Transracial Adoption from one black girl’s perspective

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“Altar of Unknown” in River, Blood Corn: A Literary Journal

I’m thrilled that I’m featured in the January 2012 issue of River, Blood Corn: A Literary Journal!

I’ve been thinking so much about the incredible resilience of adoptees and fostered people. We move through our lives with so many things that are ‘lost’ or ‘missing’ or ‘absent’. I put those words in parentheticals because the words themselves don’t actually articulate well what it means to have these complete ‘unknowns’ drawn on pieces of our lives. Its not like I feel this ‘loss’ or ‘absence’ in a way that makes me sit around and bitch about it, I feel this loss in a deep, way that expresses itself as longing for something, or sometimes as loneliness, or sometimes as fear, sadness, grief. It is always there, like the impact of skin color or the death of a parent. Sometimes it overwhelms me and other times it is the barest register when someone asks, “where were you born?”. I am thinking about resilience because I think about how heavy this load can become sometimes. This article speaks to a way of reconciliation for my spirit, a way I hold on to accepting, healing and being with these longings.

I’m featured on “Land of Gazillion Adoptees”!


Just wanted to share that I was recently featured on Land of a Gazillion Adoptee as a guest.

Check out the podcast here!

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!

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!!

“Memory Sucks” by Beau Sia

so what you sayin is

to the Japanese man
at the bar who asked me
if I knew that Filipinos
are the Black people
of Asia

so
Im a nigger nigger?

—–
#AfroPina

VONA 2011

2011 is a year of completion for me. I plan to finish the multiple projects I’m working on. For Ungrateful Daughter, I will have a workshop / talkback show in October and then have finished and it up for my first full run at the beginning of 2012, I want my first poetry manuscript to be finished as well and of course, my dissertation. Its a year of closures for me.

This week I’m attending VONA for a week focusing on working out the poetry collection I’ve been working on for ever. Last year I attended VONA in the lovely and powerful Ruth Foreman’s poetry workshop. I fell completely in love with the VONA community, and with the energy of being in workshop space with other writers of color (and not being in a teacher role!). What I left with were two things (1) the (re) reminder of something I know and have known since I was very young, that I am a writer. I forget sometimes, because I’m a teacher, a leader, an activist, a scholar, a performer, and all the zillion other things I do, but the reason I am ANY of those things is because I was a writer first. Because my writing self is the biggest part about me that is, and more than that is also the me that I claim. and (2) that what I do as a writer, a black girl black woman, mixed girl mixed woman writer — means something and it means something important. I left last year’s week at VONA with a huge sense of validation. I work my ass off. I deserve everything I want. I am worthy of love and connection. Since I actually work to create the life I want, both in my activist, academic and my creative writing work, writing new worlds, I deserve the life I want as a writer and artist! It is not only important for me, to claim what I am worth and what I deserve as a human searching for connection, love and joy, but it is important for me to claim all of these spaces for other little black girls and other black filipina mixed up transracial adoptee women who cannot speak, are not allowed to speak or are frozen in fear. The poetry I write is important. The voice I have means something. Its not just navel gazing or therapy. thats horseshit. I’m changing worlds here.

This year, I’m blessed to be in Willie Perdomo’s “Building the Poetry Collection” section. I have this chapbook I’ve been working on for years and years, its been named like 3 different names and I’m looking forward to how this will push me to consider it as a whole collection, not just poems I put together. I look forward to it being published and me sharing it with you when I’m on the road with Ungrateful Daughter. So far in the workshop, its answered some great questions around the diversity of the collection, reconciling multiple poetic voices and consistency. I’m very very interested in hearing what people have to say about my work.

During this week, I’ll probably be revisiting some pieces of my work here on the blog and also writing up and sharing some new ones with you all.

Oh! by the way, the “Adoption, My Voice, My Body” writing workshops were amazing. I’ll have some comments from participants up soon on the Workshop Page! I can’t wait to do it again and also to travel with it and share it with everyone.

