Sunday, August 31, 2008
Another week has just flown by. I have definitely been keeping busy. I just realized that I've never really specified what I am counting. If you go back to the riddle (#9) it is my prayer that we have passed court by the end of October or first week of November. That is at least another eight weeks from now.
In honor of my fourth week of my self-proclaimed twelve-week wait. Here I am in my all my four-year old glory -- March 1970. You know the family by now. The addition is my cousin Yolanda. I also added the back of the picture with one of my mom's notes.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I was what the grown folks referred to as busy. I went through a period where I always had to have on a band aid usually for some of my busy-girl antics. The little girl in dresses was my mother's vision. The picture of me in motion -- that's the real me. I said, "Open up those courts and hand over my lovelies!"
Saturday, August 30, 2008
This is to catch you up with a few things going on with the adoption process.
- I loved your answers to the riddle me post. I'll only say that the boy/girl - 4/6 thing is correct.
- Like many of you, I am anxiously waiting for the courts to re-open on September 28th. (riddle #6 some paperwork things were not resolved before the courts closed)
- I got a great deal on furniture for the kids room and it was delivered last week. I can't find a red shower curtain and I can't decide what color to paint their room.
- I picked up packets from a couple of schools that I'm considering.
- I've made the Ethiopian mom connection. I've always wanted to develop the relationships naturally and this past week I was introduced to the sister of someone from my agency and the sister-in-law of my best friend from college. Both women were born in Ethiopian and moved here in their teens. They have five children between them and have truly extended themselves to me as "family" and ready resources.
- I've started buying things I will need when I travel like flip flops and cotton swabs. (smile)
- I've had a consultation with the doctor's office.
- I started a Yahoo group for Culturally Fluent families to discuss adopting and raising children within, across, and outside of our own cultural experiences.
- I have developed this new strategy for coping with the wait. I will go into a store shop for what I believe are the right sizes, pick cute outfits, imagine my children in them and then before I leave the store, I put it all back! It is helping me a great deal.
- I did buy a few books and a couple of arts project things.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Barack Obama was nominated as the Democratic candidate for the President of the United States of America.
Those in witness, those who have shared in the struggle, those who believe let the tears roll down their face.
With that one acclimation and that one word "acceptance," the world changed. Now the work begins to see who we might become. This is only the beginning the job now is for those who believe to take this change all the way to the White House.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked or told, "You must be Indian" The only people that asked this question were black people. It was always a strange question to me and I tried to ignore it. It is true, I guess (even now I still hedge) my grandmother's family was Cherokee, Black and Scottish (so I was told). That never meant anything to me because I didn't look like them and I'd barely met any of them. Race or skin color was a definite issue on my father's side on my mother's side, the only mention is, "the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice."
It was REALLY easy to tell the difference between my mother's family and my father's family. Looking at pictures of my great-grandmother and her siblings, some look mixed, black or even Caucasian. Still, I hated being asked. If I said yes, inevitably there was one person in the (black) group that would say, "All of (us) are mixed with something. It doesn't make you special."
Why was I asked? It had to do strictly with the extremely long length of my hair and the texture. That's it. Since I am very brown, no one ever confused me with being bi-racial. There had to be some explanation and in the Black community. Usually that was being Indian.
Let me introduce you to my relatives, the McCains. This is my great-grandmother and her full-blooded siblings. The last picture is my father with two of his great aunts.
On the flip side. Going to very white schools, the white kids never took notice of my hair. I don't remember it ever being mentioned. I do remember Officer friendly coming to school telling us to beware of bad men and all the pictures were of black people. I remember being asked if I lived in the ghetto. I remember kids being curious as to whether or not I actually had a father, if all black people could sing, run fast, or talk jive. It didn't take long to figure out these were not considered positive things. So, when the white kids would ask me questions, I would tell them that I couldn't possibly know because I was INDIAN! I just had figured that being Black meant bad and being Indian meant being special or at least a lot less Black.
