Friday, February 27, 2009

Growing up in the Inner-City

Sarah asked:
"I'm curious if you guys have always lived in the inner city, or if your parents made that decision when they adopted children and what the transition was like?"

My parents have not always lived in the inner-city. They both grew up in smaller towns and then moved to our current city for college. After they got married they stayed in the city, but will describe their world at that time as still being very "white". They went to a predominantly white church, lived in a predominantly white neighborhood etc...
I don't remember anything about that life since things began to change when I was 3 years old and my parents began to adopt.

After my parents made the decision to adopt African American children they knew it wouldn't be fair to continue living such a racially homogeneous lifestyle. They wanted Isaac, Janaya, and later Lacy to grow up around black culture so that they would be able to be a part of it without feeling like an outsider. My parents changed EVERYTHING. They left a church that was filled with people they loved to find a more diverse church. The church we found was incredibly diverse and it was a place where everyone in our family could feel comfortable. There were black families, white families, biracial families, many adoptive families (including African American parents who had adopted--not just white people), Latino families--it was a beautiful blend of just about everybody. It was also only a few blocks away from our new house in the inner-city. We grew up participating in just about everything the church had to offer including gospel choir, summer camps, youth group, Soul Food dinners, music festivals, etc...

The schools we went to were all very diverse (I was always in the minority as a white student), the soccer program we participated in was predominantly Latino, and I've already mentioned Dinomights plenty of times on this blog. Once these things became a lifestyle, my parents no longer had to think: "how am I going to expose my children to their culture this week?". We made natural friendships with people from all sorts of backgrounds and nothing was forced, it was simply a part of our life.

I'm sure it was scary for my parents to make such drastic life changes. I'm sure it was hard to leave a church where they were loved by so many people. I'm sure there were times when they felt awkward or uncomfortable as they navigated a new lifestyle. Yet they did it because they loved their children. They weren't content with the "Well at least they are better off in a white community than in an orphanage" mentality. They wanted the BEST for their kids. They acknowledged that although adoption comes with lots of joy, it is also full of tons of losses for children, and they wanted to minimize those losses by providing their kids with natural bridges to their culture.

Moving to the inner-city certainly didn't solve everything--In my next post I'll talk about some of the challenges my siblings faced being a black kid adopted by white parents in a black community (I'll be asking for some input from my siblings), as well as my experience a white kid with black siblings growing up in a community where there weren't a lot of other white kids around.

Eventually I will write about where we are as a family right now, what's changed, etc...

I have lots to say about this topic :)



Mark and Sarah said...

Oh, Thank you!! This is so interesting to me. We are at a place where we are figuring out how to best navigate how to ensure our kids don't feel like outsiders in their community too. If your parents ever feel like being guest bloggers, it would be very cool to get their perspective too--how challenging it was for them, and how they assimilated into their new community. I can't wait for the next posts too...all so relevant since I have an adopted son and a son born to me!

Christopher B. Brooks said...

Great post Kels. Very insightful.