Transracial Adoption from one black girl’s perspective

Black/African TRA’s

Fall Enters In

Its been a long, cold and busy busy summer. I just came back from visiting my parents in WA state and it was warmer up there than it has been in the Bay Area all spring and summer! I just hope we don’t skip what is usually a warm fall for us and head straight into the rainy winter season.

I’m in full, unabashed production and promotion mode for the October 6, 7 & 8th shows of “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black girl’s story of being adopted into a White family… that aren’t celebrities” at La Pena Cultural Center here in Berkeley. I’m thrilled that for the first time, other than excerpts of the show, I’ll be performing the entire piece for my East Bay family. I also have a history of producing work at La Pena, so I’m doubly excited that they believed in my work enough to commission and fund the piece to help me get it up.

There’s gonna be stage, light and sound design – yeeee! I’m continuing my collaboration with local activist and visual artist Isaac Ontiveros for the further development of the multi-media aspects of the show and also with the talented dancer/movement artist Colleen “Coke” Nakamoto on choreography. There so much more, but ultimately, I just hope you all come out and check the full, finished piece. I hope this will be one of the final iterations before I do a full run in 2012 and head to festivals around the globe. Please let people know and buy your tickets here!!

What else is up? Well, its that time of year when AFAAD is in full swing planning mode for the Fourth Annual Gathering, November 11,12 &13th this year at the 2100 Building in Seattle, WA! For all of my supporters, all of you parents of black, brown and multiracial children, we continue to develop this organization for your child! and we continue to do this as an all volunteer board. Please spread the word to any Black/Multiracial/African/Caribbean – adoptee of African descent over 18 that you know and tell them to join us in Seattle!! Here is the Call for Sessions, so people can submit panel or discussion ideas and also so potential participants can understand the depth of the weekend! Finally, here is the full information about this year’s Gathering. Don’t forget, if you know any families or organizations in Seattle that support adoptive families and foster care alumni – let them know about our Education Event that is open to EVERYONE on Saturday night, November 12th!

In addition to spreading the word – WE NEED YOUR FUNDING SUPPORT!! Please, please DONATE TO THE FOURTH ANNUAL GATHERING! The only way we are able to continue our work is through generous donations from people like you. We need at least $15,000.00 to cover basic expenses, and what is especially important for this year, to cover special guest speaker travel, hotel and honorarium fees, to keep our Public Education event low cost and accessible to everyone in the adoption triad, and to provide scholarships to at least two Foster Care Alumni who otherwise would be unable to make it to join us and have access to the network and the activist space of the weekend. We have 28 days! Please help us spread the word.

Crazy busy my friends. School has started, teaching, students, academic work as well as balancing my creative work. You know how artists do. I have two or three other creative projects in the works and all I will say about that is one is adoption related and the rest, thankfully, are not! In academia, we call it “racial fatigue”, I think we adoptee writers, activists, scholars need to come up with the right phrase for us. “Adoption fatigue”? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my personal life is part of my professional life, and its great, but its also very tiring. I look forward to the weekend of the AFAAD Gathering where we will spend time talking together about being and adoptee or foster care alumni and being a professional and ensuring we are engaging in ‘self-care’, so we don’t burn out.

What seems contrary to what I just wrote, (ha!) I recently noticed that my subscribers to the blog have increased. I’m so excited about this – welcome to the blog. I look forward to engaging in conversation with you and answering questions! I’m here as a resource for parents as well as for my fellow adopted folks.

Finally, I have a special gift for the first 10 people who donate $50.00 or more to the AFAAD Gathering Campaign! I’ve recently finished a writing project that I want to share with folks who support AFAAD, its a secret, so you will be privileged to it before anyone! Donate, and I will get it to you in the mail asap!!


Dont Forget! AFAAD 3rd Annual Mini Gathering / Screening of “Off and Running”

AFAAD’s 3rd Annual Gathering (Mini)
Saturday November 13th, 2010.
Hosted by Georgia State University
in Atlanta, GA

Information:
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

When:

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.

Where:
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!


Women’s Magazine Radio Interview & US Social Forum Updates

I was honored to be on KPFK Berkeley’s Women’s Magazine for the second time talking about transracial adoption and about this current run of the “Ungrateful Daughter” show.

Please check it out and have a listen!