At my white school I was Indian and Scottish and in my all black neighborhood I tried to just be a Black girl. I actually went through a two-year phase of tucking all of my hair under and pinning it to look like it was short (my mother forbid me to cut it).
Years ago I worked at in an office where they had big St. Patrick's Day celebrations. A co-worker was putting Shamrocks around the office with people's names on them. When he got to me he said, "Oh Valarie we gave you one too, even though you obviously are not Irish." I said, "No I'm not, I'm actually Scottish!" I wish I had a picture of the look on his face.
FOOTNOTE: One of my cousins on the other side of the family saw the pictures before reading the post. She asked me who all the white people were on my page. When I told her they were my father's relatives, surprising she said, "I always wondered exactly what you were. You never looked like the rest of us, you always looked a little foreign or mixed with something." She was very serious and was a little surprised -- still. Still, to me, I just look like a Black girl.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Comments from posters
- Selam Mulugetta state of being is an indication of the depth and breadth of the Ethiopians assimilating into the community at large.
- Selam shoulders a unique role by way of represting Ethiopians in diaspora in the election of Obama, possibly the first black American president. I wish her sucess.
- This is a remarkable milestone for those of us who made the new land our home for the last 40 years.
If you haven't figured it out, the theme I'm on right now, it's the integration of Ethiopian culture into the lives of our children and how it intersects with American and African American culture.
I found this post on the Ethiopian Encyclopedia blog and thought it was interesting. It was based on measure of assimilation: language, culture, traditions.
- Most first generation Ethiopians can not speak Amharic...probably 1 out of 10
- Most first generation Ethiopians do not know the history of their country beyond the facts that it was never colonized and that Emperor Haile Selassie ruled in Ethiopia
- Perhaps 1 out of 6 practice their parents’ religion (many do not because they cannot understand the language)
- Cultural practices remain alive but its strength are dying. People do not stand up for elders-norr in amharic- but they do offer their seats to them and give them priority when serving food.
- Within the Ethiopian community their are different ethnic groups. So even those from Ethiopia may or may not share the same language,history, or customs. (*my addition)
- Ethiopians are spread throughout the United States and lack contact with other Ethiopians.
- Living in a foreign country requires the ability to speak English for economic survival
- Ethiopian customs are not required for daily living.
On any of the adoption forums I will defend the negative stereotypes and preconceptions that exist about Black people. I do so, one because it is the community that raised me and I want it represented in the best possible light, and two because I want people who are adopting children of color to recognize how harmful believing those things can be to the self-identity of their new children. There is no hope in telling me what's wrong. The hope is found in looking at what is possible.
I've always believed that you can never give advice to others that somehow isn't intended to teach you something as well. So, here is my big aah-haa moment.
It occurred to me this morning that constantly posting how many children die and how many are orphaned is just like me seeing how many black children are raised without fathers or how many black men are in jail. Constantly repeating those negative facts stains and limits the honorable Black man that wants to nothing but care and provide for his family. Over representing the negatives is not the whole story. Posting it all over the web will leave the impression that it is all their is to Ethiopia.
I or others like me are not exceptions, we are what our community raised us to be. My education or intelligence is not an exception. The fact that I don't live in poverty is not the exception as much as it is a testament of what is possible. It is the same for our children from Ethiopia. In a country that has so much more to offer than children for adoption, they want their story of hope, wonder, and excellence told. If not our children will become known as "one of those kids that would have died in Ethiopia." Some will believe that the only redeeming value is that they were adopted by a good American family.
I think that if we are going to be the country's ambassadors, they want us to tell people that they are under incredible strain and fighting against difficult odds and our children are evidence of their effort and not their failure. I think they would rather that we talk about what the government and its citizens are doing to ensure the welfare of children and families. I think they want us to talk about the important impact that they have had on the rest of the world in art, sport, culture, song, and history. I get that now. It should not have taken me this long to make the connection.
