Multiracial family

Striding: Moving Into Our Purpose

Spring of 2017

Spring of 2017

We made a bold decision this month. A decision for our family. An important one for our son. A huge career shift for me. We are moving. It’s not been an easy one to make but definitely the right one. Striding lead us here. Striding means to walk with long decisive steps into a specified direction. That pretty much sums up our life over the last several years.

Over the last 15 years our NC life has been filled with love and laughter. We have built lasting friendships with great friends that have become family. Our son has bonded with other adopted children and through my work has met adult adoptee’s like Rhonda Roorda who have inspired him to share his own adoption story. We found a church that helped our son grow his faith. We have spent many years here with our family sharing traditions and raising our children together. We have built a life here and its been good.

Our sweet home for the last 14 years. 

Our sweet home for the last 14 years. 

Striding for Our Son: Being multiracial in our area can be hard. As our son has grown older, we are finding that living in an area that is demographically lacking in diversity is not the best for him. When you have a family that looks the same you don’t have to constantly justify that you are a family. In my post “The New South” I talk a great deal about some of the tough moments we have experienced as a family here in North Carolina. Moments like my husband being confused as our son’s case worker rather than his daddy. Or times when my husband and I have had to navigate tough conversations with our son about being called the N-Word, police brutality, and why people stare at us. Over the last 2 years hubby and I have engaged in deep conversations about our desire for him to experience many different people from all around the world. That is why we have traveled to many countries with our little guy. We wanted him to know the world is big and full of different kinds of people. What we realized is that we want him to have the rich diversity we had growing up. For us to give him that meant we needed to relocate.

Getting updated immunization for his new school in FL. 

Getting updated immunization for his new school in FL. 

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Striding for Our Marriage: I’d like to think that anyone who spends time with us knows that we love each other deeply. It’s hard when some in your community don’t embrace that. We knew when we got married we would face adversity. I would argue the many multiracial relationships do. Being a multiracial couple has its challenges. The part of the country you live in can influence that greatly. Many have made assumptions that we weren’t together. We are typically offered separate checks at dinner and struggle with the million stares we get when we are out around town. I’m not saying the relocation will fix the experiences we have had as a couple, but having less of it would be amazing. The bottom line is that we want to live in spaces that make us feel less like unicorns and more like a loving couple. We are also keenly aware that in order for the South to change, families like ours need to be visible within the community. Which is why we aren’t leaving the South.

Striding into Purpose: Since November of 2017, God has positioned very specific people to lead me in this new direction. It started with a 2-hour conversation with a mentor that lead to this site being created and has recently exploded into what I now know to be my purpose. So what is my purpose? It’s pretty simple really. My purpose is to use my experience, story, and platform to help other adoptive/ multiracial families thrive. I’m now striding in my purpose and that is why I know it is time to go. I’m just so excited that my purpose is also positioning me to move my family to an area with more diversity and opportunities. That it is taking us closer to my sister, her family, and a new church that I have admired for a while. I’m ready to lead in purpose.

My talented dear hubby has also stepped into his purpose. In the summer he will return to school to complete a degree in Environmental Science at Penn State. Relocating will give him access to opportunities to serve the community and planet. His passion in caring for the planet has influenced our son who believes daddy is a hero. His new position as a Campaign Manager has placed him in the center of a national debate on what our role should be in caring for the planet. Stay tuned and watch this guy change the world!

A Final Thought…

I have LOVED my job here in NC. Leading a great team that supports families in the post reunification and adoption realm has taught me so much about leading with grace and empowering others to lead. If I’m being honest, my purpose has always been in adoption. I was telling friends just the other day that my love for adoptive families came way before I was an adopted mom. The work came first then the baby. The exceptional training's I have received like The Adoption Competency Training and Learning to Lead have prepared me for my new role as Director of Adoption Services in Tampa Florida.  Opportunities to lead initiatives through the QIC-AG have put me in the same room with great influencers like Dr. Bruce Perry who recently interviewed with Oprah about the impact of childhood trauma on the brain. To say I have been granted amazing opportunities is not enough. What I know now is that I have been striding. Striding lead me here. God has lead me to take long decisive steps into a future that I could never have dreamt up for myself or for my family.

