Saturday, May 31, 2008

Two Americas Meet

A month or so ago I watched a documentary called Meeting David Wilson. It was the exploration of the history of two David Wilson's one white and one black. They didn't only share the same name but they shared a history where one set of Wilson's were owned by the other. It was an interesting historical story that in the end united to ends of one family.

After the show ended NBC sponsored a dialog with thought leaders about the continuing issue of race in America. That is the first time that I heard of Tim Wise. Below are a couple of short video segments from the after - program.

You can also check out David Wilson's blog.

How Can We Transcend Race?

Who's Problem Is It Anyway?

Can't We Just Get Over It?

Introducing Tim Wise

Below the video clip is an excerpt from a Tim Wise article -- What Kind of Card is Race? Tim Wise is the author of two new books: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (Routledge: 2005).

On the video he talks about how studies on race from the 1960s and 2004 both show that 70-80% of whites believe that black and brown people in their communities are treated equally and fairly.


So, for example, what does it say about white rationality and white collective sanity, that in 1963--at a time when in retrospect all would agree racism was rampant in the United States, and before the passage of modern civil rights legislation--nearly two-thirds of whites, when polled, said they believed blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities--almost the same number as say this now, some forty-plus years later? What does it suggest about the extent of white folks' disconnection from the real world, that in 1962, eighty-five percent of whites said black children had just as good a chance as white children to get a good education in their communities (12)? Or that in May, 1968, seventy percent of whites said that blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities, while only seventeen percent said blacks were treated "not very well" and only 3.5 percent said blacks were treated badly? (13)? 1963, three-fourths of white Americans told Newsweek, "The Negro is moving too fast" in his demands for equality (14)?

What does it say about whites' tenuous grip on mental health that in mid-August 1969, forty-four percent of whites told a Newsweek/Gallup National Opinion Survey that blacks had a better chance than they did to get a good paying job--two times as many as said they would have a worse chance? Or that forty-two percent said blacks had a better chance for a good education than whites, while only seventeen percent said they would have a worse opportunity for a good education, and eighty percent saying blacks would have an equal or better chance? In that same survey, seventy percent said blacks could have improved conditions in the "slums" if they had wanted to, and were more than twice as likely to blame blacks themselves, as opposed to discrimination, for high unemployment in the black community (16).

In other words, even when racism was, by virtually all accounts (looking backward in time), institutionalized, white folks were convinced there was no real problem.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America at large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we've become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter, when we have run up such an amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In every era, black folks said they were the victims of racism and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Oprah Winfrey -- Legend

Is there anyone in America that hasn't heard of Oprah Winfrey? In this international adoption process a constant theme is transracial identity and how parents help their children of color become strong and independent proud of who they are? I believe to know who you are or even to know the people you see like Oprah you have to know how they came to be.

A few years ago she had her Legends Ball to honor the women who shaped her, the women who showed her what was possible, the women of standards that she hoped to meet. I remember watching it and how emotional it was for me too. The women who I most remember wanting to be like were Gladys Knight, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni. I remember being mesmerized as a little girl by the grace and class of Gladys. I read everything by Maya and Nikki impressed with their ability to communicate such strong messages that I felt were meant just for me. Then their were men like Sidney Poitier and Langston Hughes.

Anyway, here are few of the YouTube videos that capture how eternally connected we are to the people who carry our history and culture and what we must do to continue those traditions throughout the generations. Remember Oprah is OPRAH but, but no matter how big she has become, she is still very humbled by her history. OPRAH shows how important it is to HONOR our elders -- the black women who paved the way. Even more she shows how and why it is necessary to connect the young generation that comes behind her. These are the cultural truths that need to be continually shared.

Don't miss the poem: We Speak Your Names at the end of the first video. My favorite is the singing at the gospel brunch in the last video.

