical. My perspective on the history and reality of social movements – that they are usually a series of crushing defeats, followed by very small gains – starts to become completely unmanageable. Somehow, remembering that it is these gains, no matter their smallness, that alone have the capacity to redeem any semblance of our humanity, becomes next to impossible when I am mired in daily struggle. But being around thousands of activists, organizers, and everyday people, who like myself are just trying to live a self-reflective life that harms as few as possible, reminds me that I am not alone. I begin to believe again that perhaps I really can keep along this path, despite the difficulties and heartaches. I keep coming back to the response of my good friend and mentor Rose Brewer, when I asked how she keeps on going as such a committed and engaged activist, all these years, and in the face of monumental challenges. We were in the midst of the Opening March, slogans and bodies weaving in and out of the small space between and around us. “What other choice is there?” she replied evenly.
I nodded. Exactly. How could I have forgotten?
Shannon Gibney is a 35-year-old domestic Black adoptee activist, writer, and educator. She lives in Minneapolis, where she co-founded an AFAAD chapter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is http://www.shannongibney.net.
To find out more about Sahngnoksoo (SNS), visit http://www.sahngnoksoo.org.
Contact Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network at (215) 848-1120, (323) 276-9833, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Connection Center can be reached at email@example.com.
Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor is at (216) 321-1677, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ODVAct is at (216) 751-7150, or email@example.com.
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!
From the facebook invitation to the event! This looks amazing – when ya’ll coming to SF?
“The Korean Cultural Service NY co-present the exhibition “Adoption: Palimpsest of Identity” with the AHL Foundation, Inc. from August 27th to September 24th, which features the works of six artists: Kate Hers, Jane Jin Kaisen, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoine, Jette Hye Jin Mortensen, Kim Su Theiler, and Maya Weimer. This exhibition is curated by Jeehey Kim. Exhibition goes through -Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 7:00pm
Through video installation and photomontage, the six artists deal with the identity of the adoptee, an identity that is barely discussed in identity politics. The artists demonstrate how the issue of adoption disrupts and disturbs the existing circuits of enunciation of one’s identity. As a palimpsest shows both the overwriting text and the overwritten one beneath at once, the works in this exhibition reveal how one dimension, one nation, one dream, and one world bumps into another. Positing identity as hybrid and fluid, their works transform and challenge the established and fixed order of things.
Collage works of kate hers interrogate the construction of ethnic and cultural narratives in landscape and analyze the mythological power of the Other while engaging tropes of appropriation, allegory, and conceptualism. She is not just interested in a crude depiction or reduction of anti-colonial anti-sexist viewpoints, but rather the questioning and engaging of the complex and layered meanings of appropriation, colonialism and gendered narratives in a global art context. In the re-inscribing of narrative through phantom landscapes, she desires a re-contextualization of meaning through its original form, however she is uncertain whether it is feasible to resist contributing to the spectacle of cultural colonialism. Is it possible to destabilize and disrupt something in which one is an active participant?
In her video work “disadoption”, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoin’s sings a song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with transforming its lyrics into the following: avouerai-je, dis papa/ ce qui cause mon tracas/ tu me dis que mon agence/ d’adoption point ne vous ment/ par la rumeur surprenante que tu dis preoccupante: de deux familles appartenantes/ par le bon sens tu me commandes/ L’annulation de l’adoption/ que cela est ta solution/ a vous disais-je papa/ omma-deul-appa-deul isseulka ? (to tell you, dad/ what is my worry/ you tell em my adoption/ agency is not lying/ by the surprising rumor/ of two families I belong/ by the common sense you order me/ to cancel the adoption/ it’s your solution/ to you, i was telling, daddy/ oma-deul (mothers) appa-deul (fathers) isseulkka (will be)?
Jette Hye Jin Mortensen often focuses on and debate adoption, family, nationalism, stereotypes, racism, and how we construct our identity from these structures through her videos and video-installation. In her video “My Great Grandfather,” she talks about the Danish composer Carl Nielsen as her great grandfather in a split screen with interview and archival footage. In this mockumentary she writes herself as the Danish person “of color” into the national history to mirror cultural complexity. It caused a lot of e-mails and letters with the questions: “Is Carl Nielsen your real, biological great grandfather? “Are you adopted into the Nielsen family?”
