Black Excellence – Chris Kennedy, the Black Santa

Two years ago, Chris Kennedy put up an inflatable, seven foot tall, Black Santa in his front yard. An angry community member responded with a racist note stating:

“Please remove your negro Santa Claus yard decoration,” the letter, signed by an anonymous “Santa Claus,” read. “You should try not to deceive children into believing that I am negro. I am a caucasian (white man, to you) and have been for the past 600 years.”

In response to the note, Mr. Kennedy did not remove his Santa and added a second Black Santa. He posted about the incident on Facebook and his neighbors and community responded by decorating their front lawns with Black Santas too.

Chris Kennedy's front lawn in Little Rock. After he received a racist note demanding he remove the Black Santa outside his home, he added a second one. (Courtesy of Chris Kennedy)

In response to the note, Mr. Kennedy did not remove his Santa and added a second Black Santa. He posted about the incident on Facebook and his neighbors and community responded by decorating their front lawns with Black Santas too.

Inspired to further action, he stated,

“I couldn’t let hatred win,”...“You don’t like me having a Black Santa in my front yard? I will go and be the Santa Claus for the entire city.”

So he rented a Santa suit, began taking photos with his daughter and then traveled across the country from his home in North Little Rock, Arkansas to attend a Santa Camp run by the New England Santa Society in New Hampshire. At camp, he was the only Black Santa. His experience at camp is portrayed in a new HBO documentary “Santa Camp” along with the stories of a disabled man and a transgender man. Get your hankies on hand before you watch!

(Rated TV-MA for mature audiences. The content is intended for adults, and isn't really suitable for children under the age of 17.)

Chris Kennedy became a professional Santa Claus after receiving a racist note two years ago, demanding him to remove the inflatable Black Santa from his front lawn in Little Rock. (HBO Max/John Tully)


Creating New Traditions to Reflect Our Families and Celebrate Their Identities

author: Avril McInally

For most of us, holidays can be a little overwhelming. Do we have all the candles we need for our Menorah or for our kinara? Have we gotten our holiday lights and decorations up? How are we managing our budgets? Is the house tidy and clean enough for our house guests? Do we have enough food? Speaking of food, what about those special recipes we need to prepare? Do we have all of the proper ingredients? And the gifts? Did we purchase enough gifts to make sure no one is left out or one child gets more than another? These are the scenarios for most families at Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Yule, yet what of our families? Our families manage these aforementioned holiday traditions of hosting, eating and gifting as well as creating space for our adopted children, their race, the family they were born into, their culture, their religion and more! Read our previous post: ‘Tis the Season to Reminiscence

Because our families rest at the hub of multiple aspects of identity, we visit the idea or concept of intersectionality. Some intersectionalities that help to describe our families include race, gender, sexuality, adoption, age and religion. We have several aspects of intersectionality to honor, celebrate, foster and sometimes protect too. There’s a little more “juggling” for us to do to manage these precious aspects of our children’s or family’s identities. One way to celebrate “us” is to create new traditions that reflect our families and celebrate their identities. Read our post about the conversation cards this month December - Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

Traditions are a way for families to connect and memorialize important life events. To adoptive families, creating traditions is more than a way to bond, but it can also be a great way to commemorate each family member’s roots. By incorporating activities that celebrate birth culture, adopted children can develop a strong sense of identity.

This year, I’m going to work on creating a holiday card for our family with my family. I’ll make a list of our intersectionalities with my adult daughters. Black, White, Adopted, Not Adopted, Atheist, Immigrant, American, Cisgender, Female, Male….. You get the picture. Then, we’ll draw a Venn diagram of our family’s identity and decorate it. Heck yeah, “This is Us”! This is who we are with some holly on top! This could be a new holiday tradition for us. If you start this tradition now with young children, you can save your cards every year and watch how your list morphs or matures.

In addition to creating and honoring traditions, it’s important to make time to honor our extended family of adoption as we gather to eat a special meal, to light a candle, to build a fire on one of the longest nights of the year or simply when we tuck our children into bed at night. Remember it’s important to honor and/or acknowledge the family members absent from your home. It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” yet at the height of festivities and anniversaries, our children may be experiencing loss and sadness. Make space for children who are processing these emotions and thoughts and love on ‘em a little more and give them space to talk about their feelings. Let’s build traditions of inclusion, empathy and love!

This post is from our December, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Book Corner – December 2022

BOARD BOOKS

Happy All-Idays:

By Cindy Jin, illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr.