We Speak Your Names

Excerpt: We Speak Your Names*
By Pearl Cleage
From Oprah Winfrey's Legends Weekend

Because we are free women,
born of free women,
who are born of free women,
back as far as time begins,
we celebrate your freedom.
Because we are wise women,
born of wise women,
who are born of wise women,we celebrate your wisdom.

Because we are strong women,
born of strong women,
who are born of strong women,
we celebrate your strength.

Because we are magical women,
born of magical women,
who are born of magical women,
we celebrate your magic.

My sisters, we are gathered here to speak your names.
We are here because we are your daughters as surely as if you had conceived us, nurtured us, carried us in your wombs, and then sent us out into the world to make our mark and see what we see, and be what we be, but better, truer, deeper
because of the shining example of your own incandescent lives.

We are here to speak your names because we have enough sense to know that we did not spring full blown from the forehead of Zeus, or arrive on the scene like Topsy, our sister once removed, who somehow just growed.
We know that we are walking in footprints made deep by the confident strides
of women who parted the air before them like the forces of nature that you are.

We are here to speak your names because you taught us that the search is always for
the truth and that when people show us who they are, we should believe them.

We are here because you taught us that sisterspeak can continue to be our native
tongue, no matter how many languages we learn as we move about as citizens of the world and of the ever-evolving universe.

We are here to speak your names because of the way you made for us. Because of the prayers you prayed for us.
We are the ones you conjured up, hoping we would have strength enough, and discipline enough, and talent enough, and nerve enough to step into the light when it turned in our direction, and just smile awhile.

We are the ones you hoped would make you proud because all of our hard work makes all of yours part of something better, truer,deeper.
Something that lights the way ahead like a lamp unto our feet, as steady as the unforgettable beat of our collective heart.

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

You couldnot have been in each of our little black girl bedrooms watching us hold that make pretend microphone as we lip synched your latest hit when dinner was ready downstairs.
Or curled up under the covers with your new book when we had math homework to do.
Or prayed for your safety when our parents told us you were somewhere fighting for our freedom, and it was dangerous work.
It is always dangerous work, but the trade off is unacceptable.
From you we leanred that freedom is non-negotiable.

You could not have known that your collective example of the limitless possibilities that were open to us is what allowed us to look our mothers in the eye and say:
Mama, I wanna be a singer
Mama, I want to be an actress
Mama, I want to be a dancer, or a sculptor, or a lawyer, or a leader or a world-changing force for good, loose in the world whirling.

And even when she rolled her eyes and shook her head and pronouced us more our father's child that we had ever been hers,
She knew you had planted those ideas in our heads and she thanked your foliating us so that we could be a part of something better, truer, deeper

We speak your names
We speak your names...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Six Relational Truths

If I've never mentioned it I teach Group and Organizational Dynamics as an adjunct professor. It doesn't really matter other than the fact that I came up with what I call the Six Relational Truths that I share with my students. They really apply to all relationships and a recent situation caused me to pull them out again.

Here they go, use at your own risk. Whenever you can say, "that is true" just remember that someone is saying the same thing about you.

The Six Relational Truths
  1. Expectation rules the relationship.
  2. Your perception is not everyone else's reality.
  3. Your assumptions will always tell on you.
  4. You might be dead right but you will still be dead.
  5. There's always a choice so choose wisely.
  6. If you can't imagine that might be wrong it's nearly impossible for you to ever be right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why Are You Adopting?

After being in this community for so long, I've heard many different reasons given for why people (should) adopt. Some talk about saving children and others talk about wanting to parent. I'm sure that both factor into the decision in some way.

I'd love to see at least 100 votes. Feel free to link to the survey.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Map of Ethiopia

From the beginning of the process, I've looked for a really good map of Ethiopia that would show many of the smaller villages. This is the best one that I've found so far.

Click on the map so that you can increase the size.

I can't believe how much geography I've learned.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Key Factors for Successful Adoption

I read the article below on the A Child's Waiting website and thought I would share it.

