Been missing my blogs that focus on adoption and race? Well I’m happy to share that I will be regularly blogging for the wonderful “Lost Daughters” blog about once a month. Please check out my first post with them – up today!
In other news – I’ve also been added to the Arts & Culture feature columnist list at the amazing Land Of Gazillion Adoptees Magazine! Look for my first article in Issue #3 coming in November. Yay!
Some upcoming work:
October 16th at StageWerx in San Francisco, I’m directing a new show with three new solo performers who are developing full length performances, “An Arab, A Showgirl & A Blonde…Walk into a Theater” featuring Lisa Kotecki, Kellita and amazing youth performer Rebecca Marshall. There are only a few tickets left so come out!
I’m offering another SoloHouse: Writing and Performing the One Person Show workshop starting October 19, 2013.
I’m speaking at Concerned United Birthparents Annual Conference this upcoming weekend in Carlsbad, CA.
and extra hyped to announce that I’ll be Keynote Speaker at the 2014 American Adoption Congress Annual conference in San Francisco.
National Adoption Month is coming up in November – I’ll be available for a limited number of lectures, workshops, readings or Skype’s to your classroom, nonprofit or organization! Please feel free to email me directly regarding my speaker /workshop fees.
Friggin Sweeeet! I’m super excited to share with everyone I recently got word that I’ve been nominated for an Oakland Indie Award in the “Oakland Soul” category for my work with Third Root Art Collective and my activist work with UD and AFAAD. Yay! I’m honored that I can give love to Oakland and represent it with the love I feel for the Town.
Come celebrate with me! The winners will be announced at the 7th Annual Oakland Indie Award Celebration on May 30th, 2013. They will be held at the Kaiser Center, Rooftop Garden, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland,CA. Buy a ticket, bring the family, come out and see some of Oakland’s amazing people.
As I’m still coming off the glow and gearing up for the madness that is ensuing from my acceptance into the NYC International Fringe Festival, I’m happy to say I’ve gotten a couple mentions in mags lately that I wanted to share. I was mentioned in this months edition of THEATER BAY AREA MAGAZINE, in an article by the lovely and talented solo master, Sara Felder. The article “Juggling the Truth” explores solo performance, truth telling and autobiographical writing for the stage. Here is a LINK to the whole interview online.
I was also just recently mention in Jet Magazine. I’m totally excited about this because Jet Magazine is one of the oldest Black magazines still in circulation. Its a brief mention, but yay!!
We had a great conversation. I hope you all enjoy it. I had a chance to talk about fear, activism and artistic work. I’d love to hear what you all think!
Since the CNN thing, I’ve found some pretty interesting analysis of the segment, but also a few newer folks who I think are doing some interesting thinking about transracial adoption.
Over at Womanist Musings, Renee has a great breakdown of her perspective of what happened with Dr. Walsh during the segment. I particularly liked the places where she attends to “hipster racism” and satire. As someone who produces comedians every once in a while, I get to see whats happening in comedy writing and how super sharp and conscious comedians of color are responding to this sort of ‘new’ way of talking about race that somehow ends up being just as racist as generations ago.
My favorite so far isn’t even about the CNN thing, but is Whitney Teal’s article, “Sandra Bullock, Transracial Adoption, and the Worship of White Motherhood”, an amazing analysis of the way white privilege and white womanhood can get conflated to replicate what, (if we believed everyone who keeps telling us that racism doesn’t exist, and if we would just stop talking about it it would go away) we would like to think are dated ideas about how the construction of white and black womanhood are created in opposition to each other and what that has to do with adoption and race. I love this analysis because i spent an entire chapter of my dissertation talking and theorizing about this.
Apparently some message boards and email lists are also discussing how crazy the segment was with the limited time, but also how interesting it was that the segment about TRA issues was put right before Soledad O’Brien’s special report “Rescued”, but there wasn’t really any attempt to talk about the Haitian children who are being brought to the US to isolated, all white places. sigh.
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.
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!
I’m thrilled to be performing the full length version of “Ungrateful Daughter” this coming Thursday April 8th and in two weeks Thursday April 22nd at 8pm at StageWerx Theater in SF. This is the first leg of me getting it out there as a full piece in development. I can’t wait to hear what people have to say.
I’m super excited, I’ve been getting some press for it already, check it:Oakland Local — “Lisa Marie Rollins’ “Ungrateful Daughter” explores facets of transracial adoption”
by Irene Nexica
East Bay Express — “Asian Girl With a Secret” “Lisa Marie Rollins grew up thinking she was part Asian, part white, and part Latina. The truth was different.”