“We all celebrate the season in our own special way.
Let’s look at how families prepare for each holiday.”

With a double-page spread for each holiday, this inclusive book shows families enjoying Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Chrismukkah.  Ending with Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year, Happy All-Idays is a celebration for everyone.

Merrytale:
A Christmas Adventure

By Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Allison Black

On Christmas Eve two brown children are invited on an enchanting adventure.  They ride on a dog sled through the forest and across the ice to Santa’s workshop, where they meet a diverse group of elves who are baking, making toys, singing, wrapping, and more.  Children will love lifting the flaps, turning the shaped pages, and finding all the magical details in this fun book.

S is for Santa:
A Christmas Alphabet

By Greg Paprocki

From A is for Angel and B is for Baking, to Y is for Yummy and Z is for Zephyr (a toy train), this book is an alphabet of holiday fun.  The illustrations have an old-timey feel, but are delightfully populated with people of every hue.  A joyful depiction of Caroling, Ice Skating, Mistletoe, Volunteering, and more.

PICTURE BOOKS

The Christmas Book Flood

By Emily Kilgore, illustrated by Kitty Moss

This beautifully illustrated book is based on a real tradition in Iceland.  Each year people give books as gifts on Christmas Eve, and the recipients spend the night reading.  They snuggle under blankets, eat chocolate bars, and drink hot cocoa.  The lovely art in this book depicts all kinds of people searching for just the right books for their loved ones, gifting them, and reading together. The wonderful tradition of Book Flood is starting to spread around the world.  Reading this book together would be a great way to introduce it to your family and friends!

The Christmas Pine

By Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Victoria Sandoy

This lovely book also celebrates a wonderful tradition.  Every year Norway sends a spectacular Christmas tree to England as a symbol of peace and friendship.  Each year a poem is written to welcome the tree to London.  The Christmas Pine is the poem that was written for the 202o tree.  The touching text and illustrations show the tree’s journey from the forest to the ocean to Trafalgar Square.  There are happy diverse groups of people on both ends of the journey. A sweet book for family sharing around the Christmas tree.

The Hanukkah Hunt (Ruby Celebrates!)

By Laura Gehl, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

Avital is sad because her mom will be far away during Hanukkah.  Cousin Ruby plans a treasure hunt to cheer Avital up.  Each night of Hanukkah there is a rhyming clue, which leads to a fun surprise.  The final clue leads to the best surprise of all – Mom is back in time to celebrate the last day of the holiday.  This story of a loving multi-racial family is followed by an explanation of Hanukkah and directions for playing Dreidel. 

NONFICTION

My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa

By Lisa Bullard, illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo

Kevin and his mom get the table ready for Kwanzaa, and then the celebration begins.  They light a candle each night, talk about the Seven Principles, and have a party.  Readers will learn about Kwanzaa as they enjoy the holiday with Kevin and his family.

Kwanzaa, How to Celebrate it in Your Home

by Kathleen Minnick-Taylor, illustrated by Charles Taylor II

Kwanzaa is an African American cultural holiday that began in 1966.  This book is an accessible and handy guide to celebrating the seven principles of the holiday.  For those of us who attended camp in 2022, this is the guide we used to celebrate Kwanzaa at our dinner times.

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


December – Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

The December holidays give us an opportunity to think about traditions tied to different cultures and religions. Regardless of what you and your family honor and celebrate, we can be inspired to take a closer look at what traditions mean to us and how we can expand our thinking and actions.

December Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send out cues for conversations each month. Our Transracial Journeys card deck contains 3 cards for each month that the children use to ask their parents questions. Below are the questions for December. Before getting started, read the parent pro-tip each month.

December Pro-Tip for Parents: Resist the urge to hold tight onto traditions that may be holding you back from fully embracing new ideas that may better honor your child’s culture. Also think about simplifying or modifying some of the traditions you now honor to make room for new ones.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• As a kid, did you celebrate any December holidays?
• If so, which ones?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Were there things that you would do year after year as a family during the month of December or maybe other months of the year?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some new traditions or holidays you’d like to learn more about and/or try?

This post is from our December, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Book Corner: Holiday Guide 2022

From Newborns to Adults

The Book Corner is a regular favorite in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters and parents are always looing for age-appropriate books with themes of diversity, inclusion and adoption.  The Book Corner's creators, Avril McInally, MLS and Victoria Richards, MLS, bring us this Holiday Guide for 2022 - a great roadmap for picking books as holiday gifts for our families and friends.