Successful Adoption Indicators
There are several factors that can predict the possibility of a successful adoption as well as the possibility of an adoption disruption. Having a good understanding of your family and the dynamics that it presents can help circumvent any possible problems before and after a child comes home.

Adoptive families that are working towards or currently possess the following characteristics are more likely to have a successful adoption experience.
  • Families with emotional support from their family and friends
  • Families who did not care what the “Jones” think
  • Membership in an adoption support group (families share common problems which normalizes their own family transitional problems)
  • Family engages in family leisure activities as a whole throughout the week
  • Involvement in a religious practice
  • Lower to middle income, high school or two or less years of college education
  • Children who have been able to maintain past relationships in their new placements
  • Adoptive Families who remain active within their adoption agency
  • Children who have been able to have closure with past caregivers
  • Families with some child care or parenting experiences
  • Families who continue to education themselves about adoption issues as well as any special needs of the child
  • Families with a strong marriage or partnership
  • Patience
  • Families that are more empathic towards a child and the past issues that they have had to face rather than blaming them for the family problems
  • Adoptive families who put the needs of the child before their own-ALWAYS
  • Easy access to post-adoption services
  • Resolved infertility issues
  • Women who do not need to feel “appreciated” everyday and do not take child rejection or behavioral concerns personally
Here is a second article on the success factors. You can also read a list of factors for adoption disruption or unsuccessful placements.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thoughts on My TransRacial Family

I think I've mentioned that I grew up as part of a transracial family. If not, I did. After my parents divorced my father married a white woman with three children about the same age as my brothers and me. I was about 10.

What I hope families will understand is that what children try to come to terms with what is normal? I know we like to talk about we are all the same and skin color doesn't matter. Maybe not but because we have different cultural experiences and everyday realities we have different words to express or explain that. Sometimes the same words are used to mean something different. Interpretation and norming is pretty interesting. It's what me and my brother call "do you see what I hear." This is meant to be fun so hope you see the humor.

  • Why don't you wash your hair everyday, won't it get oily? Hope so, beats being dry.
  • You don't have a perm, your hair is not even curly. I know that's why I got a perm.
  • Did you get your hair styled? No. I just got it done. DONE equals wash and set even if it was blow dried.
  • Does your mom every let you wear free hair? I don't know what that is but sometimes I wear it down.
  • Why are you wearing hose aren't your legs already dark? Huh!?! Hose or stockings have more to do with the occasion and attire. I never had or would have associated them with giving my legs a tan color. That explains why I see girls wearing hose with shorts or their cheerleading outfit.
  • If you put on heels it will lift your butt. From where and for what?
  • My daughter has the greatest little body, she has not butt at all. Eeeks -- death sentence for a black girl. Black girls without behinds were said to have a disease called, "noassatall". Celebrate the power of the booty!
  • Does this outfit make my butt look big? Isn't that the point? I will say though that what we usually refer to as butt is the curvature and not the width of hips.
  • Just wear nude hose. Mmmm, nude doesn't come in my nude color.
  • If you're going to wear white pants make sure to white undies. Uh-Uh doesn't work that way -- must wear black.
  • Hey that guy just said you have big legs -- how rude. It was actually a compliment.
  • Can black people get tan? I would imagine unless you think we/they are as black as they can get already.
  • Do you have dry skin. No -- I'm just ashy.
  • You can never be too rich or too thin. My mother always said even dogs want meat on their bones.
  • What are you going to have for Thanksgiving? Standard menu sweet potato pie (not pumpkin), greens/green beans not casserole, dressing not stuffing, that canned cranberry sauce.
  • We're having macaroni and cheese for dinner. Isn't that a side dish where is the meat?
  • The proper way to prepare meat is with a little red in center -- you don't want to over cook it. My mother always said we don't put food on the table that can still run away -- cook it or you will get "the worms."
  • How come all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria? Because all the white kids are sitting together in all the other seats.
Feel free to add your own.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Walk in the Clouds

Two of my three favorite lines from movies come from "A Walk in the Clouds." It starred Keanu Reeves who fell in love with a beautiful woman whose family had immigrated from Mexico.