In Kim Su Theiler’s work “Hair Watch,” a Korean woman with a short haircut is seen in time lapse over many days. An off screen dialogue reveals that the woman’s hair length starts with the picture the adopted parents used to choose the child, and the end length of hair is the picture of the child taken for her passport so she could be transported to the United States to her new family. An off screen voice asks,” How long were you in the orphanage?” Subject answers,” For as long as it took for my hair to grow from the first picture to the passport picture.”
Maya Weimer’s groundbreaking video installation, “Untitled (K.H., S.H., H.S.),” gives voice to an important, but invisible, side of the adoption industry. Potential interviewees jeopardized their jobs and family statuses by coming forth to discuss their secret experiences and only with the promise of complete anonymity would a handful of women eventually agree to participate. The three women’s voices presented in this installation are in their mid-20s, -30s, and -40s. The formal constraints established in order to realize this project prevented the possibility of producing a traditional documentary. Rather than reinscribing onto these women narratives of victimization, the artist’s intention has been to highlight their resilience within a patriarchal Confucian culture.
Jane Jin Kaisen’s video work “Tracing Trades” chases and traces the history of human trade and trafficking between Korea and Europe, starting with the investigation of the history behind the mysterious “Korean Man” by Peter Paul Rubens. Shedding light upon Korean-European relations, and particularly international adoption, the quest leads to 19th century emigration of Scandinavians to North America, especially to the state of Minnesota. A department of Alien Affairs starts investigating how the first East Asians came to Scandinavia. In their search, Denmark’s prime tourist attraction, “Tivoli” keeps appearing in historical documents. Following these trades, they begin to look for traces that could help explain Scandinavia’s colonial history, repression, and worship of certain exotic elements.”
Whew! Summers here – grades are done. I’m in full writing mode for my dissertation. Things are moving forward here at A Birth Project. Just wanna check in on my bi-monthly update. Just a note, these bi-monthlys will only be happening while I’m trying to finish my writing. Then its back FULL steam ahead!
Here’s some updates.
Good article yesterday in the NYT’s. De-emphasis on Race in Adoption is Criticized.
I just finished watching an amazing film, The Official Story (La Historia oficia) . Its a film from 1985 directed by Luis Puenzo. This film totally caught me off guard by the intricate ways the filmmaker brought the politics of Argentina’s military dictatorship of the 1970s to the forefront and focused on how children are always the one’s who pay for the crimes of war. I found this film SO connected to the ways in which I think the U.S. continues to wage war on its communities of color and then removes their children from them calling it in ‘the best interest of the child.’ There were so many amazing scenes about denial of family, secrecy and lies in adoption and how the labor of poor women’s bodies continues to be used to fulfill the monied populations desires. In other words, how rich folks get to take poor folks children in that same overused paternalistic way that has happened in all colonialist histories. netflix this people!
I’m also in the process of developing a 6 week young black TRA men’s support group. I’m so tired of watching these young men reach adolescence and suddenly they become the site of all their parents fears. They are tall, black, becoming sexual, becoming young men, negotiating race and identity – and parents are now, suddenly afraid – are now concerned about ‘control’ and violence. Im gagging. I cant take it. So im developing a program for support. Any ideas or funding places?
I’m presenting June 13th at the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival in LA. If you are in the area, or know people in the area – please pass the info on! My presentation will focus on mixed-race organizations and the ways in which transracial adoptees have been embraced by these organizations. Its a good thing, but my presentation pushes us to critique the places where TRA’s issues diverge in very real and important ways from mixed race identity and argues that there are many moments where adoption issues change the way a mixed race identity is experienced. Come say hi!
Of course the planning for the first ever AFAAD mini-gathering in Oakland the weekend of November 7-9, 2008 continues with a vengence! WooHoo! Please pass the word and contact me for details!
Oh Lord – 90210 has returned… and has a black character. Um – a black ADOPTEE character. I’m already prepared for the worst storylines ever. (Sorry Tristan, Im not hatin on you, Im hatin on the show) The cracked out black mother or father coming out of the woodworks to soil a perfect white landscape, the inevitable search for roots or black identity that ends in destruction. What im most irritated by is the desire to have a black character that will of course, equate diversity, but the total unwillingness to have a black FAMILY. are you fucking kidding me? Talk about erasure hidden in liberal discourse. (vomit sounds here). I’ll be watching 90210. Be Careful.
