Transracial Adoption from one black girl’s perspective

Posts tagged “Adoption

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I’ll be in AZ April 5th, 7pm at Black Theatre Troupe!

I'll be in AZ April 5th, 7pm at Black Theatre Troupe!


I’m a New Columnist at Lost Daughter’s blog! Yay!

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!

Not Holding My Tongue: On Blogging and the Politics of Adoption

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.


TICKETS ON SALE for NYC Premiere Aug 10-23

NYC – I’m coming for YOU!! - Here’s the information about the NYC show.

Click here to PURCHASE TICKETS!

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SIX SHOWS — DATES:

Fri 8/10 @ 8:30 pm

Sun 8/12 @ 7pm

Wed 8/15 @ 8:30

Fri 8/17 @ 4:00pm

Sun 8/19 @ 2:15pm

Thu 8/23 @ 5:00pm

.

WHERE: 

VENUE #6: The White Box at 440 Studios


NYC Dates and Supporting Adult Adoptee Voices

Yay! I got my dates for the NYC shows! Please pass this information on to all your folks on the East Coast who should come see the show!

There are six shows – August 10-23rd.
FULL INFORMATION ON FB HERE

Check out the NEW TRAILER of the show here!

FRI 8/10 @ 8:30p
SUN 8/12 @ 7:00p
WED 8/15 @ 8:30p
FRI 8/17 @ 4:00p
SUN 8/19 @ 2:15p
THUR 8/23 @ 5:00p

Tickets go on sale July 20th! TICKET INFO HERE

We have 13 days left on our campaign to get to NYC – we NEED your donation and your help to spread the word! Please check out the kickstarter video and donate what you can!

Thank you so much for all your support and See you in NYC!!


Recent Mentions: Jet and Theater Bay Area

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!!


NYC Premiere! Yay! I got IN!!

I’m thrilled to announce that my play “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls story of being adopted into a white family…that aren’t celebrities” will have its NYC Premiere at the 2012 NYC International Fringe Festival in August!! I got in!!! YEEEEEEE! NYC here I come!


I will be posting fundraising, production updates, and the specific show dates as soon as I get all that information!

HUGE HUGE thank you again to ALL of my donors, both individual, organizational and foundations! Huge thank you to the adoptee community who has has my back from the beginning. I could NEVER have gotten this far without your support. Lets DO this!!


Longing: First Movement

in the shadow of this empty birth certificate
I live as (un) blank slate of memory
longing is a pain knowing can cure,
desire for your hand to cover mine

sweet jane
sweet sweet jane doe

something about ghosts living between us
people want to disregard,
silence the voices in their heads
as if they never were

Anyone who’s ever split apart

this grief can make you forget what they told you
try hard to remember the words
feel them on your tongue
like the name your mother says she picked for you

Anyone who’s ever had a dream

I will not cast out my name
even for you, who wish me away
who embroil me in your secrets
entice me to fall into your denial of my body

Anyone who’s ever played a part

this cannot be cured by unknowing
the empty space above your head in family photos
the void position next to you on the family wall
my face in the back of your mind, our fathers obituary

Anyone who’s ever been lonely

I carve my name over and over into my arm
tattooed and cut, mark red and blue
like the cord that ties us together
the death that rips our flesh

Anyone who’s ever split apart

sweet jane
sweet sweet jane doe


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!!


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!


“My Grandmother” by Jackie Kay

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”.

nah.

—–
My Grandmother

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 Report from USSF by Guest Blogger Shannon Gibney

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.

Participants in the child removal and communities of color workshop, at USSF 2010. Photo by Sunny Kim.

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-you

Hart Plaza - Downtown Detroit

ingenuity 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.

The Opening March, on Tuesday, June 22.

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.
Workshop participants responded to various images of child removal from communities of color, placed around the room. Photo by Sunny Kim.
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.

Attendees discuss the politics of child removal. Photo by Sunny Kim.

“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 White

Native American feminist scholar Andrea Smith.

