“Adoption: Palimpsest of Identity” Art Exhibit

From the facebook invitation to the event! This looks amazing – when ya’ll coming to SF?

“The Korean Cultural Service NY co-present the exhibition “Adoption: Palimpsest of Identity” with the AHL Foundation, Inc. from August 27th to September 24th, which features the works of six artists: Kate Hers, Jane Jin Kaisen, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoine, Jette Hye Jin Mortensen, Kim Su Theiler, and Maya Weimer. This exhibition is curated by Jeehey Kim. Exhibition goes through -Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 7:00pm
Through video installation and photomontage, the six artists deal with the identity of the adoptee, an identity that is barely discussed in identity politics. The artists demonstrate how the issue of adoption disrupts and disturbs the existing circuits of enunciation of one’s identity. As a palimpsest shows both the overwriting text and the overwritten one beneath at once, the works in this exhibition reveal how one dimension, one nation, one dream, and one world bumps into another. Positing identity as hybrid and fluid, their works transform and challenge the established and fixed order of things.

Collage works of kate hers interrogate the construction of ethnic and cultural narratives in landscape and analyze the mythological power of the Other while engaging tropes of appropriation, allegory, and conceptualism. She is not just interested in a crude depiction or reduction of anti-colonial anti-sexist viewpoints, but rather the questioning and engaging of the complex and layered meanings of appropriation, colonialism and gendered narratives in a global art context. In the re-inscribing of narrative through phantom landscapes, she desires a re-contextualization of meaning through its original form, however she is uncertain whether it is feasible to resist contributing to the spectacle of cultural colonialism. Is it possible to destabilize and disrupt something in which one is an active participant?

In her video work “disadoption”, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoin’s sings a song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with transforming its lyrics into the following: avouerai-je, dis papa/ ce qui cause mon tracas/ tu me dis que mon agence/ d’adoption point ne vous ment/ par la rumeur surprenante que tu dis preoccupante: de deux familles appartenantes/ par le bon sens tu me commandes/ L’annulation de l’adoption/ que cela est ta solution/ a vous disais-je papa/ omma-deul-appa-deul isseulka ? (to tell you, dad/ what is my worry/ you tell em my adoption/ agency is not lying/ by the surprising rumor/ of two families I belong/ by the common sense you order me/ to cancel the adoption/ it’s your solution/ to you, i was telling, daddy/ oma-deul (mothers) appa-deul (fathers) isseulkka (will be)?

Jette Hye Jin Mortensen often focuses on and debate adoption, family, nationalism, stereotypes, racism, and how we construct our identity from these structures through her videos and video-installation. In her video “My Great Grandfather,” she talks about the Danish composer Carl Nielsen as her great grandfather in a split screen with interview and archival footage. In this mockumentary she writes herself as the Danish person “of color” into the national history to mirror cultural complexity. It caused a lot of e-mails and letters with the questions: “Is Carl Nielsen your real, biological great grandfather? “Are you adopted into the Nielsen family?”

In Kim Su Theiler’s work “Hair Watch,” a Korean woman with a short haircut is seen in time lapse over many days. An off screen dialogue reveals that the woman’s hair length starts with the picture the adopted parents used to choose the child, and the end length of hair is the picture of the child taken for her passport so she could be transported to the United States to her new family. An off screen voice asks,” How long were you in the orphanage?” Subject answers,” For as long as it took for my hair to grow from the first picture to the passport picture.”