By Rachel Swan
Both of these articles came out today, and whats so interesting to me about them is the way that they are as wide as can possibly be in how they approach the story. Anyone who knows me knows that I (and most adult adoptees who have been doing this work for a while) am WAY past using “just” my own personal story to talk about the trauma and social justice work that must be done around adoption, people in foster care and for adoptees themselves. But its always amazing to me that no matter what, some journalists continue to focus on the fact that ‘back in the day’ adoptive parents had it all wrong and that today, adoptive parents have it all right because they’ve taken a few anti-racism classes or they are still, just concerned about providing a good home for the children. and whats wrong with that?
In Swan’s article, there is NO mention of my work that in global in nature and that it VERY much connects to the people who are adopting right this minute, and that Haiti and Ethiopia are on my radar when I’m writing creatively and doing social justice work. There is a mention of AFAAD, but only in a cursory way, saying I support adoptees who are looking to search. Okaaayyy… thats one thing I do, but its like one thing out of 50 that AFAAD focuses on. I get it, you cant do everything, and I am thankful for the press around my show, for real, but I also continue to be frustrated that the amazing press comes at the cost of my overall message about gender, race and the global politics of adoption.
And don’t get me started on the exotification of me as a mixed race girl in the Bay, and the title. Anyone who also knows me.. knows that I identify as BLACK/ Afropina and that I have deep, deep resistance to ‘mixed race’ identity politics that continue to claim transracial adoption as part of ‘their’ issues. WTH with the “Asian” in the title?”. No No. I get it, its about readers buying into the article and its the EBX, not Mother Jones. But hey, maybe I’ll get a date out of it. sweet!
The article itself is actually well written, strong in its emotionality and I’ve gotten LOTS of my friend commenting and emailing me who were very moved by the way that it was written. Overall, I like it. But to be clear, my critique is about the ways that media, writers and notably white adoptive parents continue to ignore the interests of adult adoptees, and actually many times fear that adult adoptee perspective.
Nexica’s article is brief, but certainly I appreciate the ways in which she attends to the context of our current moment and really understands that my story has implications beyond just some black girl whining about racist moments in her childhood.
Come to my show or please please – donate to the development so I can bring a fully realized piece to your city!!
**this post is rated R.
I know black people are never surprised when white people, ‘show they ass’, and I’m no different, especially having grown up around em, but I have to say I’m deeply disgusted with John Mayer.
I’m not even gonna lie. I love his music. I’ve defended him as a musician to a whole bunch of folks. I love his artistry, his guitar ‘gear-head’ sensibility and his apparent attention to and respect for the historical greats in blues music that his music is totally predicated upon. He’s never hidden the fact that he knows where the music he plays comes from and who his influences are – all black men.’
I’m not gonna repeat for you what he said, because you can read it anywhere.
Basically what this shameful display points out for me is the unfortunate and sad reality of white privilege and white supremacy. This, like Michael Richards, is a stark and strong reminder of no matter who the white person is, no matter if they are close to, work with, love, are in a relationship with, or adopt a black person, they have to be on a constant job, and always aware of how their whiteness is like a veil, no, a cloak that covers them from their ability to see the world and their position in it.
Two other thoughtful posts on the JM debacle that point out JM’s racism, misogyny and homophobia:
Its Impossible to Have a Benetton Heart and a White Supremacist Dick by firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Racefail Meets Playboy by Andrea (AJ) Plaid
And for me, (no surprise here, dude its an adoptee blog!) this incident is completely and utterly related to transracial adoption (and interracial relationships I might add). and I immediately thought of the multiple times in my life that the white people who were close to me, not just my family, people who I thought were friends, both girls and boys at one point or another when ‘the shit got real’ around race, revealed themselves to be racist, and basically betrayed me and our friendship or relationship.
It is completely possible for white people to love and respect black people and still say and do racist shit toward them. Its called white privilege for a reason! I’m not calling anyone out, but my brutha’s & sista’s who are in interracial relationships, don’t act like this doesn’t come up for you. Adoptee’s with white parents have it happen ALL the time. Even if their parent has been for years and years engaged in anti-racist struggles, there have been more times than not, that they trip up and do some racist mess and totally hurt, disrespect or devalue their child and their child’s culture. I can point out so many instances right now, in my work educating and working with AP’s, even one’s who think they ‘get it’, where they continue to display their internal and ingrained ideologies about race and blackness.
For me, it’s about protection, what is or isn’t my ally, my parent, my teacher, my friend doing to protect and assist me in fighting and coping with the constant barrage of racism that exists outside in the world? Now I’m not arguing that John Mayer is an active anti-racist ally, what I’m arguing is that the cloak of white privilege sometimes is so thick, you are completely covered with it, and you get comfortable and forget that you always, your entire life, have to be on guard with the ways you are fighting back. JM got comfortable with his relationship to blackness, and forgot that he was white. I’m totally irritated too, because much like most white celebrities who ‘make mistakes’, this fool will be forgiven and back in action like he didnt say anything. Unlike Isaiah Washington, who displayed his homophobia, he apologized and Hollywood has basically blackballed him. Will he be forgiven? Will he be given a pass for just, ‘making a mistake’ and given an opportunity to rectify his mistake? I doubt it.