AFAAD got some prop’s in the SF Chronicle this week! yay! Reyhan Harmanci writes an alternative reading of the film Juno in her article, “Some not smiling over Juno’s sarcasm on China”.
San Rafael real estate agent Lo Mei Seh was shocked when she saw a theatrical trailer for the hit movie “Juno” in December. In one scene, the title character sarcastically tells the rich suburban couple hoping to adopt her unborn child, “You shoulda gone to China. You know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those T-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.”
Seh, the mother of two adopted Chinese girls, noticed a young Asian girl sitting behind her getting noticeably upset and muttering, “That’s so mean and unfair.”
“I calmed myself down, saying these things are just going to happen, and as a parent I have to teach my children to be strong,” she says. But after that particular scene was shown on televised award shows like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards, she became angry all over again.
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.
If you live in the Bay Area!! - Shameless Plug to come see Ungrateful Daughter!
Upcoming Performances – 2007
Saturday July 7, 8pm
Sunday July 8, 4pm
Friday July 13, 8pm
Saturday July 14, 8pm
Sunday July 15, 4pm
Sister Bowman Theatre in West Oakland inside the Prescott Joseph Center
920 Peralta St (at 9th and Peralta, near west oakland BART)
OUTDOOR theater – so dress warm , bring a blanket and a flask. just kidding. but not about the blankets.
Email me for more info!
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.
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.)
This has to be a joke. Or maybe it is a publicity stunt or something. Or maybe I’m seeing things. But all I know is that my stomach hurts when I see shit like this.
http://buyusababy dot blogspot.com — “Buy Us A Baby” (update: I removed this link so they do not get more hits from me)
But – I have to pose a few questions. Let me be clear that I am in NO way defending this site. What I want to point to is the very real economic forces that a site like this reveals. It is well known that adoption is expensive, it is documented that there are racial disparities within the grid of what children are ‘more desirable’. So does a site like this simply ‘put on blast’ the very real ways that adoption, the adoption and foster care industry IS about money?
The comments on the site are overwhelmingly negative, and I agree with most all of them, but what about the people who made the site? They are probably saying to themselves, “well, I want a baby – a baby costs money – I dont have any money – how can I get some money to get a baby?” Again, I dont like the language the direct ‘bottom line discourse that says ‘purchase’, ‘buy’, ‘money’, but does it take away from the reality that on many levels children have become commodities?
This is the deeper question I would ask us to ponder. What about the ways in which the social welfare system is set up, (public or private) depends upon numbers? Not to mention, like most exploitative economic systems, the suffering, trauma and deliberate dismissal of the human condition (birth mothers, children) that is also a major aspect.
So yes, the site, the people, the entire language behind it is f*cked up, but we have to push harder to think about the entire ideology behind it that would allow these folks to think that puttin it out there to begin with is in any way acceptable.
I want to make a small parallel here to my relationship with hiphop. One of the things that we talk about in African diaspora studies are the ways that hiphop music, ideology and visual discourses are directly linked to the circumstances of violence, poverty and continued racist conditions that much of it emerges from. I could, as an academic who has worked through these problems over and over – start saying, “well, at some point, those people need to take responsibility for what they are saying, what they are producing, etc. However, it doesnt change the fact that today the messages continue to be vocalized, the same detailed “news broadcast” that late 1970′s/ early 1980′s gangsta rap out of LA vocalized. Something is still wrong, something still stinks, something violent and oppressive is still continuing to have a very material consequence on large parts of our black communities, and we cant continue to act like the messages being broadcast dont have meaning in a larger context of global violence, disrespect for human life and all about money and profits.
UPDATE 12:53 am: These idiots. Take another look at the site. They have disabled comments and removed what was a huge response of negative comments that was visible to the public! I want to encourage any of you who wrote comments or want to – to continue to send them email to let them know that this is SO hurtful and wrong! Jezuz people. Additionally, here is contact information for PayPal so we can let them know they are brokering babies.
Attn: Legal Department
2211 N 1st Street
San Jose, CA 95131
Attn: Legal Department
2145 Hamilton Avenue
San Jose, California 95125
Yay! Another great looking resource that includes our queer brotha’s and sista’s from all walks of life. Please have a look see and support!