Supremacy,” 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).

Phoebe Jones, of the Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network, prepares for their workshop. Photo by Melva L. Florance.


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?”

http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/84936732.html, and

http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/89491562.html.

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 shannongibney@gmail.com. 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, philly@crossroadswomen.net, or fightbackdcfs@gmail.com.

The LaStraw, Inc. is located online at http://www.thelastraw.org, and can be reached at reapwhatuseaw@yahoo.com, or (336) 987-9676.

Family Connection Center can be reached at famconnectc@yahoo.com.

Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor is at (216) 321-1677, or vcrobinson@yahoo.com.

ODVAct is at (216) 751-7150, or ninamac15@sbcglobal.net.


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!


Negotiating Guilt, Activism/Performance and Family

This post is mostly for other adoptees doing activist / social justice work around adoption and race to encourage you. This post is also for adoptees (and anyone else) who don’t understand how I can say and do the things that I do either in my performance, scholarly or activist work, and who are constantly writing to me to say, “I’m black (or Asian or Latin American) and I DON’T feel the same way as you, I love my family and I’m grateful for my life and glad that I didn’t end up growing up in an orphanage.”

I’m writing this to encourage those of us who are constantly fighting with ourselves around the guilt and fear we sometimes carry when we do this kind of work.

I’m also writing this to ask any of you to consider why its important for you to keep sending me these emails to tell me that you love your parents, as if I don’t love mine. Im also asking you to consider why its important for you to keep telling everyone around you that you are grateful. What happens if for a few days out of the year you are sad? or angry? or feeling the loss of your other family? what . . . that’s not okay?

Let me say, for the record. I love my parents. I love the HELL outta my parents. I would not be able to do what I do with out my parents and without my aunt and uncle who provide me with emotional, financial and spiritual support. My family is the shit. You don’t know me, so don’t assume I can’t love my parents and also have a social consciousness. One does not preclude the other.

I am grateful. Even as I counter, resist and push back against the discourse of gratefulness in adoption, I am thankful, I am blessed that my family is my family. I like who I am. I like my life. and I resist and push back at the same time, I can be both, without shame.

So, what?

Me loving my parents and my larger family, doesn’t preclude me from critiquing their racism, (and the racism of their geographical and church community) and how their and their communities personal racism and white privilege is microcosm of larger systems of white supremacy around the globe. It doesn’t make me able to forget or excuse the completely messed up stuff that happened to me as a child, the white boys that fucked with me, the white girls who betrayed me, the complete isolation I felt in an all white community, or the fact that my parents and family and their community still just have no idea what its like to be black person (let alone a black adopted person) in the U.S.

My love for them helps me forgive, but it doesn’t make me forget, ignore, or deny. Not anymore.

Most of you know I have a show called, “Ungrateful Daughter”. It’s funny to me how people respond to this title, but just so you know, the show is not about ‘actual’ ungratefulness toward my parents. It’s a comment about the discourse of gratefulness in adoption as a whole. Duh. Buy a ticket. Come see the show.

As an activist and performer who writes and speaks regularly about my family in my work, like most writers who tread into this territory, I carry a ridiculous amount of guilt that I am hurting them while I am working through my own demons around this. I’m sure the things I’m saying make them feel guilty, or angry at me or maybe shocks them, sometime they didn’t even know. But they still love me, just like I love them. They still support me, just like I support them. Even if I don’t understand them and if they don’t understand me. That’s what family does. and I will kick your ass if you talk about my momma, my daddy or my brothers. :)

If I would have waited until everyone dies or not written anything at all – I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have been able to heal at all around anything!! and for me – more importantly – outside of just the me in all this — I wouldn’t be able to hear from people who are in so much pain that they want to commit suicide, and that they read my blog and knew they weren’t crazy, or that tell me when they see my story on stage, they cried because that they never have spoken these words to anyone about how they felt. I wouldn’t be able to sit with the adopted youth that I work with, and tell them I actually do know how they feel when they tell me they got pulled over right in front of their own house in their all white neighborhood.