Maya Weimer’s groundbreaking video installation, “Untitled (K.H., S.H., H.S.),” gives voice to an important, but invisible, side of the adoption industry. Potential interviewees jeopardized their jobs and family statuses by coming forth to discuss their secret experiences and only with the promise of complete anonymity would a handful of women eventually agree to participate. The three women’s voices presented in this installation are in their mid-20s, -30s, and -40s. The formal constraints established in order to realize this project prevented the possibility of producing a traditional documentary. Rather than reinscribing onto these women narratives of victimization, the artist’s intention has been to highlight their resilience within a patriarchal Confucian culture.
Jane Jin Kaisen’s video work “Tracing Trades” chases and traces the history of human trade and trafficking between Korea and Europe, starting with the investigation of the history behind the mysterious “Korean Man” by Peter Paul Rubens. Shedding light upon Korean-European relations, and particularly international adoption, the quest leads to 19th century emigration of Scandinavians to North America, especially to the state of Minnesota. A department of Alien Affairs starts investigating how the first East Asians came to Scandinavia. In their search, Denmark’s prime tourist attraction, “Tivoli” keeps appearing in historical documents. Following these trades, they begin to look for traces that could help explain Scandinavia’s colonial history, repression, and worship of certain exotic elements.”

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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.

African Diaspora Adoptee Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laptop Grants for At Risk Youth

Laptop Grants for At Risk Youth
This program provides free refurbished laptops to selected college bound foster care youth and other youth under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court system. This program is a partnership between City Youth Now www.cityyouthnow.org, Redemtech www.redemtech.com, TechConnect Digital Inclusion Initiative www.sfgov.org/digital_inclusion and Independent Living Skills Program www.sfhsa.org . This program is made possible through a generous grant from the John Burton Foundation and contributions from Microsoft Corporation.

City Youth Now is currently accepting grant applications through mid-August and will make approximately 50 grants. Applications must be submitted on behalf of the youth by a social worker, probation officer, CASA, attorney, or other adult authorized by the Juvenile Court to provide services to youth. City Youth Now is selecting the recipients with input from the Independent Living Services Program and Juvenile Justice. CYN does NOT accept requests directly from youth or their caregivers.

The youth will be required to attend a full day computer training workshop to receive their laptop.

For more information about the program, visit: http://www.cityyouthnow.org/laptop_computers.php

For the application form and eligibility requirements, visit http://www.cityyouthnow.org/forms.php

Thank you,
Emy Tseng

Project Director, Digital Inclusion Programs
Department of Telecommunications and Information Services
City and County of San Francisco
Emy.Tseng@sfgov.org
http://www.sfgov.org/digital_inclusion
415-581-4064

In tha Mix

Whew! Summers here – grades are done. I’m in full writing mode for my dissertation. Things are moving forward here at A Birth Project. Just wanna check in on my bi-monthly update. Just a note, these bi-monthlys will only be happening while I’m trying to finish my writing. Then its back FULL steam ahead!

Here’s some updates.

Good article yesterday in the NYT’s. De-emphasis on Race in Adoption is Criticized.

Great quotes by Shannon and JaeRan. Whoo hoo!

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I just finished watching an amazing film, The Official Story (La Historia oficia) . Its a film from 1985 directed by Luis Puenzo. This film totally caught me off guard by the intricate ways the filmmaker brought the politics of Argentina’s military dictatorship of the 1970s to the forefront and focused on how children are always the one’s who pay for the crimes of war. I found this film SO connected to the ways in which I think the U.S. continues to wage war on its communities of color and then removes their children from them calling it in ‘the best interest of the child.’ There were so many amazing scenes about denial of family, secrecy and lies in adoption and how the labor of poor women’s bodies continues to be used to fulfill the monied populations desires. In other words, how rich folks get to take poor folks children in that same overused paternalistic way that has happened in all colonialist histories. netflix this people!

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I’m also in the process of developing a 6 week young black TRA men’s support group. I’m so tired of watching these young men reach adolescence and suddenly they become the site of all their parents fears. They are tall, black, becoming sexual, becoming young men, negotiating race and identity – and parents are now, suddenly afraid – are now concerned about ‘control’ and violence. Im gagging. I cant take it. So im developing a program for support. Any ideas or funding places?

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I’m presenting June 13th at the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival in LA. If you are in the area, or know people in the area – please pass the info on! My presentation will focus on mixed-race organizations and the ways in which transracial adoptees have been embraced by these organizations. Its a good thing, but my presentation pushes us to critique the places where TRA’s issues diverge in very real and important ways from mixed race identity and argues that there are many moments where adoption issues change the way a mixed race identity is experienced. Come say hi!