Click on the image or the link below to download a 9-page annotated bibliography for families formed by transracial adoption with a focus on the intersectionalities of adoption, race, ethnicity, gender expression and identity. 

Download Holiday Guide 2022

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Nourishment: Reflecting on Thanksgiving, Adoption and the Family Table

author: Avril McInally

Our November theme is all about family and nourishment but not simply about food and what we eat, but how we nourish our understanding of the uniqueness of our families and in service of the children we are entrusted to care for and love.

This month we center on both Thanksgiving and National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM)! This year NAAM’s theme is “Small Steps Open Doors”. One step we can take as adoptive parents is to participate in the online training available from the National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster and Adoptive Parents. This curriculum,

“is now available and free to States, counties, Territories, Tribal Nations, and private agencies. The curriculum encompasses more than 38 themes that include contributions from adults who have experienced foster care and address topics such as parenting in racially and culturally diverse families, trauma informed parenting, and maintaining a child’s connections.”

Thanksgiving and NAAM

At the intersection of Thanksgiving and National Adoption Day, which is held annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, while we traditionally center on the joy we also need to make space for the challenges that come to our literal and figurative table. Days commemorating adoption, as well as the history of Thanksgiving, can be challenging for those of us who have been adopted as well as for indigenous people in the United States. We, as families formed by transracial adoption, have a unique and lived perspective of coping with related challenges in this nation. As we continue to move through the more complex layers of our modern lives, we can ask ourselves an important question - how can we celebrate or commemorate Thanksgiving and NAAM? Related post: Adoption: A Three-Sided Coin

Deciding What Holidays to Celebrate

In the past, we’ve shared thoughts about Juneteenth and Independence Day, and how different families decide to celebrate one holiday over the other. What we choose to put on our calendars and how we choose to celebrate or give a moment’s grace to our anniversaries is personal to each one of our families. This year, we encourage all families to work on threading the strands of National Adoption Day and Thanksgiving together at the Thanksgiving meal. Let’s give thanks for family, honor the adopted children entrusted to us, and continue to process the history of Thanksgiving and how it plays out in our lives today. As children advance and grow, we can encourage conversations and connections to adoption and differences of race. Regardless of how old children are, there is an opportunity to explore the important elements of identity and connection.

This post is from our November, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


November: Nourishment and the Family

The following post is from our November, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.

Thanksgiving can be one of the more complicated historical holidays, and for many in the United States, one of the more family and food-centric holidays. Whether you are a family that chooses not to mark Thanksgiving in a traditional way, or your family goes all out with a big Thanksgiving celebration, this month we are thinking about the family table and what might be true when there are differences of race and culture with transracial adoption. November also brings National Adoption Awareness Month, (NAAM) which can be challenging for some adopted persons. This month prompts on your activity deck include questions for both areas of discussion.

November Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send out cues for conversations each month. Our Transracial Journeys card deck contains 3 cards for each month that the children use to ask their parents questions. Below are the questions for November. Before getting started, read the parent pro-tip each month.

November Pro-Tip for Parents: Talking about family and complicated history can activate deep-seated emotions and feelings. Make sure you have the support you need to process your feelings before and after the conversations you may have with your children.

November Transracial Adoption Conversations

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
The Family Table: Describe your family table when you were growing up.  What was the food like?  Who was around the table? What were the best parts of family dinner-time? What were some of the harder parts?
NAAM: When did you first learn of NAAM?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
The Family Table: Who were the people sitting around your family table?
NAAM: What does NAAM mean to you?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
The Family Table: Were there ever people of different races around your family table?
NAAM: How can we find our own unique ways to honor and mark NAAM?


Book Corner – November 2022

For Children Ages 2-5

I Am Thankful:
A Thanksgiving Book for Kids
By Sheri Wall, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

This sweet rhyming story follows three families as they prepare for Thanksgiving. Everyone is cooking and baking. One family visits a pumpkin patch, another donates to the food bank. Some travel on a plane to be together, and a child talks to a far-away father on the phone. Readers will see different ways to get ready and celebrate, including looking at old photos together, doing a puzzle with a big brother, and decorating the table. On the big day everyone enjoys delicious food, and most important, time with people they love. I Am Thankful is a joyful story, with lots of ideas to inspire new traditions. There are plenty of wonderful things to do inside – including a section of Thanksgiving projects for kids.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

For Children Ages 4-8

Our Little Kitchen
By Jillian Tamaki
Illustrated by …

A diverse group of adults and children come together to prepare a community meal. Bursting with energy, the book is a lively celebration of sharing “what we’ve got, what we’ve grown.” Including a recipe for yummy vegetable soup, Our Little Kitchen is a fun read for anytime – and a great choice to inspire gratitude and caring.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Black Excellence: Daniel Smith 3/11/1932-10/2022

This month, we mourn the passing of Daniel Smith who died at the age of 90. His life of activism and his pursuit of civil rights very probably stemmed from being the child of Abram Smith, who himself was born into slavery in the 1860’s.

