Saturday, I got to do something I have rarely had the pleasure of doing. I got to sit next to two other transracial adoptees and talk about what it was like growing up as a transracial adoptees.
Ola Zuri (Why Can’t You Look Like Me, Where Do I belong) and Rhonda Roorda(In Their Own Voices, In Their Parents’ Voices, In Their Sibling’s Voices,) sat next to me at a small table at the front of a small room, above a church, and in front of about 35 engaged guests.
One by one we introduced ourselves and gave a brief summary of our adoptive families and what it was like growing up as a transracial adoptee.
As Ola told her story, I could feel the pain as she spoke of growing up in racial isolation in a family that gave little to no support of who she was as a black child. As she told her story there were times were I could feel the story came to life and surrounded her; boxing her in. Her painful memories of the past became very real and still present today. Just as I thought the memories would engulf her, her commitment to transracial children of today, and her desire to prevent them from living the life she has heroically pulled her back to the present.
Rhonda, who sat on the opposite end of the table on the other side of Ola, then told her story. Her story was filled with humor, and a positive light that pulled you in and made you want to hear more. She shared with us the integral part her black god-parents and god-brother played in her life and her contact with the black community that was reassuring and terrifying at times.
For the first thirty minutes, I sat listening as the other two shared their stories. Although I was the first to introduce myself, I gave a quick summary of my experiences because I was anxious to hear what Ola and Rhonda had to say.
Rhonda concluded her summary and Floyd, our moderator and husband to Rhonda, began with a question addressed to each of us. Again, I went first quickly answering the question so I could hear their responses.
Ola and Rhonda responded and then the questions from the audience began. Thankfully, I didn’t have to answer first so I sat and listened. I never got the chance to answer that question because someone else had another question to piggy-back on the first question.
It was here where I realized that I was a part of the panel not the audience and I needed to do more sharing.
As a transracial adoptee, there is peace in hearing how other transracial adoptees have navigated through their lives. In Rhonda, I found a kinship because her life is very similar to mine. The presence of other blacks and the community that surrounded her, helped raise her and form her identity. My experience was very similar.
Hearing Ola’s story, although much different from mine, I still saw familiarity in a woman who shared a life like mine.
But I had to get to work.
Waking up, I began adding more to the conversation, answering questions, and sharing my experiences and I realized the sprinkling of all our experiences and personalities began to stir and simmer. Each adoptee brought to this huge crock pot their own ingredients and when combined the result was something I was proud to be a part of. It carried an aroma I never smelled before; a pleasing and soothing aroma.
Over the course of two hours, when one question was answered, another hand shot up to ask another question and through raw honesty and sharing we were able to provide humor, reflection, and answers.
Over the past year, I have been a part of a lot of panels with some big names in the adoption community and have often left frustrated. When it was over, I wasn’t sure we did our job. I felt frustrated because I didn’t feel we gave the professionals and parents what they needed in a way that could be received, digested, and used for the betterment of the children.