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Of course the planning for the first ever AFAAD mini-gathering in Oakland the weekend of November 7-9, 2008 continues with a vengence! WooHoo! Please pass the word and contact me for details!

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Oh Lord – 90210 has returned… and has a black character. Um – a black ADOPTEE character. I’m already prepared for the worst storylines ever. (Sorry Tristan, Im not hatin on you, Im hatin on the show) The cracked out black mother or father coming out of the woodworks to soil a perfect white landscape, the inevitable search for roots or black identity that ends in destruction. What im most irritated by is the desire to have a black character that will of course, equate diversity, but the total unwillingness to have a black FAMILY. are you fucking kidding me? Talk about erasure hidden in liberal discourse. (vomit sounds here). I’ll be watching 90210. Be Careful.

New LGBTQ TRA parent group

One of the 50 zillion projects i have is working part time at Pact, an adoption alliance in Oakland, CA. I’m working as the Adoption Education Specialist, developing new and revising old adoption training and educational courses for professionals and pre & post adoptive parents. Its a complicated thing working at an adoption agency, particularly one that does any transracial adoptions, even if about 70% of the adoptions we do are same-race adoptions for children of color. Even with this statistic, most of the life-long educational support work we do is for white adoptive parents.

We’ve recently partnered with OFC (Our Family Coalition) in San Francisco and IPride/Fusion to develop a new training/ support group for queer adoptive parents focusing on transracial adoptions called Colors of our Families.

I just wanted to let you all know, its starting soon, pass this info on to folks in your community!!

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Colors of Our Families

A six-session peer support group for parents to talk about issues and strategies relevant to race, ethnicity, culture, adoption and parenting.

* Free Childcare will be provided by KidSpace of the SF LGBT Center.
* The Spring 2008 group is for parents of children between the ages of 0 to 5. For families with older children please let us know of your interest as we hope to offer future groups for other age ranges.

Dates
Saturdays 2-4 pm – May 3rd, 17th, 31st, June 14th, 28th and July 12th

Where
San Francisco LGBT Community Center
1800 Market Street, San Francisco 94102

Cost
The cost for 6 sessions is a suggested sliding scale of $90-$120 ($15-$20 per session).
No one turned away for lack of funds.

Questions or Interest in Future Groups

Please contact Martha Rynberg, group facilitator for questions specific to the group.

Cloak / Dagger

(i dont know why the freakin formatting on this isnt working!!)


proof of my christianity

comes snapped in two weathered polaroids

draped in my new crisp robe

waist immersed in lake water waves

a black as sin before shot a washed as white as snow

after shock

==

a gold stamped certificate of baptism

calligraphy signed by the pastor

etched with Christ’s outstretched arms

calling “come unto me”

to all the little children of the world

red and yellow black and white

they are precious in his sight

and as long as I memorize my bible verses

recite on Sunday after services

I can claim both for my pass at the holy gates

==

shamefaced at my rushed memorization

a virgin mary with hot cheeks

and furious forehead wrinkles

I stare past the teachers sanctified grimace

beg god to let me remember so my squirming will stop

and simultaneously curse him

for having 2nd John write so many words down

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I will never make it past the pearly door

unless I have my papers cause

hidden in the folds of my black girl memory

are consecrated christian children who refuse

to touch me during playtime devout in their service of god

they rebuke satan’s hold over my black skin

converge on me with whiteness, with righteous love

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so St Peter at the entry to heaven

might catch fire burning out my eyes

may hear whispers of celestial vengeance unspoken

might note forgiveness nowhere in my heart

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but I got proof

I got papers

and we all know the documentation counts

and the spook at the door*

just needs an in

to start wreckin shop.

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* ”The Spook That Sat by the Door” is a 1973 film based on the book by Sam Greenlee about a Black CIA agent named Dan Freeman who after training in guerrilla warfare, clandestine operations and unarmed combat, uses what the CIA has taught him to train a street gang to utilize the tactics in an upcoming fictitious race war.