16 days ago via a text message from fellow author, and Texan, Amy Ford, I was asked if I would be interested in talking to a producer from Nightline ABC who was working on a story about Transracial Adoption.
“I’d walk to Texas to talk to him,” I responded.
That began 16 days of chaotic bliss.
The next day I had a 45 minute conversation with Eric Johnson, producer with Nightline ABC. I left him a message earlier in the day and directed him to this website/blog to find out more about me. This began a frustrating volley of him calling me and me emailing him until finally I received a short email from Eric.
“I read your information and I am very anxious to talk to you. Call me as soon as you can.”
Immediately, I frantically dialed the New York number and Eric answered on the first ring. I have had big opportunities like this many times over the past few years and they have quickly and almost instantaneously dissolved before they could materialize. From those experiences I have learned not to go too high up in the elevator labeled “Hope” because the free fall back down to earth can sting. From those experiences I have also learned that when these opportunities come along you have a small window to jump through with a limited amount of time to pitch yourself. It’s like a microwaved job interview.
The twist I didn’t see coming was that Eric was probably just as excited to talk to me as I was to talk to him. In the world outside the adoption community, adult adoptees can be seen as a rare find. If you narrow the search to adult transracial adoptees talking to one is like spotting a mermaid, riding a unicorn, while chasing Big Foot.
As soon as I heard Eric’s voice I was relieved. Eric is black and the familiarity that instantly comes with that recognition is calming. Over the past few months I have gone on job interview after job interview only to be the runner up time after time. In that process as I grab the door that leads into the business, I say a silent prayer that someone of color will be a part of the interview process. I am 0 for 8 with that prayer. The familiarity that has eluded me as I chased after those jobs was there in the first seconds of talking with Eric.
Over the next 45 minutes I crammed in all I could about transracial adoptions, my opinions on the deep issues of transracial adoption, and my experiences as a transracial adoptee. Once again Eric threw me a sliding curve. He had a good grasp of the issues of transracial adoption and was very well versed on the history and that made me feel better.
Right away he told me what he didn’t want. He didn’t want the very familiar story of the new transracial family who has just recently adopted a cute and tiny child of color. ABC wanted a more well-rounded story. Although they were sure what they didn’t want. They weren’t too sure just what exactly they did want. As the conversation progressed and I shared from my experience very quickly the story’s focus became clearer. Eric was certain he wanted me as part of the story and thought I could add a view that rarely isn’t seen or heard. Eric also liked that I was working in the adoption field and he casually expressed interest in sending a crew out to tape me as I conducted a training session in the near future. Before he finished that sentence, I was thumbing through my calendar to find out when and where I was speaking next. Before we hung up I let him know a date and time of when I was speaking. Past experience has taught me once the fish is on the line you don’t let them go away with a “maybe.”
The date was two weeks away and he was considering it. Then he expressed the desire to interview another TRA; a teen-aged TRA, as well as a couple who was considering adopting transracially. The training I was doing in two weeks was a class for potential adoptive parents and the majority of them were open to transracial adoption. Almost instantly we had two of the three on Eric’s wish list.
Eric then asked if I knew of a teenaged TRA that may be interested in being interviewed with their family. I told him I would reach out to my local network of families and agencies and see what I could find. Finding the trifecta in the same area meant only one stop for the crew which meant a huge savings for them in travel expenses and it potentially also meant the shooting time was reduced to days not weeks. Suddenly, Toledo, Ohio was looking like an attractive place to visit for ABC
Less than 24 hours later I cleared it with the agency I was working with and they were open to having ABC tape the training I was doing. I located an amazing TRA family that lived less than 30 minutes from me, and also realized I had another presentation that I was giving the day before. I emailed Eric my progress and held my breath. The ball was in his court to shoot it or throw it away…
Eric was thrilled.
I didn’t realize at the time but in 24 hours the show and the focus of the show was set; looking at transracial adoption past, present and future. The story would center on three parts, someone who had lived it, someone who was living it, and someone who was considering it. While I was running and searching and confirming, Eric had presented the idea to his boss and he was cleared to proceed.
The additional presentation I was doing was on how I, as a TRA, had gained my racial identity. It was a presentation I would be giving to a local University’s social science department. Eric was excited about the topic and we agreed he would arrive a day early to tape this as well. Over the next week I would go through and rewrite the two presentations, get media clearance from the University, meet the local TRA teenager and his family, and get very little sleep. The typical adoptee doubts would creep in early each morning and my sleep time would be traded with self-doubt and seer panic at times. Those familiar voices that chiseled away at my self confidence showed up each morning at about 5:00 am and wouldn’t leave until the sun chased them away.
I was more secure with everything around me than I was with myself. Rhonda, the transracial mother of the young transracial adoptee who would be part of the story, reminded me of my Mom. She is tough yet understands on a deeper level the need for black mentors and black role models for her son. Immediately, I knew she “got it,” and I also knew her husband and family would present well. She was the type that would take no shenanigans which increased the likelihood of this story being real as well as positive. I was comfortable with what they would contribute.
Over these two weeks more and more I felt the pressure from all sides. I recruited all those involved now and I didn’t want anyone to be exploited or mocked. I knew going under the lights I wasn’t going alone. I felt the pressure and passion to represent the adult adoptees who rarely get this type of opportunity. I felt that if I presented well maybe more of us would get better opportunities to be more represented in bigger roles in the adoption community. Those early morning voices were getting louder and louder.
Fortunately, I have come to understand the origin of the voices and what their role is. They are part of the adoption residue that comes as a bonus with the signing of the adoption papers and they live to make sure I don’t live as big as I can. Now when they whisper to me, I talk to them. When they talk, I shout. When they yell, I scream. And when I scream they retreat and the real me smiles and stands up to meet opportunities like this eye to eye. The energy that comes from fighting back feels like it’s going to shoot out of my finger tips and toes launching my finger nails and toes nails across the room.
The shoot for Nightline occurred last Thursday and Friday. We do not know when it will air. We are anxiously awaiting word from Eric and ABC on the exact date. Once I know I will update the website. Once it airs we will also have a link to it on the website for those who miss it or want to see it again.