Book Corner: My Seven Black Fathers

My Seven Black Fathers:

A Young Activist’s Memoir
Of Race, Family, and the
Mentors Who Made
Him Whole

By Will Jawando

 

Recommended books for white mother of black son

Will Jawando is a civil rights lawyer, an activist, and a loving husband and father of four. Currently a councilmember in Montgomery County, Maryland, he has worked for Nancy Pelosi, Sherrod Brown, and Barack Obama. My Seven Black Fathers is the story of how Will grew from a young boy with a white mother and an absent father to a successful adult. In his book, Will celebrates the Black men who stepped up to provide guidance and support – from a fourth grade teacher to the President of the United States. My Seven Black Fathers is an enjoyable, inspiring, and hopeful read.

The book is also a call to action. The author encourages Black men to become mentors, and encourages white people to “relearn and retell the story of Black men in this country and in turn help to shape a new story about who America is… help enable mentoring relationships between Black men and boys…” Will Jawando is “…working for a future that’s less like the past, a future where race and gender are less predictive of our outcomes, especially those of Black boys.”

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.


June, a Month of Celebrations

- by Avril McInally, Transracial Journeys Secretary

Hello June! Hello Summer! Hello to a plethora of days on the calendar to honor, acknowledge, and/or celebrate. Take your pick from this list, folx!

● June 1 | Global Day of Parents.
● June 5 | World Environment Day.
● June 12 | Pulse Night of Remembrance.
● June 19 | Juneteenth.
● June 19 | Fathers’ Day.
● June 27 | National PTSD Awareness Day.
● June 26 | LGBT Equality Day.
● June 28 | Stonewall Riots Anniversary.
● June 29 | International Hug Holiday.

There’s a lot to think about in the month of June. There are so many holidays to choose from that we could find moments to reflect almost every day. Just as we search for the ripest strawberries to pick from our June strawberry patches, we have the opportunity to hand-pick these moments for our families.

Choosing to Host Juneteenth Instead of July 4th

Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year. So, in 2021, I decided to ditch hosting any Independence Day festivities. I chose to acknowledge the holiday that honors my child’s cultural legacy. I chose to show her that her race and culture matter. For me, hosting Juneteenth instead of July 4th prioritizes the energy and the funds I dedicate to these historic holidays.

Kwanzaa Celebration in August?

Ultimately, as a parent, I was the one to decide how we celebrate as a family. In choosing which parades we attended or participated in and/or which holidays we celebrate was a reflection of how I showed up and supported my children’s identities and our multicultural family. In light of this, Transracial Journeys will be reimagining the calendar a bit as we celebrate Kwanzaa at camp this summer. What better way is there to celebrate this year’s camp theme of “Commitment, Community, Culture and Celebration”?

Global Day of Parents and Happy Fathers' Day!

May and June are near and dear to our hearts as most of us are parents ourselves and if not, you probably have a parent or two to celebrate. Getting back to the list of June holidays, the Global Day of Parents was made an international holiday by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2012. The UN worked to recognize and honor parents who work tirelessly to raise and support children in a holiday which:

“recognizes that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children."... "For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”

Hats off to you, dear parents and most especially this month, hats off to all of the dads who are doing all of this hard work. Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

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


‘Mother Wit’

It’s May! Our nurseries are bustling with customers searching for that “ just right“ plant to gift that special someone on Mothers’ Day*. Yours truly has also been searching for some “just right” inspiration for this month’s newsletter. Serendipitously, I came across this quote from Maya Angelou:

“I’m grateful to intelligent people. That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’... intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.”

Transracial Adoption

What is Mother Wit?

What is Mother Wit I ask, as I sit with April’s cards for the month of May spread before me? Why is this concept reverberating with me? Could Mother Wit help me embrace or face differences of race or culture? I ask myself, “what intelligence or wisdom do I draw from to be a loving, supportive and woke mother to my children?” This is a deep dig for me as much of my mothering journey had been traveled without any peers until I found my community in you, Dear Reader.