There is an old song by the Winans called Millions. The song says, "Millions didn't make it but I am one of the one's who did. I made it over. I came through hard trials and tribulations, persecution but I was one of the one's who did." I think they want us to say that for those who will not make it to the U.S.A our children carry their hopes, their strength, their resilience, and their faith. As long as our children live they will always represent the hope of what will come.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
- A child born in Ethiopian and raised in America needs to learn how to live in this country. Living in this country means being a part of the larger African American community. Even if they choose not to they will still be seen as Black in America.
- All Blacks in America have ancestral roots in some African country. Our children are just one more generation removed. They are following others that came many years before.
Stepping back from adoption, these children are apart of a larger migration of Ethiopians who have come to America. The cultural traditions you adapt from their home country will not matter if the children are not fully prepared to live in the U.S..
MIGRATION OF ETHIOPIANS TO AMERICA
In 1973 the Solomonic dynasty in Ethiopia was overthrown in a military coup. That began the first big migration. A common experience was for a small group of 5-20 people to travel across the Ethiopian desert by night and hide by day. Many sought asylum in neighboring countries like Sudan or Somalia. Many died on the way. Migration to the U.S. began in 1980. More than 250,000 Ethiopians came to this country between 1983-1993. Upon coming to the states, most live in large urban areas on the East and West coasts. The largest populations of Ethiopians can be found in Minneapolis, Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York. You can read more interesting facts.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS
Although they generally feel more comfortable interacting with African Americans, they do not feel privy to the historical, political, and socio-economic fight for equal standing held by the African American community. Second generation Ethiopians seem most at home with the African American community and take advantage of the social support networks established by first generation Ethiopians. The Source
Yes. The school in the Chicago Public System are bad. I've mentored a young girl that was in the National Honor Society in high school with a reading level of about sixth grade. There are problems and the funding of the schools is POOR. That's why they need to be in school EVERYDAY!
I am ashamed and give them an "F" for foolishness. Can you imagine what the kids must me thinking?
FOOTNOTE: The school system uses headcount on the first day of school to determine how some funds will be allocated to the schools.
Monday, August 18, 2008
[Click for the Close-Up]
Sunday, August 17, 2008
But, I am still Myrt and Jimmy's daughter. No matter how grown I get, some of my favorite comforts will always be:
- The Black Church: I particularly like the spirit and energy, the amen corner, sangers, and mother's row. There's nothing quite like a holy ghost filled Sunday morning.
- The Backyard Party: The loud laughter, the old school jams, the corner for those playing spades, bid whist, or dominoes. Oh yea, and that one little, little kid that will dance without fear in the center of the crowd.
- The Food: Please don't surprise me on the holiday's with that new fangled cranberry apple nut stuffing. The tree days of the year that I eat it I want real cornbread dressing, peach cobbler, and black-eyed peas. I will make the macaroni and cheese.
- The People: I love my elders (old black folks that will tell you just how it is), the church ladies, my sisters (the sisterhood) all of them even the colorful ones, a strong black brother, and you know I love the babies. That for me includes all young people up to about 25.
- My Family: They are a bunch of characters and I wouldn't change them for the world.
- The Beauty Shop: Many of my friends now go to the SALON. I get my hair done at beauty shop. I've tried those...well you know what I mean. Yes it can be loud with 10 conversations going on a the same time, TV on and radio going. There might be someone selling CD's, cookies or something, but as long as the little stove is HOT, I'm fine.
- The Music: My favorites go from the 60s and 70s stuff with Marvin, Gladys, Retha, Temptations, Stevie, Spinners, O'Jays, and the Whispers. Jeffrey Osborne and LTD. Okay, I better stop. I like ALL of it. But then there was that part of the 80s with Guy, DeBarge, Luther, alright you all get it. I love ALL of it! If you don't like Marvin Gaye's Gotta Give it Up something is wrong.
- The Movies: Do you remember all those Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, and that cutie pie Calvin Lockhart. You know Car Wash, Let's Do it Again...Okay well what about Sparkle and Lady Sings the Blues? The Whiz.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I interrupt my regularly public post to send myself a very important spiritual message. Sent from on high and found in the words of the Song of Consecration.