Healing wounds sometimes causes pain. Sometimes truth has to be spoken in order for true communication and healing to begin. What keeps me doing what I am doing is other adoptees, who tell me that what I am doing keeps them sane.

Ya’ll keep me sane too, you – telling me your stories, telling me about your struggle to find your birth parents and their rejection or inability to accept you. Your pain around not hurting your aunt who raised you and wont talk about your birth mother. Your parents who have lied to you about what they know about your birth country and your birth circumstances because they are afraid that you will reject them. Your sibling who raped you. Your uncle who says ‘nigger’ like it doesn’t mean anything. Your teachers in school who treated you like crap. The gym teacher who told you – you were an ugly black girl, and no one would ever want you, but then felt you up one day after class. Your fear of telling your parents they can’t say “Oriental” because its racist and hurts people. Your fears of being written out of the will if you even hint of thinking about searching for your birth family. These stories keep me sane. I am not alone.

Ya’ll keep me sane. Because I still struggle, even today, after doing all the healing I have done around this, the purging from the past, the exorcising on stage with poetry and stories, the academic research; I still struggle this very moment with what it means to be living in an in-between space. This space that is a part fully loving and being loved by my family, but still acknowledging and accepting myself as partially and always separate from them, and a developing part of myself that includes my birth family, but still separate from them – so where does that really leave me?

I’ve been able to partially negotiate this by creating “family” on my own, in my own community and by recognizing family in my global community of adoptees.

and really, more importantly what happens if I don’t talk? What happens if we don’t fight back? If we stay silent?

Haitian Baby Lifts, that’s what.

and you know what I have to say about that.


I’m still here, I promise

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.

Few things:

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!

Happy Holidaze!


newlogoNext week I’ll be headed to LA for the Mixed Roots Film and Literary festival. Its held at the Japanese American United Museum in downtown LA!!

I’m performing a short piece from “Ungrateful Daughter” and be co-presenting in a writing workshop with my good friend, amazing writer and blogger Susan Ito about mixed-race adoptees and writing.

The festival is FREE. You should come.


1st Annual AFAAD Gathering! Please share!

November 7-9, 2008

1st Annual Gathering for Adoptees and Foster Care Alums of African Descent:

Healing Ourselves, Making Connections

For Complete information Click here!

Announcing the 1st annual gathering of adoptees (transracial/international and same race) and foster care alums of African descent in Oakland, California, November 7-9, 2008.

AFAAD (Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora) was formed specifically to support adopted and fostered people, to share our common and divergent experiences around race, adoption, joy, loss, family, search and reunion, and self identity and to celebrate our unique creativity, stories and community. AFAAD’s First Annual Gathering, Healing Ourselves, Making Connections is designed with you mind.

The purpose of this historic gathering will be to make connections, network, provide healing space, and to celebrate the diversity of our amazing diaspora of transracial, international, domestic adoptees and foster care alums. AFAAD uses “Black” in the widest diasporic sense, which includes African, African American, bi-racial and multi heritage, Afroasian and Afrolatino peoples. Healing Ourselves, Making Connections is the first of its kind for Black adoptees and foster adults and we know it will make a huge contribution to the conversations about adoption, race, social welfare and African diasporic identity – not to mention just bringing all of us together in one space is going to be amazing! It is time to share our stories with one another, rather than always teaching other people. We will also take some time for the strategic planning for the long-term goals of AFAAD as a social justice and community support organization.

Where:

AFAAD’s 2008 Gathering is being hosted by the lovely Washington Inn, at 495 10th Street, Oakland CA a luxury boutique hotel ideally situated at the center of downtown Oakland, CA, close to all forms of public transportation. See http://www.thewashingtoninn.com/ for more information, or call 510.452.1776. Individuals visiting the Bay Area must make their own hotel reservations separately from AFAAD Gathering registration.


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