Also want to let you all know that AFAAD is collaborating with other adoptees of color and going to the United States Social Forum and presenting! Its very exciting. The workshop title is, “Where have all our children gone? Linking child removal from communities of color to larger social justice movements” and is going to be on Thursday, June 24th, 2010. 10:00am – 12:00pm, at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel: WB3.

AFAAD member, and MN AFAAD chapter co-founderShannon Gibney will be writing us up a report from the USSF on our activities there

Harlow’s Monkey hipped us to another adoption related panel discussion, “Poverty Is Not Neglect & We Are Not Powerless: Mothers reclaim Our Children Back from the Child Welfare Industry” that will be on Wednesday, June 23rd, 10:00am – 12:00pm.


I’m on CNN with Don Lemon!

Yesterday morning I got a call from CNN to participate in a panel commenting on transracial adoption, race and of course, Sandra Bullock. As a rule, I stay out of conversations that center around celebrities or that would seem to be looking at or critiquing one person’s life personally. However, they ensured me I wouldn’t be commenting about her directly, but was asked to come on as a scholar to comment on the overall climate in the web/ blogisphere. Supposedly everyone is all a ‘twitter’ and blogs are blowing up with comments from everyone who has something to say about her adoption of a black child. I had no idea people would care so much and also chose not to even really read anything around it, do you know why?

For many of us scholars who are adoptees / fostercare alumni, the questions that are raised by SB adoption, and that were asked in this interview / panel were the same questions people have been asking over and over since transracial adoption became more of a public issue politically and racially during the 50’s when the Korean War adoptions began and the 1970’s when the Vietnamese Baby Lifts happened. So for us, So Sandra Bullock is like one tiny bump in a long history of black and brown children being adopted by white families. The issues remain the same except now we have moved to a place where we aren’t only concerned with domestic adoption but with the connections between child exploitation, paper orphaning, continued resistance to family preservation, devaluation of families of color and the entire economic market of children of color that continues to exploit unwed mothers who if they had the economic means, societal approval and support, would otherwise keep their children.

So regarding Sandra, its not really about her or her choices. Its unfortunate they have to be all over the media, but for us, its about an entire history and continue replication of a specific narrative around adoption and race and one that usually never includes adult adoptee researchers. So first, I have to hand it to CNN for taking the leap on putting someone, specifically an adoptee, who is a researcher and scholar on adoption issues who actually knows what they are talking about on their programming.

So. . . back to me. :) Personally, the whole day was super surreal, but I had a great time. I had my first ‘superstar’ moment when CNN ‘sent a car’ to pick me up. I actually found this incredibly important because everything happened so quickly, I really needed the time from my house to the studio in SF to go over notes, focus and stop giggling with excitement with my other AFAAD board member, Lisa Walker, who went with me for moral and technical support.

Talk back:

First, I couldn’t see either Don or Wendy in while I was set up in the satellite room, so I had no idea what Wendy looked like. I don’t have cable, so I don’t even watch CNN, so I had no sense of what they were putting on screen while any of us were talking. Overall, I’m pleased with how it went down, I was nervous but it felt great when I was done. yay!

For the most part, I will let the video speak for itself. My only overall comment is that I think its incredibly important for us to recognize the distinctions between mixed race biological children who are raised by a white parent and transracially adopted children of color raised in white families. As much as adoptive parents want to act like race doesn’t matter, sometimes they want to forget that adoption matters just as much.

Certainly for the mixed race person or adoptee, issues of struggling with the whiteness of your parent, the privilege of your parent who doesn’t want to recognize you as a person of color is similar. But what people forget is how the negotiation of two family histories is always part of the adoptee history, whether or not that adoptee acknowledges it or not or has the support from their family to explore issues what it might be like to think about a connection to a birth family and how that connection changes the parent – child relationship. (its not a good or bad change, its just a shift thats important to recognize.) In other words, a mixed race person with a white mother IS connected to that mother in a way where they can see their origins, their heritage, their family history as DIRECTLY connected to them. In a TRA family where the parent or parents are white, that connection is NOT there. Its there because of shared memories, its there because of a shared history since the adoptive relationship began, but not because the adoptee can look at the family and say, oh, i look like Aunt Edna, my nose is my mothers, I look like my brother, or I understand how great grandpa came over on the Mayflower and that’s a part of me. For and adoptee, that part is missing. There is no mirror of recognition in the faces of our families, or a history that spans back generation. Imagine how powerful it was for me to find out after 40 years that on the Filipino side of my family my grandfather came from the Philippines to work in the fields in Hawaii, and how amazing it was to find out that on my Black side of the family had a few active Black Panthers. Two tiny details that have given a kind of grounding to place my feet in. I am from somewhere.