Jumping the Broom Review and, huh? Adoption?

I just came from seeing the new romantic comedy, Jumping the Broom. As a lover of Romantic Comedies, I liked the film, and actually had been looking forward to seeing it since some of the trailers sometime earlier in the year emerged. I like Paula Patton (I thought she was comedy in “Just Wright”) and of course, I adore Angela Basset (I mean, who doesn’t?), Loretta Devine and the comedic styling’s of Tasha Smith. I don’t really have any feelings for or against Mike Epps or Laz Alonzo (who is positioned to be the next Morris Chestnut, but who is also not my type. meh.) The rest of the cast is just amazing and lovely to look at, and with the good costuming, great scenery and lighting, and eye candy wise, good stuff. (Pooch Hall, Gary Dourdan (woof), and of course the amazingly hot Meagan Goode.)

The plot is simple Romantic Comedy fodder, girl meets boy, they fall in love, 6 months later they are planning a wedding and the mother of the groom hates the new bride = hilarity and evilness ensue.

The class issues that everyone keeps mentioning that are the basic conflict in the film are definitely there. After watching it, I discussed the film with my girl who I went with. She mentioned that yes, we expected caricatures, (we aren’t expecting depth, its a RomCom!) but it was interesting that there really was such a heavy handed theme of ‘questioning the blackness’ of educated, wealthy black people that both of us noticed, and didn’t like. I added that the reveal of a family secret in the film is what ‘brings them down to the level’ of the working class black people in the film, so they are able to see that they are ‘not so different after all’. awwww.

I enjoyed Loretta Devine’s character transformation over the film, and Mike Epps was clearly there for comedic relief, because the film really could have worked without him, and pushed it more toward a drama, but I know Hollywood ain’t ready for critical or black drama with character depth. (deep sigh). I could have done without the TD Jakes cameo or the ‘way to easily’ wrapped up ending.

But again… I’m there for the love and the romance. One of my favorite parts in the film was the relationship between the Angela Basset character and her husband, the sexy Brian Stokes Mitchell. I liked the depth of their relationship and how it was a great representative of black love, forgiveness and partnered commitment on screen. I also adored the opening sequence of the film that showed black and white photos of black weddings since what looked like the advent of photography in the early 1900’s.

Overall, I want to encourage folks who love “Rom-Com’s” to see and support the film. It’s about 20K times better than “Something Borrowed”, which I also saw this past week. (I’m outing myself, but I read the book during a forced self care time away from cultural theory. I like the book, but do not like the film, at all really. Meh. But that, is another blog post). Let me also be clear that I’m writing this first part of the review from that genre’d perspective. The deeper analysis is below.

So, In a world full of Tyler Perry films as offerings to those of us who want and need a romance flick with an all black cast, without someone bursting into gospel music or being overly heavy handed on the Christian themes, this film definitely filled that happy, hetero, escapist, fun space for me.

Go see it!!

    Down to business: THIS NEXT PART CONTAINS MAJOR FILM SPOILERS. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM AND ARE PLANNING TO DO SO. THIS WILL RUIN THE FILM FOR YOU.

I actually didn’t know that there was a family secret that was going to be revealed during the film. I was completely thrown off sitting in the theater when suddenly, the two sisters, mother of the bride, Angela Basset’s character and auntie of the bride, Valarie Pettiford’s character (whom I love from “Half and Half”) are fighting about the fact that Valarie gave Angela her little girl when she got pregnant as a young woman in Paris, and Angela and Brian raised Paula as their daughter.

What? Really? I’m sitting inside a theater watching an escapist film that is unknowingly about adoption? Of COURSE it is!! gah!