Well Dear Readers,
Its been an amazing run so far at A Birth Project and I just want to take a moment to thank all of you who have become regular readers, commenters and colleagues! Its been fun, crazy, emotional and exciting since I created a space to ‘obsess’ about my life as a TRA, my search and reunion process, my childhood as an adoptee, my adult life as a black woman.
I spent a bit of yesterday re-reading my blog from the early entries in July 2005, to later entries in this past year. I hope that I can continue to contribute something valuable to this conversation about the social and economic politics of race and adoption. Its become quite a big part of my life in a way that I never expected. I’ll be doing speaking engagements and performances all this year, so I look forward to meeting those adoptees who are struggling with what ‘this all means’. I think the best thing that I have learned in the past year is that this process of understanding how much adoption has really impacted my life is a forever process.
I forgot to tell you all that I was on the radio yesterday for a show in Seattle, WA. The show was on transracial adoption and black identity. It was pretty cool, on 1150AM from 1-2 pm on a show called Afrigenesis. I wish they had archives online so you could hear the show, but as soon as I get the CD copy of the recording I’ll put it up!
I’ve got some fun things planned this year for ABP – whew – its gonna be a busy one! Look for more of the video blogs on hair, more about my search and reunion process, and of course, look for Ungrateful Daughter at a performance space near you!
I’m sure by now you all heard about Oprah opening a new school for girls in South Africa. Its a great thing to open educational institutions and I dont have issues with her not opening up a school in the U.S. However, I DO have issues with her response to the question of why she didnt open up a school in the U.S. Oprah said:
“I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there,” she says. “If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”
Ummmm.. I just want to say to Oprah – can you come to West Oakland and ask the students in our schools what they need? I’m betting it aint Ipods, tennishoes or those uniforms she claims were so important to ‘her girls’. How about freakin books ms. thang? How about money for art and music teachers? How about clean bathrooms and some beauty in our hallways? How about assisting in the payment of teachers salaries or utilizing your power to advocate for teachers to get paid more? or how about just reconsidering your position and ability to talk about ‘inner city’ kids all together, when it is clear that your economic distance from them clouds your ability to see the truth of their needs.
I mean- really.
Last night I went to the west coast book launch of “Outsider’s Within”. Yay! Whoo Hoo!! I don’t have to repeat how important this book is to adoptee voices and how much you need to pick this book up if you are interested at all in TRA lives, politics and stories.
In attendance were what I estimate to be over about 150 folks, coming out to support and to be part of the discussion. The editors who were there were Julia Chinyere Oparah and Jan Jeong Trenka, and contributors to the book Gregory Choy, Ellen Barry, and Kimberly Fardy and Sandy White Hawk.
The first speaker was Jane Jeong Trenkawho spoke of the ways in which adoptees are utilizing the internet to make connections with our TRA familia and to make space for healing. She gave us a couple stats that tripped me out and that I didn’t remember reading from the book. First, that 1 in 10 Koreans in the U.S are adoptees. 1 in freaking 10 ok? I mean, damn people. Second, that over 40K Chinese girls have been adopted in the last 5 years. These stats didn’t surprise me, but hearing them aloud caught me off guard and actually – pissed me off and began what for me was an emotional rollercoaster of a night. Jane spoke of reproductive justice and the import of us finding ways to understand that empowering a woman / birth family to find ways to raise their own children is one place to look to think about this diaspora that is marked by the very real fact that it is entirely a migration of children. (more on this in book launch blog #2)
I’m feeling like I’m a little girl, sitting in front of a crowd who doesn’t know who I am, but somehow I am completely naked, forced to hear about myself, trying to hold back tears, trying not to cry out loud, stand up and scream “me too!, me too! they took me away too!”. What is healing? is this what healing is? I cant stand it. Sandy White Hawk in a short new film about her work spoke of ripping the bandages off our wounds so they can heal – I didn’t even remember putting the bandage on, it’s a part of my skin, its melded into me and now its come open and I’m bleeding all over the floor, help me make it stop! I cant breathe, I gotta get out of here, what made me freakin sit in the middle of the crowd, I know better.
Julia Chinyere Oparah spoke of the difficulty of adoptees asking for help, and this totally resonated with me, (along with about thousand other things last night) and gave us specific things to ponder, much like the radio interview, made direct connections for the audience between structural, systemic issues in the national and international social welfare system, and called for discussions around adoption to move beyond the simple “is it right or is it wrong” debate. Julia called upon these discussions to consider deeply why there are so many children for adoption to begin with. What are the circumstances that create thousands of black children in the U.S. to be “without families”? What is wrong with a discussion that ignores these realities? Julia is sharp and asks those who want to simplify TRA and IA debates to push themselves.