In the Encyclopedia of Motherhood, Mother Wit is “... the wisdom women develop based on their lived experiences. It is a type of knowledge that is informed by women's common sense, relationships, informal interactions, and life lessons…In addition, it signals the intelligence and astuteness that women can have, even if they are not formally educated.” Mother wit has been a tool much relied upon to dispense “protective advice and help them [our children] avoid harm and/or learn how to care for themselves.”

In her article, “Black Women: Holding Families Down for Generations with Chewing Gum and Mother Wit,” Desiree Cooper proposes the ancestral wisdom of women in her family and community is Mother Wit. Dr. Camille Wilson writes that Mother Wit is a form of “wisdom especially revered by African American slaves because it guided, informed and inspired oppressed African American families and communities to persevere amidst the grueling physical, social and political conditions imposed by slaveholders.”

Bitter Sweetness of Mothers' Day for Some

Mothers’ Day is a bittersweet day for me. It’s not grueling and I’m not oppressed, but I do experience sadness on this particular holiday of cheery flowers and breakfasts in bed. It’s a day that’s supposed to be bold and beautiful and celebratory, and yes, it is because I love being my children’s mother. However, throughout the day (and surrounding days), I sit in the shadow of another woman’s loss and I wonder, “how is she getting through the day?” Last year, I wrote about our children and the themes of love and joy and motherhood and how they contradict a, perhaps unspoken, awareness or concern of and for their biological mother. This day could very well be oppressive or grueling for our children!

Mother Wit is an old, folkloric concept related to maternal wisdom. What does yours look like on Mothers’ Day? I don’t write about Mother Wit to appropriate it. I write to shine a light on an important part of our children’s culture and in turn, ask you to take stock of your own motherly wisdom.

I have come to rely upon the relationship and community I’ve forged with other adoptive mothers and fathers …. People like you! I look to you for back-up and moral support. I look to you when things get really tense in the world or in my family. I look to you to see reflections and resemblances of my own family. Seeing that reflection makes me breathe a little easier. I need the wisdom, community and support of you.  You are how I experience and build my own Mother Wit, and I’m holding you all in my heart this Mothers’ Day.


Citation: O'Reilly, Andrea. “Mother Wit.” Encyclopedia of Motherhood, SAGE, 2010, pp. 873–874.

This post is from our May, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.


The Luck Code

It’s March! The spring equinox/first day of spring is on March 20 and March is Women’s History Month. It’s also St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 - a day when “everyone is Irish” and, more than any other time of the year, “luck” is in the air.

For families formed by adoption, there’s a type of “code talk” surrounding the concept of luck. If I had a dollar for every time a stranger told my child how lucky she was to have been adopted or how wonderful I am to have rescued a child from the system… Well, I don’t have to explain this conversation to you, my beloved, village of families formed by transracial adoption because you know the lingo.

Having lived a life on the receiving end of these messages, April writes:

"If I was lucky enough to be rescued from whatever situation I was in with my first family, I should be happy, grounded, have no issues whatsoever, and of course, I should never ever question my identity related to adoption. And heaven forbid, I should never search for my family of origin."

 

"These individuals (sometimes close friends) had no earthly idea that in fact, an adopted person loses something even when they are adopted by an amazing new family. I am not sure they meant harm."

What can help is to hold some space for having a conversation with your family about this month’s prompts. These conversation starters on our cards will really help when it comes to others’ reactions to our children and families, as well as the ensuing comments of luck and saviorism that may also be aired. As April says,

“these are intricate and complicated realities and thinking about them and talking about them will help ease what often lies under the surface."

This post is from our March, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.


Preparation: Transracial Adoption: Be Ready!

Have you had strangers ask inappropriate questions of you and your family? “Is she/he/them yours?” - “Where are they from?” - “Your child is SO lucky”. These invasive questions are part of being a family that does not match and where differences of race are obvious to the world around you. It is important to be prepared for these intrusions.

March Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for February. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

March Pro-Tip for Parents: Make sure you have thought about specific times when moments of intrusion or inquiry have happened to your family. Think about the conversations you have had with friends and extended family when they were reflecting on how they feel or think you and your children should feel about adoption. These are intricate and complicated realities and thinking about them and talking about them will help ease what often lives under the surface.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Do you feel lucky to be my parent?
• Do you think I should feel lucky to be your child?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How do you explain our family to friends and family? How about to strangers that ask about us?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some unlucky things about adoption?