Okay, okay. deep breaths. This film is loaded with themes of same race and kinship adoption in the African American / Black community. First, a disclaimer, I just came from the film, so I haven’t had time to think about these things in a deep theoretical way, this is a blog posting and is just me writing some thoughts down, introducing some issues connected to adoption that I hope to put up for discussion, but also because I plan to explore them deeper at a later time.

Onward: I have to say that Loretta Devine does an amazing job of making me hate her in the film. From her irrational dislike of the bride and the brides family, to her crazy selfish and absolutely horrible, just… mean –lashing out when she reveals that she has overheard the fight between Angela and Valarie, and that, whoops, Paula – you need to check yourself honey, because these people who you think are your parents, don’t even love you enough to tell you that you aren’t their kid!

Ouch. That shit was cold, Loretta, cold.

But what is important about this moment, the moment she lashes out and actually does turn Paula’s life upside down, is the way that things unfold and how the themes of adoption, secrecy and notions about shame and the Black family play out in the storyline.

One of the more powerful issues for me is that aunties, grandmothers, uncles raising other family member’s children, happens ALL the time in our families and in our communities, but nobody connects them to adoption. Further, no one connects the secrecy and shaming aspect of unwed parents to the overall historical discourses of adoption, reproductive justice, family and who is and who isn’t an ‘appropriate’ black parent. This is the kind of discourse that continues to impact our notions of what is and isn’t neglect, and moments like this in Jumping the Broom offer an opportunity to either uphold or push back against a society that relies on a social welfare system that was set up not to support black mothers and fathers, wed or not.

The model of ‘keeping it in the family’, is an adoption model I prefer over a model that doesn’t put family preservation first, and as we know, the keeping it in the family model has deep connections to the history of slavery in the African Diaspora and models of family outside western colonial ideology. For hundreds of years black families both domestically and internationally have been taking care of our own children, even as over and over colonization and the social welfare system continues to attempt to take them from us. Yes, to take them from us for white desires, (historically, for more slaves or, contemporarily, trafficked for adoption or to fulfill infertility or ‘savior’ desires.). But I digress. (do I?)

The way that Paula’s birth mother, Valarie, is shamed over and over by her sister, Angela’s character (adoptive mother) to keep quiet about telling Paula the truth of her heritage is totally driven by Angela’s fear of losing a connection with her daughter, and somehow of Valarie taking ‘her rightful place’ as Paula’s ‘one and only’ mother.

I understand perfectly that the reveal of adoption / parentage was a script device that put an obstacle in front of the bride and groom to overcome, but its clear to me, that the script writers have no clue as to how life changing, and how much being adopted in general, (let alone the ‘late reveal’ that seems to be a common pattern in same race adoptions) has a life long, major impact on our lives as adopted people.

These are people she is supposed to trust? I have heard stories over and over from same race adoptees (White, Black, Asian) whose parents kept the fact that they were adopted a secret, when there were people in the family who actually knew, and either kept the secret from them, or assumed that the adoptee knew and that the family just never talked about it, or that it was private. These same families have a moment like the moment in the film, where a cousin or someone outside the family reveals to the adoptee (child or adult) that they are adopted. Do people think that these moments aren’t life changing? Or that the solid ground beneath your feet when you are told something that changes who you are forever doesn’t earthquake and have everlasting tremors on your body and heart?

What about having adoption NOT be a secret? What about Angela and Valarie’s characters working together over a lifetime to ensure that Paula does indeed feel loved and secure, by never keeping her adoption a secret, by embracing the fact that her family is so loving and caring that they support one another by parenting collectively. What about Valarie or Angela and Brian as a couple, explaining to Paula from birth, year after year, whenever she has questions about her mother or her situation, but always, always being truthful and supporting her through the complicated nuances of the circumstances.