After Julia, Jamilah Bradshaw – sang an amazing – powerful rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption song”.
Why are they singing and doing praise songs? what is she singing? Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”? what does that have to do with adoption? isn’t this supposed to be a book launch? I’ve never heard it quite like this before – redemption- is that what this is? a redemptive act, or as Jane and Julia say a ‘corrective action’ – redemption. I’ve been redeemed, sounds like church (snort), is she going to stop? I’m trying to network here 2nite, trying to share information about the blog about the show, I don’t need this, don’t cry, don’t cry – wait is my period coming? maybe that’s what this is, I’m just PMSing! where the fuck is that tissue, I cant breathe. all I ever heard.. redemption song. all I ever heard…
Gregory Choy read a poem by Bryan Thao Worra. After which, Ellen Barry made direct connects between the PIC, adoption and the social welfare system reminding us how class factors directly into the foster care system and the high percentages of removal of children from homes of impoverished women and from women of color. As she is speaking I am reminded of a blog entry I began a long time ago but haven’t finished. I try to get at what is it about termination of rights that lends itself to re-affirming the paternalistic, racist and imperialistic notions of who can take care of whose children? What is it about ownership that is missing from this conversation. for me ownership resonates too deeply with the slave trade. My papers, the signatures to claim me. My naming. Black bodies, branding and naming. “Heal this brand burned into my side, maybe I should instead, violate all the boundaries/ of respect for your elders / obey your parents/ love your enemy and simply - SCREAM. . . ”
Kimberly Fardy came to the mic next. She read from her piece in the anthology, and read so powerfully it was like I hadn’t read the piece twice before I walked in the room. Her story of isolation in white suburbia, acting out, speaking out, responding to her surroundings, fighting for survival finally kicks my anger and pain into overdrive and I know I’m not going to make it through this evening without screaming at someone.
Its not just about you, this night isn’t about you, its about sharing and celebration that people are going to understand something about you they never have before. you are not alone, you are not alone. then why do I feel so scared? why cant I speak?
Sandy White Hawk finishes out the book launch evening with the screening of an excerpt from a film/newstory about her work in Native communities assisting adult adoptees in returning “home” . (look for book launch blog #2 for my thoughts on this concept of home). Sandy speaks of her work as providing a place to mourn and heal from the deep scars that are left on our bodies from adoption, theft, giving away and the shame and guilt that surrounds this experience. Both her and Jane speak of shame of the unknown and I am reminded of the yet another blog entry I am writing (to also be an academic paper) about that shit film “Secrets and Lies” that won all kinds of awards for using a black woman’s body to mediate white pain, desire and shame.
Yeah I said it.
ok, I need time to mourn, she says, time to cry for my loss? right now? right here? you don’t want that, because if I start crying here – im gonna scream so loud they will call an ambulance, they will wonder why there is a woman outside the building tearing her hair, her clothes. a woman looking like she has lost everything, like she is crazy. like I am crazy. I feel crazy. I cant talk to my friends right now, I don’t want to even look at my roommate, I cant go to my partners house. I just need to get out of here, I wish I had enough money I would leave right now and go to Vegas. I could drive right now. I wish I could get out of here and just go where no one knows who I am. when is the time to mourn? and how can I mourn what is unknown?
After the program, I had the exciting chance to meet Jane Jeong Trenka whose book, The Language of Blood has for many of us TRA’s been the first memoir to speak directly to our experiences. I was overwhelmed. Poor Jane – I didn’t even get a chance to tell her how much her work meant to me, although she can read on my blog an earlier post. I wanted to invite her to my show and to just chat and vibe – Unfortunately for her, she was the first person I walked up to at the end of the program and I busted into tears like a total ASS. I felt like I was – well, one of the women who comes up to me after MY shows, crying, and telling me how much my story spoke to their lives and experiences. But I know the difficulty of trying to handle someone breaking down in front of you, some total stranger who you somehow have a connection to, but you aren’t responsible for her pain and need. Its like, what are you really supposed to do with that? It was a little embarrassing for me, but maybe it wasn’t so bad, but at least I know she wont forget me. ha! dude – Jane, I promise I’ll be normal next time.