Asking questions like I've never asked before. I'll be expecting answers that will unlock every door. To a new and living way. To serve Him better in the future is the reason I'm here today.
Seeking God in a very solemn way. Taking heed to the things I do and say. Offering myself to him. I'm coming as a sister. I'm coming as a friend.
Lord now I see it's you I need. With your help denying self, put my hand in yours. I'll give you my heart. I'll give you my mind. I put myself in yours. Now I see it's you I need. With your help I'm going to deny myself and put my hand in yours. God I thank you for your goodness. I thank you for your mercy. Now I see it's you I need. With your help I'm going to deny myself and put my hand in yours.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
If you are a Stevie fan you know the best part is the bridge: Thinking baby, 'bout you baby...
Does anyone have any Stevie favorites? I'm thinking my adoption theme song will be Overjoyed or or As (I'll Be Loving You Always).
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I encourage families to investigate the organizations on this list. You might find that they provide valuable resources to you and your children.
Towards Cultural Fluency
For those who want to increase their cultural fluency I offer a challenge. I've created a workbook exercise around these getting to know these organizations. I am creating ten challenges in what I call 90 Days to Cultural Fluency. If you are interested you can register and access the information.
Here is a list of Black/African American Organizations.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Like Robbin I will age myself one year each Monday until I see my children and bring them home. It should be easy since my mother took pictures like she had a contract with Kodak. Most of our family pictures are in albums in chronological order with dates written on the back.
Well, finding the pictures will be easy. Enduring the wait more difficult. Hopefully I won't come close to my actual age of 42 (hope I don't turn 43). I am even dreading posting the tween years -- you know that awkward stage.
For everyone's amusement. It is me at age 1-fourteen months old.
Trying hard to have fun while I wait.
Originally Posted August 8, 2008
It's been so hard keeping quiet these last few weeks. There's so much to tell that I decided to keep. I want to share, but just a little. So help me solve this adoption riddle.
- The people's judge no calendar has he.
An idle place no people to see.
- One paper in hand a pledge to make.
Two hands to hold, two hearts to take.
- One of snips and snails, and bugs and such.
One tender and sweet, and soft to touch.
- Bright eyed smiles and a striking pose.
One little profile, and a button nose.
- Not one, not two, not three but four.
To find her next then add two more.
- This closing door, this mess to fix.
This paper thin, a clock that ticks.
- Month eight add two the best to hope.
Decree the man untie this rope.
- A trip to plan a plan to date.
Three hearts to join a bond to make.
- Count with me week 6 times 2.
A mother's prayer we make it through.
- Hope for the day, the joy, the end.
From home to home and back again.
I write about race and adoption not because I am hampered by race but because I am hopeful. I want to have those difficult conversations because these children deserves our best. That means doing the hard work so that it allows them to just be kids. I become somewhat uncomfortable when I hear families talk hope that having a dark child in their family will soften the hearts and open the minds of others. I know what they mean but as Dr. Phil would say, "Children don't need to come into our families with a job." It is not their job as children to open hearts and minds, it might be the result but it is not their job.
Can I say that I don't like the term transracial adoption. What I hope is that we can build culturally fluent families. That's my term -- cultural fluency. When you are other than, the cultural awareness and skills that you must develop to raise an Ethiopian child, an African American child, a Korean, or Guatemalan child are the same. Once a family becomes culturally fluent they can transfer those skills as they experience other cultures.
WE can create a better America (not wanting to be over dramatic but you know what I mean) and a better future for ALL of our children. Black, Asian, Latin, or Indian children are not the only ones hurt by lack of diversity. White children growing up in a bubble don't reach their full potential either. Growing up in a multi-cultural world, white children need to move beyond the limits of comforts, be more open, knowledgeable, and self aware. Not only can we do it, we are the only ones who can! It's the grown-ups that need to bridge the divide that will enable children to create better opportunities for more full lives.