The model of ‘ownership’ adoption, connected to the nuclear family is the model that is portrayed in this film. There is no room for an extended family where mother and father roles are blurred, where the entire family takes on the parenting of a child. The non nuclear model is unable to exist in this film. I saw in Angela’s character the very real fears of dis-attachment that I see in adoptive mothers who choose to adopt internationally instead of domestically, because they are afraid one day the child will leave them, or that the mother will come searching for her child and take them away. Uh, if you lie to your child, or hide their history, or are afraid of how they are different from you so you deny it, what, I ask you, can you expect? Why not believe in love enough to know that your child understands that what you are doing is loving them enough to let them have love from multiple places in their life?

What about a world where Paula’s character is respected and not left unprepared for such a moment of reveal, pain, distrust and for her entire life as she knows it shifting under her feet?

and… Really? One conversation of explanation with her birth mother after the reveal is enough to get her back on track to the wedding? Her father isn’t even her father! Who is her father? Where is he? What does he look like? Paula’s character has half siblings and a whole other family to consider now. but of course, the film doesn’t go there. Why would it?

During the moment when Valarie’s character is sitting with Paula after the reveal, telling her, “I’m glad I gave you to (Angela), she could give you so many things that I wasn’t able to give you”, my stomach had a moment where I flashed back to hearing my own birth mother on the phone. She told me that she asked for me to go to a white family, and she was so proud of her decision, because look how I turned out. What? Ok, I get it, you need to tell yourself that to cope with the situation as it stands but realistically, you gets no props for how I turned out. That’s ALL my moms and pops. But then, is that an argument for the fact that she was right? That she should have done what she did? I’m not sure, but my circumstances aren’t like Paula’s character, no one could hide the fact that I was adopted from me, I’m black, my family is white, its not a secret.

Ugh. But backing away from the personal, I had an extremely hard time with the ways in which the depth of adoption and disconnection from roots was swept away in the film. I’m sorry, but Loretta’s character would have been kicked the hell out my house. I’m not saying that the messages of forgiveness, or moving on, or even the one about family accepting each other regardless of all our faults are bad ones. I’m saying adoption is a lifelong issue. I’m saying that an adopted person, even if they are a kinship adopted person, deserves to know who their parents are and that they deserve the respect of knowing upfront, their entire lives, so these moments of emotional devastation don’t happen. I don’t think that people who aren’t adopted actually understand how important knowing your heritage is.

I’m still pushing against the narrative of gratefulness that tells adoptees they had better be grateful for our lives, because ‘it could have been so much worse’. I’m looking for a black community and a larger world that wants to embrace unwed parents who need support to keep their children, instead of stigmatize them and make them feel ashamed.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you all think and in the meantime, I’m gonna go see Thor. There better not be one dang thing about adoption in that film or I’m cracking skulls!

Writing Workshop & Adoption

I’m excited I’ve finally got some time and space to teach this workshop I’ve been wanting to create for a while. This is the first iteration of it, as I hope to eventually move to where I am able to host a weekend or 4 day long writing, meditation and healing retreat at a writing/ retreat center somewhere, each that will focus on different member of the adoption circle. Please join me this coming June!

“Adoption, My Voice, My Body: A Writing Workshop”
Sunday June 5th (for Adopted People) and Saturday June 11th (for Birth Parents), Saturday June 18th (for Adoptive Parents) — 11am-3pm, Oakland, CA

The workshop is a one day, four hour workshop. I’ve been approached over and over about facilitating writing time for adopted people and adoptive parents. I really wanted each group of folks to have space and time to be with other people who are ‘like them’, and to have space to share what are very intimate and personal stories. We will be doing all kinds of writing exercises to get your juices flowing and to draw out stories you want to work on. Race, Class and Gender will be important parts of our writings and discussions. Even if you feel like you have no ideas, but you want to just come and ‘dump’ and use the time to write and express – you are welcome!

I’m so excited to be with other people who have been thinking about adoption, race and identity and doing my favorite thing – writing! I hope you will join me and if you can’t, please pass on to your networks of folks!