To understand how that relates to this adoption, you would have to know the two lines and here they go:
  • The heart wants what the heart wants.
  • Just because I speak with an accent doesn't mean that I think with an accent.
There has been an ongoing conversation among adoptive parents about why parents choose the age range and sex of the children that they choose. The discussion revolved around the desire for girl babies as young as possible and how that could lead to corruption of the system.

I didn't enter the conversation because I guess that I feel that the heart wants what the heart wants. What is right for some might be all wrong for me. I'm not alone but I'm one of the PAPs that has no interest in adopting a baby. My request was for children over two and up to six or seven (leaning more towards the upper range). I hear parents talk about missing first steps, first words, and finding some security in the fact that they are the only parents their children will know. I'm not sure why those things don't matter to me at all. What is more important to me is that I can talk to you and we develop an understanding of what those words mean. I'm not sure if it is the many years that I've worked with children but I find that children at about 3, 4, 5 to be the most curious little people ever. I love their curiosity, I love seeing them discover new things and ask non stop question. Maybe I'm weird that way -- I just don't really get excited about babies. But, "little people" are a real sense of joy and wonder to me. Strangely enough I'm also just a little more drawn to boys (girls are great too).

The speaking with an accent thing. Here's why I love that line and have never forgotten it. It would be so easy for people to assume that children born into poverty, with little education, and no ability to speak English are some how less intuitive, curious, intelligent, or perceptive. Be they the children or the parents in Ethiopia their inability to speak my language does not diminish the pride that they have in who they are today. I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when someone suggested that these kids just "might not be that bright." I say don't let the tattered roofs fool you. With kids I think it is important to be a talent scout and look for what is possible in everyone of them. I can't wait for that.

My third favorite movie line..."They call me Mr. Tibbs!" If you've never seen Sidney Poitier in the movie, "The Heat of the Night" you are really missing something. You would have to understand what it meant for me as a little colored girl seeing that movie and hearing that line for the first time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Family Relations Matter

I had never given this much thought but since I'm thinking about, I thought I might as well write about it. I hope to get some feedback and perspectives as I've read many on other sites over the last week.

I have always assumed that adopting two children at once that they would be siblings. Some one asked me recently if I would consider adopting two children at the same time that are not biological siblings. I guess my first answer is why not? I'd never thought much about it because many of the agencies prohibit it.

Like everything in adoption there are a lot of opinions. I actually read an article that accused parents who adopt unrelated children of rushing to build a family without any understanding of child development. It said that the parents were thinking only of their own needs and not those of the children. Another article I read accused agencies that would allow the practice of being unethical.

Here's what I've heard or read and the questions I have:
  1. Adopting unrelated siblings does not give the children the individual attention that they need to adjust to a new family and the culture. Would this be different if they were biologically related?
  2. The children may not get along, they may be adjusting to liking a new mother and then have to adjust to a new sibling too. Will they get along if they are siblings? Won't they each have their own adjustment to me as a new mother either way?
  3. Adopting siblings provides support for each child in a way that unrelated children cannot. Siblings probably come with some of the same family traditions and habits, but won't two children from Ethiopia share those similarities related or not more than the Ethiopian children will share with existing children in the US family?
  4. They share no actually family bond. Do our adopted children share an actual family bond or are we attempting to create one? How are these unrelated siblings different than the unrelated sibling situations created with existing children?
  5. The children or one child may have attachment issues or other psychological issues that need to be addressed. Would this be the case for a single child or one or both of a biological sibling pair?
  6. The child's needs should come first and it is complicated with these artificial sibling bonds. How much do we talk about the difficulty of children who are adopted as singles but have left behind siblings that they have grown up with?
  7. Another though just came to mind...what about biological siblings that are being adopted that don't have the same mother and father.
I haven't resolved this. I'm just thinking out loud. What do you think -- pros and cons?

