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The Rebirth of LGA

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Hello LGA Nation!

On August 9th, 2013, I announced the death of the Land of Gazillion Adoptees blog. Now, just a little over a year later, I’m pleased to say that this url, http://www.landofgazillionadoptees.com, is coming back!

The http://www.landofgazillionadoptees.com url will not only get a full makeover within the next six months, but it will be closely connected to the award winning online magazine Gazillion Voices and the website for the soon to be established nonprofit Gazillion Strong. I think it’s safe to say that the websites together will offer something to the adoption community that the community has never seen. Moreover, and more importantly, the websites will engage communities outside of adoption in a manner that is a long time coming. As other adoptees have been saying for years, adoption doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists at the intersection of race, culture, identity, performance, art, politics, history, and social movement.

When the LGA blog started, it set out to do its small part to demonstrate that it’s the adoptees time.  Now, I believe that we have come to the moment in which we show the world that adoptees and those who share similar experiences, thoughts, and perspectives (such as members of the POC, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities) are poised to accomplish much, much more.

Get it excited!

Kevin Haebeom Vollmers
Land of Gazillion Adoptees, LLC
Gazillion Strong

 

Inaugural Issue of Gazillion Voices Setlist

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Here’s a peek.  Awesome, right?

Issue One Cover Story: Ripping the Tape Off
Mary Martin Mason, Joy Lieberthal Rho

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Kim Jackson

Columns

  • David Amarel and Martha Crawford: Another Fine Mess

  • Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy: Universal Motherhood: The Birth Mother Experience Has No Borders

  • Shannon Gibney: Ongoing Adoption Reunions

  • Susan Devan Harness: An Introduction/Social Memory

  • Laura Klunder: White Hot American Boyfriend

  • Fang Lee: Traveling to China

  • Aselefech Evans: Thoughts on International Open Adoption

  • Steve Kalb: The Challenges of Working in the Adoption Industry as an Adoptee

  • Amanda Woolston: Adoption Competence in Generalist Practice, Outside of the “Adoption Worker” Box

Research, Policy, Legislation
John Raible

Arts, Culture
Jared Rehberg

Food: An Intro of Sorts
Thomas Kim/Kat Melgaard

Martins w/Marissa: Pedro Magni and Leona Louis E. Merk
Marissa Borst

Literature: Where We Are, Where We’ve Been
Katie Hae Leo

Film Essay: Milton Washington
John Sanvidge

Photo Essay: Kelly Brownlee
Suzi Pratt

Post Adoption: Susan Harris O’Connor
Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao

Podcast: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota/Children’s Home Society & Family Services
Kevin Haebeom Vollmers

Images from the Filming of the Gazillion Voices Kickstarter Video

Yes, we’ve been quiet here on the LGA blog. There’s a good reason. Team LGA is gearing up for the blog’s HUGE transformation into the LGA magazine – Gazillion Voices, which as many of you know is scheduled to be launched this August. We’re doing a ton of stuff to prepare, including the creation of a video that we’ll use for the magazine’s Kickstarter campaign. Below are some images LGA founder Kevin Haebeom Vollmers and others took during a full day of filming by Gazillion Voices‘ film essayist John Sanvidge. Enjoy!

Exclusive! An Excerpt From Shannon Gibney’s Forthcoming Serial YA Novel “Hank Aaron’s Daughter”

151_27817470376_9907_nThis summer CQT Media and Publishing and Land of Gazillion Adoptees, which together published Parenting As Adoptees, will be releasing in serial format Shannon Gibney‘s young adult novel Hank Aaron’s Daughter, a story about a teenage biracial adoptee. Be on the lookout for additional information. In the meantime, below is an excerpt.

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The record-breaking game was by far my favorite tape, though another one that Dad had of Hank explaining the spate of hate letters he received from people around the country who didn’t want him to break the record just because he was black, was my second favorite. Jason found this tape morbid; I could tell by the way his nose wrinkled up every time he heard the word “nigger.”

“Dear Nigger Henry,” Hank Aaron read to the camera, enunciating each word. “It has come to our attention that you are going to break Babe Ruth’s record. I don’t think that you are going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it. Getting back to your blackness, I don’t think any coon should ever play baseball. Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. I will be going to the rest of your games and if you hit more than one home run it will be your last. My gun is watching your every black move. This is no joke.”

Jason would slowly back out of the room whenever this footage came on, but I would just start laughing. I laughed because Hank Aaron had done it anyway; people were threatening to kill him every time he went up to bat, just because he was so good that he was going to break a record that a white man had happened to set. I was sure I could see it each time he stepped up to his plate, the laughter, which was also my laughter, settling into the contours of his face. Though I had never faced what he had, I felt like I knew something about how he felt up there, how he just had to play, even though he himself might never know why.