 

And suddenly you know...its time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings

My First Podcast Interview

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Mi gente!!!! I'm really excited to let you know that I was just interviewed on the Multiracial Family Man podcast to discuss my Afro-Latina experience, our multiracial life in the South, and our transracial adoption. It was great fun!!!! I think I over shared a bit, but I’m glad I did. A million thanks to Alex for being a wonderful host! 

You can find the podcast on any of the links below:

iTunes

Libsyn Podcast Network

Stitcher 

Excerpt from the Multiracial Family Man Site

"Ep. 158: Ligia Cushman is an Afro-Latina with Dominican roots who grew up in New York City.  She is married to a White man, and together they have a multiracial son, whom they adopted.  Ligia and her family live in the South, where she is an active advocate in the adoption space.
Listen as she talks to Alex about her Multiracial experience, her views on race and adoption, and how Multiracial experience differs from North to South."

For more on host, Alex Barnett, please check out his website: www.alexbarnettcomic.com or visit him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/alexbarnettcomic) or on Twitter at @barnettcomic

To subscribe to the Multiracial Family Man, please click here: MULTIRACIAL FAMILY MAN PODCAST

Adoption: Why We Will Always Celebrate Our Son's Adoption Day

Words matter. I think they matter even more if you have experienced adoption. Phrases like “your real mom” or “your real child” are difficult to hear and yes-adopted families hear these often. For example, the phrase “Gotcha Day” has sparked a huge debate in the adoption community.

What is Gotcha Day?

"Gotcha Day" is a phrase that denotes the anniversary of the day on which a new member joins a family through adoption. It is sometimes also called “ Home Coming Day","Family Day", or "Adoption Day" – For many intercountry adoptive families, this day may differ from the actual adoption day. 'Gotcha Day' is often associated with annual rituals or celebrations.

Over that last few years, there has been a huge debate in the adoption community on whether we, adoptive parents, should celebrate our child’s adoption day. Karen Moline, author and the adoptive mother of a child born in Vietnam wrote “Get Rid of ‘Gotcha’” for Adoptive Families magazine in which she says: “Gotcha is my typical response when I’ve squashed a bug, caught a ball just before it would have rolled under the sofa, or managed to reach a roll of toilet paper on the top shelf at the store. It’s a silly, slangy word...I find the use of ‘gotcha’ to describe the act of adoption both astonishing and offensive.”

Our Decision

I have said it once; I'll say it again. Every adoption journey starts with a story of loss. This loss cannot be ignored or loved away.  This loss can be ambiguous for the adoptee especially if they were adopted as an infant. So here is the thing most people may miss about adoption. Adoption is not just a story of loss. It starts there but can grow and evolve into so much more. To our family adoption is both an act of love and loss.

In our home, we use “Adoption Day” as a day to honor our story. Our story is hard, full of loss and surprisingly beautiful.  However, many believe that no matter what name you use, Gotcha Day, Adoption Day, or Family Day it is a disingenuous day created by adoptive parents to celebrate their happiness while also possibly recognizing their child’s loss.  Some have even said that gotcha day is a narcissistic response to adoption by the adoptive parent.

3.2.2018 Celebrating our Adoption Day with cousins and granparents

3.2.2018 Celebrating our Adoption Day with cousins and granparents

Last night, in our family, we celebrated the twelth-year anniversary of the day my son’s adoption was finalized. As usual, it was low-key, quiet, and a generally private affair. As he has gotten older, he decides how he wants to spend this day and he always chooses to spend it with his family.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the child I prayed for and eventually adopted would think that my honoring his joining of our family, all be it an unnatural process, would be a way for me to boast about his loss. Those who know our story and our love for our son know we would never do anything to hurt him intentionally.