In multiple interviews, Daniel has recalled stories of his father’s experiences under slavery and the ensuing era of Reconstruction.

“At night, Smith would sneak out of bed to hear the stories only his older siblings were allowed to consume. From lynchings to horrid punishments, the stories were gruesome.”

Being raised the child of a former enslaved person along with his 5 siblings, he later came to acknowledge seeing his parents as,

“...followers of the “twice as good” philosophy — the futile belief that black people must perform twice as well as whites just to be considered equal. And beneath the sunny message of how extraordinary the Smith children were lay Abram Smith’s stories of slavery with their frightening symbols of brutality.”

As a young man, he served as a medic in the Korean War. Upon returning to his home in Winsted, CT in 1955, he was dubbed, “Danny Smith, the Negro hero of the town,” for rescuing a drowning man from a flood.

He later attended the Tuskegee Institute to pursue a career as a veterinarian but he left the program after the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL in order to join the Civil Rights Movement. Then, Mr. Smith went on to work on many endeavors related to race equity and civil rights. One such accomplishment was his work as a literacy advocate with migrant workers. This provoked retaliation from the KKK but it didn’t stop him from continuing to work on behalf of the movement, as his life was filled with similar endeavors until his retirement in 1994.

Click on the links to read more about this man’s remarkable life.


The Persuaders and Transracial Journeys

Our Transracial Journeys organization is included in a book by a best-selling author to be released in October.  This post is to provide our families some background and context and was written as a collaboration by Avril McInally and April Dinwoodie. 

In 2018 we were approached by best-selling author of Winners Take All and award-winning former New York Times columnist, Anand Giridharadas. He was writing his next book that centered on an insider account of activists, politicians, educators, and everyday citizens working to change minds, bridge divisions, and fight for democracy. He had heard of Transracial Journey's mission and the work we are doing to offer practical tools and support for families experiencing transracial adoption and thought it should be part of his research.

Anand at TRJ Family Camp 2019 for Research

Because we fiercely protect the community we have nurtured, we thought long and hard about how best to engage with Anand. After several conversations with him and a lot of thoughtful discussions with our board we agreed to invite Anand to our Transracial Journeys Family Camp in 2019 with the understanding that the community we create is a sacred place and if invited in without a direct connection to transracial adoption it would be imperative he abide by our guidelines for engagement. We prepared families that were attending camp and clearly articulated what it would mean to speak to him "on the record".

This October, The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy will be released by Penguin Randomhouse. As Anand describes in a pre-release article,

"I wrote THE PERSUADERS because I want those of us who believe in democracy to prevail against this dangerous ongoing revolt against the future....I set out to find the activists, politicians, educators, organizers, and others who are doing the work of persuasion when others aren’t and who I thought had something to teach us all. I talked with them, followed them, and then wrote a book about their quest, in a time of great crises, for a politics fierce and unapologetic enough truly to change things and smart and expansive enough to change the minds to get there."

Transracial Journeys Featured in Anand Giridharadas Book

A recent reviewer in Publishers Weekly wrote: “[Giridharadas]] interviews progressive leaders who seek to maintain their principles while appealing to the unconverted without denouncing them as bigots or alienating them with politically correct dogma.”

The second chapter of the book, Can Love Change A Mind?, features discussions Anand had with Transracial Journey leaders, parents and race equity trainers at Bellwether Camp in the summer of 2019. You may recognize some of the interviewees. As you read, keep in mind the preceding quote. We, as parents of transracially adopted children, sit in the landscape of this book with some amazing global leaders and activists all of whom have their own agendas and lived experiences.

Having had the opportunity to listen to adult transracial adoptees over the years, it is becoming more and more apparent that our kids and families in particular sit at the junction of more than one intersectionality be they race, adoption, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and more. For a lot of the world, adoption is not considered an intersectionality. If it were, then there would be far less adoption jokes. This particular intersectionality isn’t addressed in “our chapter”. It’s not really part of the author’s thesis or theses, but it is ours. So let’s start talking this up and engaging those who don’t have awareness of this aspect of our children’s identities. After all, that’s the modus operandi of this book.