Finally, I’m concerned about Ms. Walsh’s comment regarding her and her daughters being a ‘welcome racial curiosity’. Its this kind of language that forces me to remind parents of children of color that what is cool for you, is certainly NOT always cool for your kids. You may get off walking down the street with your beautiful exotic mixed race kid, who gets stares and comments. But how exactly do you think your child feels about being on display, about being stared at, about having people think that you dont really belong to your family. This is where the connection between mixed race children and adoptees DOES cross. Its not either or. Try to hold both at the same time folks.

Please comment and share. I’d love to get your thoughts on Don, Wendy and I. Lets talk folks!

What a great day. oh and to my OAKLAND folks. dudes, I’m SOOORRRY okay? I was looking at the reflection of myself in the screen with the picture of the GG Bridge behind me and SF just came out, I love and REP Oakland folks!! lol!


Me on the Radio!

I was interviewed on Monday by Gus T Renegade from C.O.W.S. blogtalk radio. Well, maybe it was more me just talking my ass off, but I look forward to your comments. In this podcast interview, I talk a bit about my childhood, my own development of my black identity, the development of AFAAD, transracial adoption as a global phenomenon, the issue of adoption of children out of Haiti and its position in the history of white movement of children of color during times of war and disaster.

Here’s the link to the video sketch i was talking about around 35:40.

Please download the interview here, check it out and leave me comments and questions here.

and by the way, here’s another one I’ve done.. in case you wanna hear this too. :)

Me on NPR in 2007 after the Chad child trafficking scandal.


Haiti, Adoption and Same ol Story

I’m working on a longer post that will clarify my thoughts and my position on the rising number of Haitian children in need after the disaster in Haiti. AFAAD is also planning to release a statement soon.

Overall, I have to say, what’s happening for me is that the rhetoric of United States is reflective of the rhetoric they spouted during “Operation Baby Lift” in the Vietnam War. Its troubling and frightening, and its the same old story about the colonialist paternalism that appears whenever the US thinks they understand what a country and black people need better than the country knows themselves.

I continue to ask. Why is removal the only answer? I want to issue a direct challenge to the ‘good intentioned’, monied, Christian, white folks who are lusting after the “new crop” of Haitian disaster orphans.
Can you please, sit an rethink, can you TRY to re-imagine the discourse of ‘orphan’, ‘savior’ and ‘adoption’? Can you think of alternatives that can address the immediate and dire needs of these children besides removing them from their country & culture. What about utilizing your adoption fee to rebuilding infrastructure of the country? or one town? or support existing organizations IN the country that support keeping families & communities together? Removal is not always the answer!

My colleague and adoptee activist, Outlandish – has written a post that reflects my deep feelings about the language of ownership that is already being thrown around, that is a language of potential adoptive parents who are only concerned with their desire to have a child, and not with the trauma of separation and loss.

Whites Make Pact With God, Expedite Haitian Adoptions”

—————
Organizations I know and have checked out to donate to:

Haiti Soliel and
Partners in Health

another video explaining Operation Babylift.


Non-Profit Support Needed!! Black Adoptee and Foster Care Organization

Call for Volunteers – Please pass on to students or other folks you know would be interested in our work!

AFAAD — Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora is looking for qualified volunteers to work with our organization. We are looking for two interns who will work collaboratively with the existing board and founding members, as well as the larger community to assist with our annual projects.

afaad_smAbout AFAAD: AFAAD is an adoptee and foster care alumni led organization that connects, supports, and advocates for the needs of the African diasporic adoption and foster care community on a global level through community outreach, legislative advocacy, research, and social gatherings.
AFAAD believes that providing connections for and creating space to make visible the adoption and foster community in Black/ African diasporic cultures worldwide will give support to those who otherwise remain isolated in their experiences. Another of AFAAD objectives is to ensure that conversations around adoption in both academia and in populate culture progress in a way that include contributions by adult adoptees. We support those who are conducting cutting-edge research, restructuring child welfare laws and policies, and creating new artwork, performance and films that reflect our unique experiences and perspectives. We place race, culture and connection at the forefront of our stories. We are committed to voicing a powerful message about kinship, family, race, survival, and global black identities.

