Monday, August 2, 2010
ARDemonstrations 2009 & 2010
It is Monday evening, August 2nd, 2010 and I’ve been home from my trip to Louisville for a few days now. I want to share about that trip before I get dragged too deeply back into the ‘real world’ with work and daily responsibilities. I never did get around to posting about the march in Philadelphia last year. So I with this first post about the event, I’ll try to compare the two events.
Adoptee Rights Day, July 21st 2009 – it was a rainy and drizzly morning as we gathered at People’s Plaza, Independence Park before our march down the streets of Philadelphia. There were people among our numbers which were not at the sign making party the night before, because Philly was local enough for them to drive in just for this demonstration.
There were several people filming and cameras everywhere. This was a huge step out into the plain exposing open for me. I’m an open book online, but in real life I was an in the closet original mom. It was a very overwhelming at times. I was very timid, nervous, and even afraid. All the “what if’s” bombarded my brain -- ”What if my picture ends up in a newspaper and people I work with see it? What if my name is printed? What if my son’s family sees an article about the demonstration – will they use it against me to try to cut off contact?”
I think the most vivid memory I will always have about that morning is when Scott Hancock asked me a few questions while his friend filmed our conversation. Scott asked me why I was there, then asked if I am adopted, to which I replied, “No, I’m a natural mom.” We had a brief conversation about the terminology and use of ‘birth mother’, then he continued his interview. Then came the part that is forever in my mind, he asked “Would you look into the camera, state your name, and tell us why you’re here.”
I froze on the inside. I didn’t want to state my name, I was still hiding (from myself), so I took the cowardly avenue and said, “I go by Cheerio and I believe that adoptees have a right to know their original identity and it is not right to try to keep secrets from them. Once they become adults they should have the same rights as every other American citizen.” While my focus was clear, by not stating my name I was definitely chickening out.
Just before we began the march, there was a point where M distributed folders with information sheets so we could hand them out as we talk to people on the streets. I immediately thought “Talk to People???!!! Is she crazy? I can’t TALK to people!!!” I very timidly slinked up to a different organizer and told her I didn’t want to talk to people and she graciously excused me and gave my folder of papers to someone else.
I was like a frightened sheep as we began the march, and I made sure to be in the middle of the crowd, so no one would notice me. I didn’t want to stand too close to the Itty Bitty Big Mouth as she led the chants along our way. “You’ve Got Yours! We want ours!”
The demonstration was on a Tuesday and there were people everywhere! We marched a few blocks, and those few blocks were life changing to me. As we marched along, there were a few occasions that people in the crowd walking the same way would ask questions. There was one young man in particular I remember talking with as we walked along. That brief chat with a complete stranger gave me courage to converse with other pedestrians as we were marching back and forth in front of the convention center.
I learned two very important things that day.
The first thing I learned was that society in general has no idea about this discrimination. This leads to the other important thing I learned, they are on the Adoptee’s side! They also feel it is wrong and believe too that adult adooptees have a right to their own original birth certificates.
So, that’s my short summary from the Philadelphia - Adoptee Rights Day 2009.
Fast forward to ARD 2010. I didn’t think I’d be able to go to the ARD this year, but was delighted when my husband said he did not mind if I went solo. Talk about a change in just one year. I don’t know if I could have done it on my own last year, and this year I was going solo for a whole week!
So, that little bit of courage from talking to a stranger on the street last year lasted longer than just the next few hours t hat day. It has grown in the course of the year, and now I have grown and am stronger.
Last year when I told people, “I go by Cheerio,” it was because I was still afraid to giving out my ‘real name.’ This year people still called me Cheerio – but it was not because I was afraid, ashamed or hiding. Some people in real life call me Cheerio too. I even made a Cheerio Button that had a picture of my monkey avatar.
The day of the Demonstration had some noticeable differences from last year. The first noticeable difference was the weather - it was not rainy, and the weather forecast was for 99 degrees, again. There was no relief from the heat in site. But the heat did not wear me down!
The other difference was the volume of foot traffic was notably less, much less. Now, I’m not from Louisville, therefore can’t gauge what normal pedestrian traffic is like on a weekday vs a weekend. But there were not a lot of other pedestrians to mingle with. As we marched back and forth in front of the convention center, there were not a lot of people streaming in or out of the building.
I talked with only two folks, one was a young man on a cell phone who said he agreed and supported us. I asked if he wanted to join our protest? I handed him my sign and took his picture. I’m not sure if he actually talked with anyone else in our group or not, but it makes for a good picture.
The other fellow I spoke with, I pulled in The Authority to help answer his question. Basically his question had to do with Father’s Rights. His example was a woman has a baby and does not list a father. Some time down the road the mother wants child support so she goes after the father for child support. This man’s question to us was “shouldn’t that father have a right to have his name on the birth certificate if he’s going to pay child support?” I agreed with him, that he should have that right.
The Authority explained that unfortunately the one who ‘wins’ the battle is often the one with the most money. She continued on by stating that Father’s Rights are systematically trampled with the adoption process. She encouraged him to find a Father’s Rights group to join.
When people talk about pro-life or pro-choice, I’m neither, I’m pro-family. We need to support families and help them. That includes daddies and Father’s Rights too.
The rest of the time I talked with other marcher’s (but that I believe is another blog post).
Last year I was tired for our entire stay in Philadelphia. Some time after returning home we find out why I was so tired.
This year I was my usual self, chock full of energy. Although it was hot hot hot out there, I was just pumped and bursting with energy. I felt like I could run around the entire convention center a few times. I WANTED to march out on the side of the building in the full sun. I challenged a few people to a race, but no one took me up on it.
Thank you Panera Bread for the free iced water!!!
About 2pm our leaders decided to call it a day. I was proud of them to make a decision that was based out of concern for everyone’s welfare. They could have said “we planned to march until 3pm, and we have just one hour to go!” But that wasn’t the case. People were hot, tired, weary, and worn out – and they cared about that.
This is without a doubt a group of very caring, thoughtful, and loving people. I am honored to be able to stand with any one of them, to walk hand in hand or side by side (especially when some folks were very very sweaty). It truly is a beautiful experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for any exotic vacation anywhere else in the world!