This post is from our March, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!


The New Year and Hard Relationships

It’s a new year, and January generally comes to us with the mindset of making New Year’s resolutions and thinking about the year ahead. These resolutions are generally about things and not about our relationships (our connectedness) with others or with ourselves.

Teaching Our Children Healthy Relationships

Our behavior and thoughts about our relationships with others can range from warm and loving to anxiety provoking or even scary. In working on our relationships, think about love as an action. Consider activating love, relationships and doing the work to extend yourself in order to nurture yourselves and your children. It’s not easy, but showing our children how to do this when they are still children, and in our care, is a healthy concept to teach.

With this in mind, and because adoption is rooted in complexity, it is important that we, as adults and parents, work on processing our relationships and our connection to difficult things, concepts, and circumstances. Doing this will not only benefit us as individuals, but our children and extended families too!

Our Relationship With the Calendar

One of the first relationships you can lean into in January is your relationship to the calendar. In your TRJ card deck, April asks you to chart out some dates and anniversaries for the year with your children. Think about your relationships to these events (both celebrations and Transracial Adoption Conversation Cardschallenges) and how you might prepare for them. Share your strategies with your children, have them share their ideas and their “asks” for support or celebration with you and then co-create your year. Don’t worry about getting the whole year planned, you can go at a pace that works for you and your family.

Read more about January conversation cues, including Pro-Tip for Parents, in this month's Calendar and Card Deck post: "January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family."

Co-Creating your Family Calendar

For families that received the TRJ June in April calendar, we intentionally left it blank with no holidays or events. Instead, we gave you a list of possibilities on one of the first pages so you can fill in exactly what you’d like as a family. If you don’t have one of our calendars and you’d like one, send us a note to info@transracialjourneys.org and we’ll get you one. You can also do a similar exercise with ANY calendar you have and read our monthly emails for your conversation stimulants. Reclaim your calendar together and use it as a center of gravity for transformation!

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


January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family

January is a time when folks traditionally take stock of where they are and may even make some resolutions for a new diet, more time exercising, or commitments to spending quality time with family. For families experiencing transracial adoption, January can offer a time to think about the year ahead and together as a family, continue the expansive journey of purposefully navigating family and differences together.

January Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for December. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

January Pro-Tip for Parents: Do some pre-planning so that you have time to process some of the harder anniversaries or days on the calendar before discussing with children. Have some ideas to share for new dates to mark on the calendar so your children can react and be inspired to think about what they’d like to add as well.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Each family member thinks about a few dates they want to add to the calendar - from a whimsical day like “national doughnut day” to Birth Mother’s Day (the Sat before Mother’s Day) to the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Each
one of these days can be placed on the calendar with ample time to prepare!

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Work together to decide the best way to honor both the fun days and make room to honor and prepare for the harder ones.

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some unlucky things about adoption?

This post is from our January, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, 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, 2021, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Black Excellence – Virgil Abloh

This month's focus on Black Excellence is a tribute to Virgil Abloh who recently passed away at the young age of 41.  His career as a designer worked at the intersections of his race, culture and fashion.  Not only was he a wonderful fashion designer, but he also worked consistently to build up other Black creatives. He left young,  aspiring designers a "Post-Modern Scholarship" fund which works "to foster equity and inclusion within the fashion industry".

The first African-American to be artistic director at a French luxury fashion house, Abloh was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018.

Learn more about Virgil Abloh's career and more about the VIRGIL ABLOH™️ “POST-MODERN” SCHOLARSHIP FUND in the video below.

"I want to give out as many scholarships... it's a little bit deep, but the world works on this "hey what school did you go to?" All of a sudden the interview gets easier …, and I just hope we get to a point with our partnership that it means something on a resume just the same way someone who has Harvard or a law degree from Stanford. The interview gets shorter and you get the job right away. I don't look at the height of my achievement as LV (Louis Vuitton). The height of my achievement is this scholarship fund." - Virgil Abloh


‘Tis the Season to Reminiscence

What does it mean to reminisce?  I have difficulty spelling the word, never mind fully understanding it.  After a quick search, I found a few accessible definitions. These included a story told about a past event remembered by the narrator, and the enjoyable recollection of past events.