The only thing I have to say about his video apology last night, is why did he feel the need to thank his band for coming on stage and playing with him? He’s thankin the negro band like he’s not paying they rent. You know what, John? Black folks have been workin for and with racist white folks forever.
My dear friend and fellow AFAAD Board member Karie Gaska, who is in ATL now for her Ph.D. and who is also a fan of JM, and I had a conversation today about his interview. Here’s what Karie had to say:
“I think the other bloggers LM mentioned above did a good job of pointing out all of the racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc in John’s comments so I wont pick it apart again. I’m moving from the understanding that this interview reveals underlying, latent racist, sexist, homophobic thoughts and am just sharing what I think we have to contribute to this incident as TRA’s who live in that place where we may really really love people who really really disappoint us in terms of understanding racism and validating our experiences.
I’m not as deeply disappointed in John Mayer in particular as much as I’m just sad and disappointed in what this represents. I don’t think that John Mayer’s comments are any different from what millions of other people think, he just happens to be famous so its easy to call him out on it. But this definitely has parallels to the transracial adoption experience for me. As a TRA who grew up around all white people, this reminds me of that day when you confront the reality that maybe all the people around you are really racist and talk about you behind your back (or in many cases in front of your back). Then you swear off white people and their racist attitudes for a while, only to be brought back and hold on to the hope that maybe you were wrong…. maybe all white people aren’t racist? Maybe you can have white friends and not tensely wait in fear for them to say something ignorant that makes you cringe and then find yourself not returning their phone calls. Then something like this happens and you remember….”oh yeah they really all are racist”. Not because they actively want to be racist, but just because we live in a racist society. If you are a white person and just live your life in America, you will live, breathe, and absorb all sorts of overt, covert, implicit and every other kind of racist, sexist, homophobic stuff. And if you never stop and examine your values, your life, or your thinking, you will just go along regurgitating it. So this just reminds me that America is a racist society and white privilege is powerfully alive yet seldom acknowledged. And too often it can be commonplace for someone to have a blatant disregard for others humanity and totally not see it. It happens everyday.
As a TRA growing up I faced this on an interpersonal level and I still see it with white adoptive parents today. A lot has changed but you know a lot has stayed the same. The John Mayer incident reminds me of how you can align yourself with Black people to the extent that it benefits you but divorce yourself from the part you don’t like. Like when JT exposed Janet’s boob at the superbowl. He can be involved, apologize and still go to the grammy’s but Janet is the “black whore”, “jezebel”, etc who is oversexed and must be stopped! The shit is ridiculous. and I’m not mad at JT…I’m just sayin that’s how it works. Align yourself with the Black people as much as it benefits you but then when shit gets real….where are you? That is white privilege…because you can do that…you have the option to divorce yourself from it. And I see white parents do that all the time. Align themselves with the struggle…enough to want to adopt a child, but not enough to help a family work toward reunification. Align themselves enough to move to a more diverse neighborhood, but not enough to change their own social circle.
And his comments resurfaced one particular memory for me that I’ll just give as an example of how white people think they are not racist (or insert another ism), but clearly prove their racism…. in their demonstration of their “non-racism”. When I was about 14 the same kind of incident that John was talking about with Perez Hilton happened with me. I was hanging out somewhere and there was a white-dude in another conversation near me talking about how he wasn’t a racist to another white dude. And then he randomly kisses me to “prove” his non-racism. And I remember how that felt…like I was a piece of meat, or an animal, or a joke, not a person. So you can just kiss someone and violate their physical space without permission and that proves you are not racist? No dumbass that proves you ARE racist. In the same way that John Mayer kissed perez hilton violated his space, and had no regard for him as a person…only as a joke…and then he used the word “fags” DUH! You are homophobic buddy! And the whole interview he is trying to counter the popular belief that he is a douchebag….ironic?
Anyway thats enuf rambling, the whole thing just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth…. “
final word from LM:
When Karie and I were chatting about this and she recounted her story of the white-dude above, it also flashed me back to remembering hatred from white men and boys around me as a child, and the sexualized way it played out then. White boys in my school and church community would always deny publicly that they found anything about me attractive, and at the same time would express their repulsion/attraction to me in mostly sexually violent ways when they knew they wouldn’t get caught. It also worked in the reverse, a white boy would say they liked me, but then once other friends found out, he would reject me publicly an the verbal part of the rejection was always about me being a black girl.
(I cant help but think about this new group of young women coming up right now in all white communities.. sigh).
I cant even begin to talk about how angry I am over the Kerry Washington and “i dont date black girls” = “david duke penis” thing and how that relates to the continued devaluation of black women as desirable. What you can steal black music but you cant fuck a black woman? Oh right, you can fuck em, you just cant tell anyone. I can’t wait until there is a black girl who comes out sayin she slept with JM.