Articles like The Insensitivity of Adoption Day Celebrations by Mirah Riben,  by the Huffington Post, challenged me. I began to think are my husband and I getting this all wrong? I decided to really go to the true experts on adoption and all things gotcha day…adopted kids. I took time to interview Jaden (12) and Ella (13) about their adoption journey and how celebrating their adoption has impacted their lives.

Meet the Kids

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Ella was adopted from Guatemala as an infant. She calls her adoption day “gotcha day.”One day, when driving through a rainstorm, she asked if it rained in Guatemala and the rest is history! Ella quickly learned that there is a great need for umbrellas in Guatemala, especially during the rainy season. Ella then created her Ella’s Umbrellas initiative. Those who received umbrellas shared that during the rainy season they don't have anything to cover their children with and the umbrellas reduce their children's chances and during the dry season it keeps mom’s to protect their children from the sun. Ella has donated over 750 umbrellas so far and hopes to send over 1,000 by the end of 2018.

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Jaden was adopted domestically from NC. Jaden calls his day “Adoption Day.” Many of you have read about our mini superhero on my blog. He has been featured in posts like “Adoption: A glimpse into the day our son was born” and “Where did you get that baby?” which paint a picture of some of the beautifully complex moments adoption has thrown at us.  His heart for people is evident in the way he loves his family. His insight on his own adoption experience is what has led me to share our story.  Jaden will be the first to tell you that when it comes to his adoption he has double-dipped feelings about it and that is totally ok. I took some time to ask Ella and Jaden the following questions.


Why do you like to celebrate your Gotcha Day / Adoption Day?

E: “ Because we celebrate that me, my mom, and dad all became a family.”

J: “ We celebrate it because it reminds us that our story is special.”

How is this day different from your birthday?

E: “Umm on my birthday we celebrate the day I was born, but on my Gotcha day we celebrate the day we became a family.”

J: “My birthday is cool because it's about celebrating my life. You know, the day I was born. Celebrating my adoption day celebrates my family. Its how we came to be.”

Why is it important that your adoption day is celebrated each year?

E: “It’s very important to me because we get to celebrate as a whole family and every year we make it a special time.“

J: “It reminds me that even though I sometimes get sad about my adoption it can also remind me that it’s a good thing too. I also like that on my adoption day my family takes the time to tell me my story.”


Adoption does start with loss but it doesn’t have to end there.  Over time it can become many layers to a complex journey. It's important that we as adoptive parents not only celebrate our child's journey into our family but also that we honor their story. No matter what word you choose to celebrate your child’s day, the important thing is to celebrate your child.

 

 

Afro- Latina: Parenting in the Hyphen; My life as an Afro-Latina Mom

I was born in the Bronx, NY to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. Growing up in the states meant that I was taught about American history. However, I started to learn about my Dominican history at the age of 34, when tasked to write a paper for grad school. At that moment I confirmed what I’ve always known…I exist at an obscure junction between being African and Latina. I live in the hyphen of Afro-Latina. In his book,The Future of the Latino Church, Daniel Rodriguez states living in the hyphen is the space “between multiple influences that affect our identity.” The harsh reality of my youth is that I belonged to two completely different worlds that might never truly accept me completely.

 

Being raised by immigrant parents meant that walking through our apartment door, I was literally entering the Dominican Republic (DR). Taking the elevator down 30 flights to ground level entered me back into America. In his book Mi Casa Uptown, my dear friend Rich Perez describes this stark contrast as living the remezcla. He goes on to say that the remezcla is “living in a tension that has the power to either devastate us or help us harness great power and influence of how we’ve been created.” My remezcla moments are layered and complex. My younger years were filled with devastating tension but as I grew in understanding, I have harnessed the power of being an Afro-Latina.