Here are two articles. Article 1 or Article 2

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, mothers in waiting, mothers gone on before, and the mothers to come!

I pray today a special pray for the mothers in Ethiopia who make one of the hardest decisions possible. To give so unselfishly for children that I'm sure they love more than life itself. Sometimes people in the adoption community discuss terms like birth mother and real mother. To be granted the gift of motherhood is a blessing no matter how it comes to you. Once you've been a mother there is no time, place, or distance that separates you from that bond.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Woman's Worth

I found a website for the Ethiopian Women's Alliance based in Cambridge, MA. There was an article written about the role of women in the Ethiopian community. The writer speaks of how even coming to a new country does not really change the role of women and how they are often viewed. Her realization is that it begins with how the woman learns to see herself.


I was born like an Ethiopian women in a male dominated society where the dominance of men and subservience of women in something that is indoctrinated in us from a very early age. I grew up with the knowledge that men are more privileged than women, they are supposed to be. Women exist at the instance of men; all the decision-making power belongs to men, both within the domestic and public spheres. Naturally the men make decision that favors them at the expense of their female counterparts. I learnt early that the art of serving and obeying men is a women’s province and her duty. It is hardly surprising then to find that I am still a ‘domesticated’ individual. My early upbringing was meant to prepare me for an eventuality that my fate, marriage and the limiting life that it entails. ‘It is a woman’s lot’ to endure this kinds of life.

The incident I observed in Lekso Bet was the effective ‘weeding’ out of women from the meeting place, leaving only men to make the decisions about the funeral. I am not saying women are exactly forcibly ejected from their seats. They merely get up of their own volition to provide incoming men with sitting space. After all, a decent, well brought up woman does not sit while a man stands, does she? Being ‘well brought up women’ we did not stop to think about the effect of what we are doing, we merely gave in to years of conditioning and gave up our seats to men. By getting up and giving away our seats, I did not realize the enormity or significance of what we were really giving up. We were giving up not just our seats but our chance to be part of the decision making process that was going to affect us, at least in the funeral! As I talked aloud to myself to the utter dismay of my relative, I wondered in amazement how many other ‘seats’ I had ever yielded without being any the wiser. I wondered how many seats Ethiopian women continue to yield, completely unaware that they were thereby signing off their right to power (as ability to make decisions is power), day by day. I wondered if the men I was watching with new eyes, realized how easily women relinquished their positions thereby empowering them, or they just took everything for granted. I have continued to wonder what will happen when more and more women learn not to relinquish their seats like my friend. Not just at the funeral meetings but in all spheres of life.

Read the entire article.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Seeing Black Through White Eyes

I came across this interesting article that tells the story of Michelle Obama first meeting her Princeton roommates. The story is told not from Michelle's point of view but from that of her white roommates and one of the parents.

I added it because so much was made about Michelle Obama's comments about her time at Princeton (also quoted in the article). It's also interesting to learn what has happened in the many years since.


But her first day at Princeton held a surprise, too. And Donnelly knew it would mean confronting the past.

She walked into the historic Nassau Inn that evening and delivered the news to her mother, Alice Brown. "I was horrified," recalled Brown, who had driven her daughter up from New Orleans. Brown stormed down to the campus housing office and demanded Donnelly be moved to another room.

The reason: One of her roommates was black.

"I told them we weren't used to living with black people — Catherine is from the South," Brown said. "They probably thought I was crazy."

Read the entire article.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ummmmmm Good!

I am a pretty positive person. I won't say that I don't experience sadness but I'm rarely really angry. Even when I am, I'm usually focused on so many other things that I will often forget what I'm angry about. That being said, I am always introspective. When things happen I withdraw a little, go inside, deal with my issues and emotions and then THINK through a plan. For me it is always about the plan.