Here are the full details:

“Adoption, My Voice, My Body: A Writing Workshop”
Sunday June 5th (for Adopted People) and Saturday June 11th (for Adoptive Parents), Saturday June 18th (for Birth Parents.
11am-3pm, Oakland, CA

Do you have a story related to adoption and family you have been wanting to tell? Something to celebrate? Something you have been struggling with? Do you have a memory you would like to start writing down? A memoir you want to begin or keep writing on? This is an excellent workshop for both those who will for the first time be trying to consider how adoption has impacted their life and for those who have spent a lot of time considering their relationship to adoption. This workshop is for both experienced writers and those who have no writing experience. We will work from “where you are” to explore your stories, thoughts and ideas.

Week 1: For Adopted People (10 seats) – Sunday June 5th
This week welcomes all adopted people – same race, transracial / inter-country and kinship adoptees. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing our memories, our voices and our stories as adopted people and time focusing on our bodies as holding memory and histories that need to be spoken.

Week 2: For Birth Parents (10 seats) – Saturday June 11th
This week welcomes all Birth Parents, both mothers and fathers together to write. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing your stories, thoughts and ideas about your connection or disconnection to the children in your life who are also impacted by adoption and your body as it remembers the past.

Week 3: For Adoptive Parents (10 seats) – Saturday June 18th
This week welcomes adoptive parents to spend time exploring your stories. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing your memories, your voices and time with the concepts of family, mothering and fathering in a way that will focus on your own specific stories of the challenges and joys of adoptive parenting.

Other Workshop Details
Workshop Fee: $80 general, $60 (students & seniors. Email for discount)
Space for 10 participants
Oakland, CA
Reserve your space NOW!

New Publication, Purpose, Planning

Happy New Year!

I’m thrilled to share that three of my poems, “Applique”, “Opposite of Fence” and “From the Tree” have been published in the new anthology:
Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out
(edited by Adebe De Rango-Adem and Andrea Thompson – Inanna Publications). The Anthology was released Dec. 2010. Pick up a copy!

This year my word of the year is “Purpose”. I got the tradition of “word of the year” from my good friend and AFAAD Board member, Lisa Walker. I have never been a person who made new years resolutions, so when Walker shared with me her 20 year tradition of choosing a word to focus on and make part of your intentional life, it hit me in a way that I knew this was a fitting tradition for me. This will be my third year ‘working my words’. Last year, my word of the year was “Determination”. It was and always is simply amazing the ways the word of the year emerges in my emotional, spiritual, physical and work lives. It seemed like the year was all about testing my ‘mettle’, and seeing if I had the courage and strength to be determined, to determine my future. It hit me especially hard at the end of the year, when it seemed like my writing deadlines were not going to be met. I’m now here in 2011, with my new word and whats funny is that I dont really let go of “Determination”, its with me and informs my daily thinking now. This year, Im am considering my Purpose, considering being purposeful in my choices, actions, goals, and the things I set energy & intention upon. I can’t wait to see how this plays out! Here’s to you as you enter your year of goals and intention. You can DO it!

Of course, I’m also still working on the final development stage of “Ungrateful Daughter”. Right now this is what is scheduled, but there is much, much more coming to the stage soon with a FULL run to look forward to in October!! This also means that of course, I’m booking now for Spring through Winter 2011 (Women’s History Month? Black History Month?) for poetry readings, solo performances, writing, poetry and adoption and adoptee support workshops, writing and performance coaching at your conference, school, non-profit, etc.! For a press kit and info about all the things I offer, email me directly.

Upcoming Appearances

Sunday May 8th, 2 performances, 2pm and 8pm

As part of the “See Mom, I Didn’t Forget” showcase for Mother’s Day 2011
BUY TICKETS HERE!

Sunday June 26th, 7pm
As part of Solo Sundays in SF.
BUY TICKETS HERE!! (coming).

If you didnt get a chance to read my End of the year UPDATE email, check it out here! Lookin forward to seein you all out this year!

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