I studied those tapes. I began waiting for Jason to leave the room even before he joined me to start watching them. He didn’t know, he didn’t understand. It was as if Hank Aaron scared him. That’s when I decided that baseball was only for those of us who weren’t scared, who, like Hank, could say the word “nigger” to the screen and never flinch.

When I was eight, I began watching those tapes with my nose inches from the screen, trying to see every detail of his batting stance, every snap of his wrist. That was when I decided I would be just like Hank Aaron whenever I went on the field. Whenever I felt alone, I would think of him. That was when I began dreaming I was Hank Aaron’s daughter. As I peered at the flickering screen, I was sure I could see in his eyes the same decision to leave all the questions, all the fear behind when he stepped up to the plate.

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The Confrontation of the Summer (June 13th, 12-1 pm): Land of Gazillion Adoptees Vs. Lutheran Social Service/Children’s Home Society & Family Services

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Baby hand in father's palm

You read the title correctly.  LGA is taking on Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS)/Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS)…in person.  On June 13th (12:00-1:00 pm CST), Kevin Vollmers will travel to the offices of LSS/CHSFS and interview four members of the adoption agency’s leadership. Kevin, in his usual style, will ask some/all of the following questions suggested by members of LGA Nation:

  • Do you feel as though you are helping a problem or creating one?
  • Is there any actual independent vetting of the information given by pre-adoptive parents in their home study interviews?
  • Why are international adoptees getting deported?
  • What is the motivation behind birth/first parent meetings with adoptive parents at the time of placement in Ethiopia, and what follow up counseling and information is made available to the birth/first family?
  • Do you have real, concrete support for adoptees around issues of racism and othering? Are there support groups led by people of color and mentors?
  • What support/training is required for the adoptive parents post placement?

Sounds fun, yes?  Tune in then friends!

Summer Drinking Games for Adoptees

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surly-furiousThank you Laura Klunder for this LGA Exclusive!  BTW, I’m pretty sure I would fall flat on my face in an hour if I played the following drinking game.

P.S. Laura will be a regular columnist for the upcoming Land of Gazillion Adoptees Magazine. We’re so lucky, and I can’t wait to see what she does in the months to come.
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Summer Drinking Games for Adoptees
By Laura Klunder

Hey folks! It’s finally summer in Minnesota! ‘Tis the season of getting out, hooking up, and drinking hard…especially for those of us self-medicating for a bad case of ASS. Here are Coloring Out’s ideas for getting buzzed and building community.*

*The following community building activities are experimental and must be accompanied with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and ongoing support by a licensed mental health professional.

Never Have I Ever…for transracially and transnationally adopted adults of legal drinking age.

You know this game: drink if you have, take a break if you haven’t. Here are some prompts to get you started.

Never have I ever…

1      Pretended to not speak English in order to avoid talking with White people.

2      Hooked up at an Adoptee event or gathering.

3      Sworn off dating White people.

4      Self-identified as a Twinkie, Banana, Oreo, etc.

5      Tried to live up to racial stereotypes.

6      Lost my shit on a loved one when they tripped over my adoption trauma.

7      Googled “Adoptee”.

8      Cried when reading emo poetry about Adoptee identity and/or experiences.

9      Gotten a tattoo of a nationalistic symbol from my country of origin.

10   Thrown a temper tantrum on my birthday.

11   Given up, slammed the door, runaway, driven away, flown away.

12   Written a love letter to another Adoptee.

13   Been afraid of people who look like me.

14   Dropped some knowledge on my White family when they said racist crap to me.

15   Organized for racial justice.

I Spy…neo-liberal White people, cultural appropriation, exotification, racism….the possibilities are endless. Make a general or context-specific list of possibilities that will keep you buzzed during this sobering season of Whiteness. Racism is everywhere, so get your flask ready.

Here’s my general list for when I’m hanging out by the lakes or grabbing a bite to eat. Take a drink with me every time you see:

1      A White person with oriental and/or tribal tats.

2      “Ethnic” menu items contrasted with “normal” food. Example: Korean bbq wings v. hamburger.

3      More American flags than people of color in a space.

4      A couple you’re reading as an Asian woman and a White dude with a beard.

5      White people doing yoga.

Summer Blockbuster Buzz

Summer is an exciting time for epic films starring sexy White people. I like to resist fictional racial violence and ignorant adoption narratives by getting wasted in real life. Conceal and carry your flask to the movies and take a long, hard pull whenever you see the following:

1      A transracial, transnational Adoptee saves the world.

2      Evil’s origins are in loss and displacement.

3      A racist Adopter stars in the role of racist White lady.

4      The only dynamic, brilliant, attractive, and hilarious person of color is killed to save the White hero.

5      Your White friends laugh at a racist joke that you don’t find funny.

White allies! You can get in on our summertime buzz too. Buy us a drink every time you introduce us to one of your White friends who uses our country of origin as an access point to strike up a conversation with us. Or if you’re short on funds and don’t have any ignorant White friends, give us a ride home and don’t get defensive when we talk about racism.