Mami and I, 2015

Mami and I, 2015

Papi and I at Central Park, NYC  

Papi and I at Central Park, NYC  

Although I was named after my Mami, I’m the spitting image of my Papi. Like my dad, I am often catergorized as being a black American and yet that’s only partially correct. In America, we are obsessed with putting people in a box. We want to clump people into the same category because it makes us feel safe. Here is the challenge…my color may be black, but my history is not black American. Internally, I identify as Latina. This complex way of viewing myself is often hard for people to understand especially due to my skin color. Being born to Dominican parents gave me a rich, flourishing culture, and beautiful language embedded in my DNA. To identify only as black would be to deny a large part of myself. Something I simply cannot do. This is why living in this hyphen is so isolating. To identify as Latina does not require denying my African descent. In fact, according to scholar Silvio Saillant, “blacks and mulatos make up nearly 90% of the Dominican population.” This solidifies my African roots which I love and am extremely proud of.

The challenge is that for far too long light-skinned Latinos have been the poster child for our people around the world. Our Latino media is often riddled by colorism. Colorism is defined as “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically of people of the same ethnic or racial group.” That false narrative has created a sad ideology. Dominicans often refer to themselves as “indios” (indigenous) rather than black because of their colorism ideologies. It’s actually more complex than that. What’s amazing about 2018 is that Afro-Latinos everywhere are breaking free of this narrative. Exhausted of having to constantly fight for our remezcla moment, we challenge that narrative and communicate who we truly are to the world. The folks at Remezcla Entertainment have an outstanding clip that challenges the ideas of race and culture in Latin America.

Parenting from the hyphen hasn’t always been an easy practice to maneuver. I often take for granted that my son lives his life in a different hyphen than I do. This means I have to be intentional about making space for him to educate me about his own narrative. I am deliberate about asking him questions like, “what does it feel like to be biracial and live in a small rural community in the South?” I will never understand what it feels like for him and I lean on him often to guide me. He in turn shows me the best way to advocate and protect him. On the same note, I too want to teach him three things I have learned from my Afro-Latina experience so far.

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1. Stand up for yourself, even if that means standing alone. I want him to be brave as he faces adversity. In order for him to do that, it is important that he understands that racism is not his fault. He will need to know that standing up for himself may look different depending on the situation. For example, giving him practical tools about how to handle potential dangerous situations like police stops. Teaching him that in such an instant, standing up for himself is tied to knowing his rights and not resisting.

2. Always be willing to educate others. It’s easy to walk away when you have been offended, but its brave to stay and educate. A great example on this is when I speak. Typically, people assume I am not Latina by my appearance but when I speak they immediately ask me “where are you from?” This is a great time to educate them on being Afro-Latina. Another time I was asked “Hey! How did you learn to speak Mexican?” Taking the time to educate someone can be just as rewarding for him as it is for the person asking the question.

3. Don’t let anyone else dictate your narrative. I am still discovering what it means to be living in his hyphen. With that being said, my experience is my own. No one should attempt to tell me who I am or what box I belong in. My son is not just an adopted kid. His story is bigger than his adoption and his race but that doesn’t mean the two don’t matter. One of my favorite authors, Brene’ Brown puts it like this, “Owning your story and loving ourselves through that process is one of the bravest things that we’ll ever do.” As parents of multiracial children we have to be intentional about learning from them about their story, respecting who they are, and discovering what they need to thrive. By doing this, we will teach them that their story has value. When they know their narrative matters, they will never let anyone tell them who they think they are. May I never lose sight that although my son and I share our love of things like church, marvel movies, and travel we are also different and that’s ok.

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Although living in the hyphen has not always been easy, I believe it has made me a better parent. My hyphen experiences prepared me to understand of what it feels like to be prejudged by others and to own my own story. My son has experienced prejudgments regarding his adoption story, ethnicity and race.  We have experienced many hyphen moments together like the first time he read his DNA results or the first time he was called a racial slur.  Both moments impacted us deeply. One was meant to devastate and the other helped him harness his power. What we have learned is that our hyphen moments may make us laugh, cry or call us to be brave. I am blessed to know we will experience them together.

He and I last weekend, 1-2018

He and I last weekend, 1-2018