What usually helps me to do that is listening to music. That's why all of the latest posts have had links to songs that either inspire me, calm me, or reassure me. Sometimes I will listen to the same song over and over at home and in the car until it sinks in. Here is another one. I've been looking for this Smokie Norful song on YouTube for the longest. It is not there. I did find it on another video site. The song is called "Um Good". I remember the first time that I heard this song, I was literally living through every word of it. Today looking back I see how I've rebounded from it.

If the words are true then there is never really any reason to doubt or worry how things will turn out. It is better to shout, praise, and give thanks in advance for the fact that you know they will.

Smokie Norful

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

There is Always a Plan

No matter what, or where, or why, I am so glad that I know:
  • Joy comes in the morning
  • No weapon formed against me shall prosper
  • Hope that is seen is not hope
  • All things work together for good
  • God has not given us the spirit of fear
  • God always has a plan

Here is one of my favorite Martha Munizzi songs, "I Know the Plans".

Friday, May 2, 2008

Taxi Cab Confessions: Ethiopian Style

Over time I'll reveal a bit more about the drastic changes that have impacted my adoption. Let's just say this week began on a crash curse towards a brick wall. I'm reminded to it's not always where we start that matters but where we end up. This morning things changed the moment that I got into Abel's cab.

I was in Boston the last few days on business and struggling to focus on the many meetings that I had. Today, all I wanted to do was make it through today and head home. Abel met me at the curb with a smile. As we tried to pull out into the intersection, he grumbled a little about the traffic and said, "I don't mind Boston but the traffic is terrible." I asked him where he was from (the accent was a give-away). Just as I thought, he told me he was from Ethiopia.

I mentioned to him that I would be traveling to Ethiopia. After seeming very surprised he told me that he was born in Bahir Dar but grew up in Addis. He was shocked that I had even heard of Bahir Dar. He told me that when I travel his brother works at a hotel and could provide us rooms.

Abel: When you go there I want you to be prepared for what you will see. There are many poor people in Addis and it will be hard for you. They are your people, they are black people like you and me. When you see their condition it may make you sad.

Did he say that they were "my people?" He included me and thought we shared some common bond. He told me that his family lived well by Ethiopian standards and that he wanted me to meet them so he gave me his telephone number. I hesitated as to whether or not I should tell him about the adoption. I didn't know how he would react. But I said it quietly, "I'm adopting from Ethiopia." He literally hit the brakes and stopped the car. I took a deep breath.

Abel: You are Ethiopian!

He turned around to face me and smiled really big. He hadn't really heard me and I told him that I was not. He thought I said that I was adopted, so he told me that if I was born there I am still Ethiopian. I explained again that I was not born there. He understood and started to drive again. I told him that I WAS ADOPTING children to bring them to America. He stopped the car again. I knew he heard me but what would he think?

Abel: My sister has children in Ethiopia! My sister died and her husband died. They left behind four children. She left them to me, but I cannot bring them to this country. Is it possible that you could meet with my family and consider adopting her children?

I held my breath again, I just wanted him to say that the children were in my age range. He told me that he was only concerned about the youngest. I was thinking how young?

Abel: Her son is 12 and in the eighth grade. For the children it is difficult and we only want the best for them. We want them to go to school and be well and have a future. God is going to bless you well for caring for the children. Please call me and talk to me before you go to Ethiopia. My family is good and they will be kind to you and your father.

He gave me his number again for the second time. He told me that he was glad that I was one that he picked up this morning and again that I would be blessed.

Abel: When you come again to Boston, I will take you anywhere that you need to go. You will not pay me I will always drive you now for free. When you do this that you do that makes us all family and we believe in helping our family!

He got out of the taxi and hugged me before I walked away. I understood that he was my confirmation that I'm on the right path and even closer than it might seem right now.

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]