However, for our families in particular, reminiscing isn’t always a rosy experience. Sometimes, it can be a thorny one. Digging deeper for more meaning, I found the term differently-defined  in a Merriam Webster dictionary.  Hold on to your hats!

  • Apprehension of a Platonic idea as if it had been known in a previous existence
  • Recall to mind of a long-forgotten experience or fact
  • A remembered experience
  • Something so like another as to be regarded as unconscious repetition, imitation or survival

Often, we search for warmth and meaningfulness in our memories and reminiscences, especially during the holiday season,  but they’re often laden with events that can activate thoughts of loss. “Reminiscing together, and sharing feelings and memories about the people who are not present brings everyone closer,” writes Madeleine Krebs, LCSW-C, but that isn’t always necessarily the case. She states that it is important that parents “understand the complex feelings around the many losses that adopted children have experienced.”  Krebs goes on to write, “I remember the teen who had never had a Christmas tree and did not know what to do when invited to help trim it… and another child whose birth family was often homeless and had no money to buy food or gifts, who felt guilty and overwhelmed by what she received from her new family.”

Celebration Can Magnify Grief

Recalling past events can bring forth happy memories as well as difficult ones.  “Know that the joy of celebration can actually magnify our grief,” writes adoption professional Elise Lowe. Lowe describes how to recognize behaviors in our children that may stem from this emotion. Those include: angry outbursts, being withdrawn, anxiety, irritability or having trouble sleeping. These things can happen when difficult memories are being revisited, or when we are reminiscing, but we can help our children cope.  Lowe says we can respond to these behaviors with sensitivity, support and compassion, and  notes that being empathetic builds attachment.

Consider Ways to Offer Support

What else can we do? In the rush of holidays December brings, it’s important to slow down and pay attention to our kids, share our feelings and honor theirs. For children that may have memories of holidays past, ask them about their traditions, says Krebs. We can also consider the following.

  1. Don’t erase those who look different from the rest of the family. Adult transracial adoptee Rebekah Hutson, asks that we make our transracial families multicultural and points out that this is especially important during holidays and anniversaries.  “Just imagine looking around your family… Family, the people who are supposed to ride for you, and seeing all the love, laughter, and support for certain people, and then complete erasure of others who look different.” “Don’t just include us in your family, treat us like family; become part of our family.”  Trauma can be lessened when you keep your child connected to their culture.
  2. Be aware of and prepared for sensory overload. There are loads of stimuli during the holidays and they can be overwhelming. Simply switching on the tv and seeing all the movies and commercials related to happy families and unrealistic expectations can overload our circuits.  For kids with trauma in their background, consider maintaining an environment that’s predictable and consistent in order to soothe their nervous systems.
  3. If your child remembers their biological family, ask them how holidays were celebrated. Work together to incorporate some of those traditions into the season. If you have an open relationship with your child’s family of origin, consider nurturing this relationship even more at this time of year. Krebs outlines that our children can write letters or emails, draw pictures and send cards or make phone calls.  You could plan a holiday celebration to hold on a visit with biological family members too.
  4. Social worker, Krebs describes some accessible activities in her article “The Holidays - an opportunity for loving healing”.  They include adding some old, favorite holiday foods to the menu, or “lighting candles in memory of ALL loved ones not present.” She mentions one family she worked with that “made a paper chain containing all the names of both birth and adoptive family members and hung it in the doorway for all visitors to see.”
  5. Seek out holiday songs from your child’s culture. Listen to them and try singing them too.
  6. Be on alert for any actions or behaviors from friends or extended family that may harm or isolate your adopted child. If this does happen, talk to your child about the problem as well as talk to the  people who have   harmed your child. Always stand up for the rights of your child, be clear with others and be your child’s protector and advocate.
  7. Be culturally expansive about holiday traditions. Have everyone  share something they like about the holiday as well as talk about their favorite traditions.  Decide to incorporate some of these old favorite traditions from all members of the family, and turn this into your own, new tradition.

This post is from our December, 2021, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.