Why did I write this post? I was inspired to write this post because I received a response to an earlier post that I wanted to share. It is responses like this and others that I receive that keep me encouraged.
First, I have to say that I am seeking out more and more information as I journey through the Ethiopian adoption world as a Caucasian person. First, let me say I am a bit angry at myself at my lack of knowledge. What don't we all know about one another, why is there so much divide? I, myself, yearn to learn more about people and I want to look back at myself to see why it is that it took our China adoption and now our Ethiopian adoption to become "interested" more in diversity. Shouldn't we all want to know more about each other and cultures, etc. I am in a wheelchair and I often think how "stupid" people can be when it comes to me. But that gets grouped into the whole diversity thing. I can't wait to learn more about black culture and I hope you keep sharing for all of us so that we can pass it along and share with (others), ...the new Disney Princess, but I was a bit disturbed myself that they had her portrayed in such a way. How odd when there IS so much black history they could have gone to to form this character.Thanks for writing. Keep sharing with the community.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The NEW Disney Princess: Her name is Maddie she is a chamber maid to a white woman in 1920s New Orleans. She is rescued from her life of servitude by a white prince. Oh yea, and she performs voodoo!
Did they do any research at all? If so they might have found a few incredible stories to tell little girls of color about their history, their culture, and about their strength and fortitude. The comments stated that Disney's portrayal was historically accurate and others said what else would a black woman in the 1920s do if she wasn't a chamber maid.
Even before the Civil war (so before 1920) New Orleans was the home to many people called Gens de Couleur Libres or the Free People of Color. These groups were said to have prospered and amassed millions of dollars of wealth.
Education of the Times
The first black college in America was established in 1837. Today there are more than 100 historically black institutions and the majority of them were established between 1870 - 1910. So by the time that Maddy the princess lived in New Orleans there were scores of black women in colleges across the country. Spelman College a prominent college for black women in Atlanta first began accepting and educating women in 1881.
In Louisiana alone there were four historically black colleges at that time: Dillard, Xavier, Grambling State, and Southern Universities.
Social History of the Time
Not only were their black colleges but black people were in white universities all across the country. Black Greek letter organizations began as a way to promote education and support those few blacks on campuses. I belong to a historic black women's organization that was founded on the campus of Howard University in 1913. One of their first civic activities was participating in the Women's Suffrage movement that began that year. In 1908 on th same campus Alpha Kappa Alpha was created in 1908. (Acknowledging many of the black APs online).
Today these organizations still sponsor debutante balls and cotillions that were reminiscent of balls given throughout history.Today their are some 500,000 - 600,000 black women with ties to Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha today.
Considering the fact that it was illegal in many states for whites to marry blacks it is strange that the Disney story promotes the fact that the black princess might only be saved by a gallant white prince.
Black Men in the 1920s
Now why was Maddy rescued by any prince other than a black prince? Don't little black boys need images that are positive and representative of their history as well? In 1906 Alpha Phi Alpha a black fraternity was established at Cornell University. Other all black men's organizations that exist today were also born: Kappa Alpha Psi - Indiana University (1911), Omega Psi Phi (1911), Phi Beta Sigma (1914). All with intelligent, accomplished, and prince-worthy men.
What if Maddy were saved by courageous men like A. Phillip Randolph; civic minded men like Congressman Oscar DePriest elected to Congress in the 1920s; or brilliant writers like my favorite Langston Hughes. Maybe they could fashion the prince after passionate men like Marcus Garvey, accomplished scientist like Ernest Just and George Washington Carver. What about some of those heroes from WWI or even Matthew Henson that ventured to the North Pole with Admiral Perry?
Maybe we could find great men like:
- Pinckney Penchback a half black man first became governor of Louisiana in 1872 and was also elected to the US House of Representatives and the US Senate before his death in 1921.
- Blanche Bruce who had been born a slave became a US Senator in 1875 and Hiram Revels was yet another black man elected to the US House and Senate in the 1870s.