After collecting myself – I spoke at length with Kimberly Fardy who expressed interest in AAAD (Adult Adoptees of the African Diaspora), and we connected on the touch point that how rare and precious it is that we have a space that is all about us. For Kimberly, this night was the first place she has been in the presence of so many TRA”s, talking about TRA issues and being a voice that is validated and heard. Last night was only my 3rd time being in a space that was all about me. TRA camp, a panel I did on TRA experiences and then – last night. THIS absence of space and time is the reason why AAAD needs to exist. This is bullshit. Its like the first time I took a black studies class at university, why didn’t anyone tell me this shit before? Why am I 36 and JUST NOW finding people like me? just now creating a community from this thing that we have to attempt to unravel. I don’t understand!
I leave the student union and barely make it to my car where I’m talking on the phone to my partner about the energy I’m feeling. I don’t speak of the anger and pain I am feeling. I’m pissed I didn’t bring him, he needs to know this, know that I’m not crazy, know that right now something is happening to me, something big and its changing me and that its gonna have reverberations on us.
don’t cry, don’t cry, hold it in. you’re a professional, you are a scholar, you know how to distance yourself so you can communicate difficult ideas. I don’t think I can do this. Its too intimate, its too much. the bandage refuses to disconnect from the recent scab and my entire body is pain, my entire ride home is tears and maybe I need a break from all this talking about being abandoned, I’m startin to believe this crap – something is wrong with me, why am I feeling this way after 36 years of being fine with my adoption. I’m fine. I’ve always been fine, healthy, dealing with it creatively . why now, why today, why do I just now feel – broken?
more on the book launch soon.
I’m gonna be on the radio on monday November 6th from 1-2pm on KPFA Berkeley – 94.1 FM on their Women’s Magazine. The show is about transracial adoption and I’ll be featured on the hour alongside interviews with other TRA’s Julia Chinyere Oparah and Sandra White Hawk.
If you arent in the area – you can click the link above and listen online! Cool! I’ll be doin an excerpt from the show, so if you havent seen it you can hear it! (UPDATE: If you missed the original airing time- the archived version of the show is here)
The interview was good, but always when I do these things I think of a million things I could have said when I’m done. I’d love to hear your comments, questions and stuff when its all over! Fun!
“In recognition of National Adoption Month, KPFA Radio’s Women’s Magazine will feature the voices of women of color adoptees. We will speak to two adoptee’s from the new anthology “Outsider Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption” co-editor Julia Chinyere Oparah and contributor Sandra White Hawk about this ground breaking anthology which for the first time brings together the voices transracial adoptees, examines their experiences and the colonial systems that (re)produce the adoption industry . We will also hear the voice and work of poet and performance artist Lisa Marie Rollins, a piece from her one woman solo about being transracially adopted “Ungrateful Daughter.” Finally a commentary by Elizabeth Creely on Prop 73 the anti-choice proposition on the ballot november 7th in California. Monday from 1-2pm on KPFA at 94.1 FM or on the web at http://www.kpfa.org.”;
sittin a circle
having new sisters look at my non-ID
for more than one minute
without handing it back.
This article can be found here.
US parents try to ‘unadopt’ son
An American couple are reportedly trying to “unadopt” their 16-year-old son, saying the state did not tell them of his disturbing history of abuse.
According to the Washington Post, Helen and James Briggs adopted the boy six years ago, after Mrs Briggs – a foster mother – fell in love with him.
But in 2003 the boy, who cannot be named, sexually abused a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. Mrs Briggs said it was only then that she discovered his troubled past. The newspaper said confidential files revealed that the boy’s biological parents, who were alcohol and drug addicts, had physically abused him to the extent that his brain stem was damaged – hindering his ability to gauge the passage of time. The files also suggested that he had been sexually abused.
The boy had been in and out of five foster homes since he was 16 months old, in psychiatric institutions seven times and diagnosed as possibly psychotically bipolar. Mrs Briggs said she had not been told any of those details before she adopted him. “They just told me he was hyperactive,” she told the Washington Post. Under Virginia policy, caseworkers must provide the full facts about a child to adoptive parents. State child welfare officials have not commented on the case, due to confidentiality. But the newspaper claims some caseworkers do not believe that Mrs Briggs was uninformed.