===========
Volunteer Position Commitment
5 -10 hours a week
July – Nov 2009
Location: Oakland, CA (but MN and ATL positions soon!!)

what we need:
– marketing and communication support (website, twitter, email lists, blog)
– newsletter development and editing
– website development support
– Nov 2009 conference planning
– fund raising campaign support
– someone with their own laptop / portable
– administrative support (mailing, database entry, editing)

what you will get:
– experience with a project from beginning to end
– experience with web marketing and communication
– development of professional relationships with a diverse group of adoptees and foster care alumni
– strong skills in a environment that respects your contributions
– volunteer appreciation lunch or happy hour

please contact Lisa Marie with a resume and brief letter of interest, stating your interest in the project at afaadinfo@gmail.com by July 20th, 2009. QLGBT and people of color encouraged to apply.

For more info about our work:

http://afaad.wordpress.com


Towards a Sustainable Transracial Adoptee Movement

I’m headed to the Pedagogy & Theater of the Oppressed conference in MN this weekend! I’ve never been to MN, which i hear has one of the largest populations of Korean adoptees in the nation.

I’m presenting with the amazing folks – Jae Ran Kim, Dr. John Raible and Shannon Gibney

Our session:
Towards a Sustainable Transracial Adoptee Movement and Community: PTO Strategies + Experiments on Friday.

Friday night – the FIRST AFAAD dinner in MN. MN chapter here we come! oh yeah!

I’ll keep you posted with photos and reports from the conference!


African Diaspora Adoptee Identity

Reprinted from an article I wrote for Pact’s newsletter in 08.
Question:

I recently met an African American woman who was really interested when I told her I had adopted from Ethiopia. The conversation was going well, but at one point it seemed the woman became offended that I identified my child as Ethiopian and not as African American. I am involved in a support group specifically designed for Ethiopian adoptees and parents, and I have reached out and made what I feel are good cultural connections to the Ethiopian immigrant community so my child will feel connected to her country and culture. On the flip side, some of the Ethiopian people I am getting to know have very disparaging things to say about African Americans and I am not sure how to respond to this. I don’t really understand the issues between these communities and I am not sure how to navigate them, let alone help my daughter do so. Can you help?
Response:

I meet more and more parents committed to supporting their children as anti-racist allies, and who are supporting their children’s growth as self-aware, strong, culturally connected individuals. So I love these questions from thoughtful parents who are really trying to understand how complex the issues get when race, adoption and parenting collide.  I will first provide some historical context for your question, then explore how that context specifically impacts adoptive families.

Let’s begin by considering the term “black.” Understanding black in the diasporic sense acknowledges there is a global phenomenon of anti-black sentiment, not just reserved for American Blacks, but for African, Caribbean, and sometimes simply dark-skinned people who aren’t even of identifiable African descent. This diasporic blackness takes on different cultural meanings in different nations. Yet even if the “black” that is applied to a South Asian in England or the “black” applied to an Aborigine in Australia seems different, we can’t ignore the many similarities in the way racism operates locally and globally. So we have to think about how stereotypical “blackness” functions as an overarching racial concept that impacts any group of African descent, immigrant or not (and closer to home, will impact your daughter).

I heard someone say that when white parents adopt internationally it is because of “racism” and for many years white Americans adopting internationally adopted many more Asian and Latino children than African children. It seems reasonable to say that these choices reflect the existing racial hierarchy in this country.  At the very least, it is certainly true some white parents choose not to adopt children of African descent because they do not feel capable of dealing with the racism they know these children will confront. I thought about that comment for quite a while, and after I sat with it for a bit, I realized that, yes, racism certainly can play a part in some parents’ decisions – but what kind of racism are we talking about?

Let’s talk about the historical tension between African, Caribbean, and African American communities. There is an assumption that because black people share skin color that somehow we will all get along or that we all have the same political beliefs and cultural values, but of course, depending on a multitude of things–class, geography, culture, life experience–beliefs and values vary across black diasporic cultures. But what is common, as I mentioned above, is an experience of racism.

After slavery, when immigrant African and Caribbean peoples began coming to the United States, in exile or in search of work, Black Americans who had been here for generations had been living in circumstances that distanced them from African cultures. And just like most people of all races in the United States, many African Americans have limited or inaccurate ideas about Africa and its people. Similarly West Indian/Caribbean and African people have been fed images about black people in the United States that are not true. So when African and Caribbean people come to the United States they may not be privy to the complex dynamics and beauty of African American cultures and fall into the same trap as any other immigrant group who accept racist assumptions about Black Americans. For a complex combination of reasons, including a desire to maintain their own cultural identity or the wish to avoid being targeted by racists themselves, some African immigrants in the United States have found it advantageous to distance themselves from Black Americans and Black American cultures. Further, some African immigrants perceived as “exotic” may more rapidly gain access to privileges or class mobility long denied to African Americans burdened with less flattering stereotypes.