The Harlem Renaissance
The Renaissance is considered a time of social and intellectual transformation for black people. In this time of cultural renewal that lasted from 1918-1929 black people were writing, composing, and performing on Broadway. It gave rise to the famed Apollo Theater. It was jazz, it was blues. It was Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Josephine Baker.
It wasn't only in Harlem but in the 1920s Washington DC a 40-block portion of the city, (the Shaw neighborhood) was home to more than 300 black-owned businesses, including the Ford, Howard, and Dabney movie theaters, a large hotel, three black-owned banks, black newspapers and pharmacies.
Black Women of the Times
From 1900 - 1930 there were so many amazing black women doing amazing things against incredible odds. What if we developed the princess story line around some of these real-life women.
- 1903 Maggie Lena Walker founded the St. Lukes Penny Bank in Richmond, VA.
- 1903 Madame C. J. Walker started her haircare business and eventually became the first woman millionaire.
- 1903 Mary McCloud Bethune founded Bethune Cookman College.
- 1903 Nannie Helen Burroughs founded the National Training Center for Women
- 1921 Bessie Coleman earned her pilots license.
- 1921 Georgiana Simpson (Univ. of Chicago), Sadie Tanner Alexander (Univ. of Pennsylvania), and Eva Dykes (Radcliff) earned PhDs and Rebecca Coleman graduated from medical school.
- 1921 While attending Howard University Zora Neale Hurston published her first of many books.
- 1925 at the age of sixty-six Anna Julian completed her PhD in Paris.
Many of the comments are the best evidence for why Disney needs to do a better job in the type of character that it portrays. It is not only little black boys and girls that will learn from the story it is yet another generation of white boys and girls that get the wrong message as well.
I would think that in 2008 we could do better. Disney I am ashamed of you. After 84 years, it would seem that we could have used that time to be a bit more forward thinking, creative, and inspirational. For others that have read the story or may be confused as to why black American's are not overly enthusiastic, I hope this provides some context.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
July 27, I ordered comforters for the kid's but did not expect them to arrive for 4-6 weeks. Surprise! They arrived today in a big box. I can't believe the comforters are here already. I was told that they were made to order.
It was so hard finding a unisex pattern since my kids will be sharing a room. I was so happy when I saw this set months ago but I REFUSED to pay the asking price. So, when they were 50% off I snapped them up.
The beds that I ordered 5 weeks ago are a different story. Why, did I just receive a call telling me that the beds have been discontinued? Doesn't that seem like something that you would let someone know long before 5 weeks had passed? I guess that requires too much customer focus.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Blogs link people and their stories across miles. It allows us to develop fast friendships, share the experience, support each other through the difficult times, and celebrate the joys. I send out congratulations to two of my blog friends. I've followed along with both of these women and now they are new moms.
To Katie in Massachusetts CONGRATULATIONS on the twin arrival of Ruth and Aster. You can check out the twin on the Straight Magic blog.
To Grace in Pennsylvania CONGRATULATIONS on the successful court finalization for Hosanna Faith. I also have to send a big shout out and CONGRATULATIONS to Abigail as a new big sister. This is one fortunate little girl, your lives will truly be blessed. Meet the new baby on All These Reasons.
I am so happy for both of these families. It's great to see the whole plan come together even if there were a few curves along the way. You ladies have made me laughed, helped me believed, kept me encouraged, and inspired.
Thanks and congratulations!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the learned, nor favour to the skilful: but time and chance in all. ECCLESIASTES 9:11
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose. ROMANS 8:28
Then I listened to another of my favorite songs, For the Good of Them.
The race is not given to the swift nor to the strong but to the one that endureth until the end. There will be problems and sometimes you walk alone. But I know that it will work out for the good of them who love the Lord.
Eyes haven't seen and neither have ears heard. The things that God has prepared for them that love Him. Sometime you might have to cry and sometimes you might have to walk alone. But I know that I know it will work out for the good of them who love the love the Lord.
No matter what the problem. You can't solve them. They will come, but don't you worry. It will work out for the good of them who love the Lord.