A Fairfax County court has allowed Mrs Briggs to relinquish custody of the boy, but she is still bound to pay $427 a month in child support and cover the court costs when a judge makes a decision on his future. Mrs Briggs, 57, could have filed a “wrongful adoption” lawsuit within two years of discovering the boy’s true history, but failed to. She had wanted to bring the boy home after his sex offender treatment, following the case in 2003. But then psychologists labelled him a sexual predator, meaning she would have to give up being a foster parent, which she sees as her livelihood, and would no longer be able to allow her three grandchildren in the house or keep a young girl she had fostered from birth.
Mrs Briggs decided to dissolve the adoption, which requires the consent of the boy, who is now back in foster care. But so far he has refused. She is said to be asking politicians to help her find a way out.
“At first blush, you think ‘What, you’re trying to give up your kid?’”, Virginia politician David Albo told the Washington Post. “Then you find out this lady has received awards for all the foster work she’s done. And that she never would have adopted the boy and put other children in danger if she had had the information that was withheld from her.”
hmmmm. those kids with that bad blood. send that kid back.
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.
Ontario's adoption records bill passes in voteCTV.ca News Staff Ontario has passed a controversial bill to open up adoption records that have been sealed for almost 80 years. With the support of the New Democrats, the governing Liberals' Adoption Information Disclosure Act passed Tuesday afternoon by a wide margin. The Opposition Conservatives opposed the legislation. Ontario has been trying to pass adoption legislation for more than a decade, but previous bills have always been stalled. The province now joins British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland, which have already unsealed their adoption records. Those who have fought for years to have the records opened say it will help adoptees and birth parents reunite.
But those who didn't want the records opened say opening the records will violate their right to privacy. The province's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, told CTV's Canada AM earlier this year that she was fine with the bill applying to adoptions in the future, but believed that birth parents in the past who had an understanding of complete privacy should be protected. She fears that the new law will destroy the confidentiality of parents who don't want to be found. Premier Dalton McGuinty stresses the legislation allows people to maintain their privacy should they not want to be contacted. Parents and children, he said, can stipulate that their records be kept sealed and that they not be contacted — provided they can prove to a tribunal that unsealing the records would cause them harm. "We're saying to people, 'You've got a right to know but you don't have the right to a relationship,''' McGuinty told the Canadian Press. "We're confident we've got it right."
Others in favour of open records say such a system will be an improvement on Ontario's current system, the Adoption Disclosure Register. The Register allows adoptees over 18 or adoptive arents to register that they would like to find the birth parents. If the birth parent also registers, the two sides are put into contact. Many have complained that the register system takes too long and that adoptees should have direct access to records. Ontario Social Services Minister Sandra patello notes that the law has provisions so that people can ask not to be contacted. But others are not satisfied, noting that their identities would still be revealed, whether or not they were contacted. The provincial Conservatives didn't like the bill because it failed to include a provision that would allow birth parents to veto disclosure of their records. They note that other provinces that have unsealed their records have included the option of keeping certain records sealed.
Ontario's legislation won't be enacted for another 18 months while the province launches an advertising campaign across Canada and the northeastern United States to inform those impacted by the changes.
There's a new free downloadable resource for anyone searching for 'lost' people.
FREE!!! You can download a copy so you can look at it any time. It's full of search strategies, tips, and 'how-to's' to help you with your search.
It seems that this thread that I am on is becoming a theme for my blog right now.
On one of the adoption lists that I'm on, someone who has no idea how right on they are sent the link I added to the right Exiled Mothers. Its interesting to me because i know that in my situation, the birth father didnt want to sign the relinquishment papers, and it took over a year for my parents to get the final decree because of this. What does this mean when we think about the struggles and lies that state agencies tell birth parents? What did they tell him to get him to sign?
In DIRECT relationship to the comment Christopher B. wrote on the last post – this quote was on the Exiled Mothers website.
What does the Bible say about adoption?
"THE WICKED SNATCH FATHERLESS CHILDREN FROM THEIR MOTHER'S BREASTS, AND TAKE A POOR MAN'S BABY AS A PLEDGE BEFORE THEY WILL LOAN HIM ANY MONEY OR GRAIN" –Job 24:9–
I have much more to say about this -especially since I'm not a religious person – but i gotta get to work.