So John Mayer, I’m officially over it. and I’m pissed I have to make a decision about what to do with my albums, like I had to do with Chris Brown.
and let me remind everyone of what I said in 2005.
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.
Please read and share this Statement on Haiti released by the Adoptees of Color Roundtable:
“This statement reflects the position of an international community of adoptees of color who wish to pose a critical intervention in the discourse and actions affecting the child victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. We are domestic and international adoptees with many years of research and both personal and professional experience in adoption studies and activism. We are a community of scholars, activists, professors, artists, lawyers, social workers and health care workers who speak with the knowledge that North Americans and Europeans are lining up to adopt the “orphaned children” of the Haitian earthquake, and who feel compelled to voice our opinion about what it means to be “saved” or “rescued” through adoption.”
“We understand that in a time of crisis there is a tendency to want to act quickly to support those considered the most vulnerable and directly affected, including children. However, we urge caution in determining how best to help. We have arrived at a time when the licenses of adoption agencies in various countries are being reviewed for the widespread practice of misrepresenting the social histories of children. There is evidence of the production of documents stating that a child is “available for adoption” based on a legal “paper” and not literal orphaning as seen in recent cases of intercountry adoption of children from Malawi, Guatemala, South Korea and China. We bear testimony to the ways in which the intercountry adoption industry has profited from and reinforced neo-liberal structural adjustment policies, aid dependency, population control policies, unsustainable development, corruption, and child trafficking.”
“For more than fifty years “orphaned children” have been shipped from areas of war, natural disasters, and poverty to supposedly better lives in Europe and North America. Our adoptions from Vietnam, South Korea, Guatemala and many other countries are no different from what is happening to the children of Haiti today. Like us, these “disaster orphans” will grow into adulthood and begin to grasp the magnitude of the abuse, fraud, negligence, suffering, and deprivation of human rights involved in their displacements.”
“We uphold that Haitian children have a right to a family and a history that is their own and that Haitians themselves have a right to determine what happens to their own children. We resist the racist, colonialist mentality that positions the Western nuclear family as superior to other conceptions of family, and we seek to challenge those who abuse the phrase “Every child deserves a family” to rethink how this phrase is used to justify the removal of children from Haiti for the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Western and Northern desire for ownership of Haitian children directly contributes to the destruction of existing family and community structures in Haiti. This individualistic desire is supported by the historical and global anti-African sentiment which negates the validity of black mothers and fathers and condones the separation of black children from their families, cultures, and countries of origin.”
“As adoptees of color many of us have inherited a history of dubious adoptions. We are dismayed to hear that Haitian adoptions may be “fast-tracked” due to the massive destruction of buildings in Haiti that hold important records and documents. We oppose this plan and argue that the loss of records requires slowing down of the processes of adoption while important information is gathered and re-documented for these children. Removing children from Haiti without proper documentation and without proper reunification efforts is a violation of their basic human rights and leaves any family members who may be searching for them with no recourse. We insist on the absolute necessity of taking the time required to conduct a thorough search, and we support an expanded set of methods for creating these records, including recording oral histories.”
“We urge the international community to remember that the children in question have suffered the overwhelming trauma of the earthquake and separation from their loved ones. We have learned first-hand that adoption (domestic or intercountry) itself as a process forces children to negate their true feelings of grief, anger, pain or loss, and to assimilate to meet the desires and expectations of strangers. Immediate removal of traumatized children for adoption—including children whose adoptions were finalized prior to the quake— compounds their trauma, and denies their right to mourn and heal with the support of their community.”
“We affirm the spirit of Cultural Sovereignty, Sovereignty and Self-determination embodied as rights for all peoples to determine their own economic, social and cultural development included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Charter of the United Nations; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The mobilization of European and North American courts, legislative bodies, and social work practices to implement forced removal through intercountry adoption is a direct challenge to cultural sovereignty. We support the legal and policy application of cultural rights such as rights to language, rights to ways of being/religion, collective existence, and a representation of Haiti’s histories and existence using Haiti’s own terms.”
“We offer this statement in solidarity with the people of Haiti and with all those who are seeking ways to intentionally support the long-term sustainability and self-determination of the Haitian people. As adoptees of color we bear a unique understanding of the trauma, and the sense of loss and abandonment that are part of the adoptee experience, and we demand that our voices be heard. All adoptions from Haiti must be stopped and all efforts to help children be refocused on giving aid to organizations working toward family reunification and caring for children in their own communities. We urge you to join us in supporting Haitian children’s rights to life, survival, and development within their own families and communities.”
Please contact the Adoptees of Color Roundtable by leaving a comment on the statement page if you would like to endorse this statement, and keep checking back as the site will soon be expanded.