Interestingly, there are extensive histories of Black Americans and other diasporic Africans working in collaboration with African and Caribbean peoples during the anti-colonialist movements of the early twentieth century. Pan-Africanism and Negritude are key movements in African Diasporic history. People like W.E.B. Dubois (United States), Marcus Garvey (United States/ Jamaica), the Nardal sisters (France), Aimé Césaire (Martinique), and Jessie Fauset (United States) are only some of those who participated in global African political work during this period. It is important for you and your daughter to know and understand Pan-Africanism and that the Pan-African community is still strong and doing major political and social work.

How does this history relate to adoption?  The reasons prospective parents choose to look overseas to adopt a child have long been discussed in adoption circles. Many myths persist about the domestically-born children of color who are available for adoption, including birth parent drug use, poverty, “bad” family history, and, perhaps most significantly, intrusive/needy birth parents. Sometimes there is the mistaken assumption that international adoption is somehow different from domestic transracial adoption. There persists a belief that in international adoption there will be no birth family emerging unexpectedly because “all” international adoptees are “orphans”.

If we place these ideas about international adoption alongside the pattern of immigrant exceptionalism and exoticfication discussed above, it changes the way parents need to think about the dynamics between African-born (or Carribean-born, etc.)  and African American-born adoptees. If a parent hears a voice inside their head that say, MY child won’t be like that, my child won’t be like those other American black people then it is possible they need to confront the fact that their child is now a black person in America, and think about what kind of messages they will teach their child about other people of color. Will they reinforce stereotypical images that pit more recent immigrants who “make something of themselves” against American-born blacks who “won’t get off welfare”?  Or will they place the tensions between these communities in historical perspective and emphasize the common experiences they share?

It’s important to ask yourself, what are your child’s multiple communities, how do they intersect and differ, and how can you support your daughter becoming comfortable moving in and among them? An immigrant shares many similar experiences with a native-born person of color in the United States, and adoptees of any origin share some common issues with immigrants (loss, disconnection from home).  The reality that must always be acknowledged for your daughter is how Americanization and racism play out in the United States. They impact any of us with black bodies in very real and sometimes violent ways. Ask yourself, what does your daughter have in common with African Americans, and with Ethiopian immigrants? And what about second-generation Ethiopian American children who have their own specific ethnic/cultural experiences? If your daughter lives here the majority of her life then is she a Black American? She will be American, living in the U.S., going to school, dating, going to church, speaking English from birth (or the very young age she came to you), and having experiences that can only be called American experiences, so it will be important to make sure she feels entitled to create connections with both communities. Sometimes parents make the mistake of narrowing their children’s connections by limiting them only to their child’s ethnic heritage, but this can set them at odds with American-born Blacks in a way that does not serve them. Finally, what about their own comfort with the African American community leads some parents to make connections only with Africans and not with African Americans? What does it say to a child when a parent does not model connecting with people of all cultures?

So while calling your daughter “Ethiopian” isn’t untrue, not acknowledging Ethiopian American or African American as parts of her identity is problematic, because it doesn’t fully acknowledge all of the identities your child will hold. Because the parenting goal is to have children confident enough to move through each of these cultural groups with comfort, parents of African-born adoptees must consciously encourage and participate in relationships with African Americans as well as Africans living in America.


AFAAD Bay Area Drinks and Dinner Dec 7th

Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora – AFAAD dinner.

Its time for another AFAAD Bay Area dinner! If you are an adult adoptee or foster alum from the Diaspora, we hope you will join us!  We had such a great time last time, this time we plan to chill a bit, then eat dinner and make a night of it! So, even if its just about getting together and being in one another’s space, I hope you roll through. For many of us – it will be the FIRST time we’ve been in a room with this many other black adoptees. Wow.

Please bring other adoptees and foster alum that you know!!

DINNER and Drink Details –

Friday December 7th
Drinks 7-8pm
Dinner and Chillin 8 – on
Oakland, CA (Restaurant Details to be announced over our email list)

PLEASE RSVP!!

To join AFAAD email list:
groups.yahoo.com/group/afaad


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