Cheers to a great summer! And don’t forget to drink and adopt responsibly.

Updated: Introducing Some of the Land of Gazillion Adoptees Magazine Team!

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As previously mentioned, our lovely blog will be undergoing a facelift.  Toward the end of this summer, the blog will become a full fledged monthly magazine simply called Land of Gazillion Adoptees Magazine.  It will be subscription based, include ads, be interactive, and, most importantly, will offer news, perspectives, insights, commentary, and research from some of the best in the adoption community.  The current members of the magazine team, which is nearly complete, are listed below.  Impressive, yes?

So, are you ready to hop on the LGA Magazine train?  Would you like to become a magazine partner by giving seed funding to help us cover overhead (website, travel funds for interviews, film for photo/video essays, etc.)?  Would you like to advertise?  If so, please feel free to contact Kevin Haebeom Vollmers: kostvollmers@gmail.com.
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Editors: Shelise Gieseke and Kevin Haebeom Vollmers

Arts/Entertainment: Jared Rehberg

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Columnists: David Amarel, Martha Crawford, Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, Ascelefech Evans, Shannon Gibney, Susan Devan Harness,  Laura Klunder, and Fang Lee.

Film Essays: John Sanvidge (covering New York)

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Literature: Katie Hae Leo

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Photography Essays: Suzi Pratt (covering Seattle)

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Podcasts: Kevin Haebeom Vollmers

Podcast Jingle: Mayda

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Twin Cities Food: Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard

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Research, Policy, and Legislation: JaeRan Kim, Kit Meyers, and John Raible

Video Interviews: Marissa Borst and Joyce Maguire Pavao

Webmaster: Aron Spiess

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Web Designer: Heewon Lee

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So, A Chinese Adoptee and a Korean Adoptee Decided To Chat: The LGA Conversation With Jenni Fang Lee

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Last week Kevin Haebeom Vollmers had the opportunity to chat with Jenni Fang Lee, who was featured in the film Somewhere Between.  They covered a ton of ground, including racism, cute Korean men, traveling to China, the film Stuck, Fangtopia, The Girls 20 Summit, and building relationships between adoptees of different backgrounds. Enjoy!

Click to play:

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You Wish You Were This Fierce In College: Our Interview With Rachel Rostad of Macalester

Remember college? No? We don’t either. Remember being this passionate? No? We don’t ever remember being this passionate.


Korean adoptee Rachel Rostad came to our attention through Lost Daughters. We really liked what we saw, and so we approached her for a chat. She graciously agreed, which is totally sweet because, well, she now gets acclaim from the likes of Angry Asian Man, Hyphen Magazine, etc.  Remember being mentioned by these types of folks/places? We don’t either… Enjoy!
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Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Where did you grow up?

Rachel: I grew up in Sartell, MN, a suburb of St. Cloud, MN.

LGA: Sartell! Okay, why Macalester? And what inspired you to join the college’s slam poetry team?

Rachel: I chose Macalester because the college’s values of multiculturalism and community service really resonated with me.

As for why I started doing this art form, I first encountered slam poetry at one of Macalester’s monthly slams and was absolutely blown away. The featured poets were Rachel McKibbens and Mindy Nettifee. Pretty sure I cried and afterwards, I sent them both really awkward Facebook messages! I started going to all the slams and began writing slam poems, and I competed for a spot on the team and got it. I had experience with writing and performing, so it felt like a natural bridge between the two art forms. What I realized later is that the Twin Cities has one of the best slam poetry scenes in the nation, and I was really lucky to encounter the art form where I did.

LGA: We LOVE your poem “Adoption,” which the Citypages posted. How did it come about? What’s the message?

Rachel Rostad from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

Rachel: Thanks! I actually originally wrote the poem addressed to a generalized audience — to the random people at restaurants who would stare at my family, or those who seemed to pity me because I was adopted. Then I realized that it would be much more powerful and specific if I kept it within my own family. I love my grandparents, but it’s been painful at times. To be absolutely clear, the poem is less about being angry with my grandma than being overwhelmingly joyful to be with my mom, dad, and brother.

LGA: What are you working on these days? Do you have any works you’d like to share?

Rachel: I’m not working on anything new right now — the college slam season just finished so I’m definitely in recovery mode!

LGA: Cool. What would you like to say to younger adoptees who are aspiring poets?

Rachel: To aspiring slam poets I would say – go on Youtube! Watch works by important slam poets. It’s impossible to write well if you don’t even know what’s in your medium. And if you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has open mics and poetry slams, attend! Find someone to workshop you. Ultimately the best way to become a good slam poet is to expose yourself to the art form as much as possible, and see what personally works for you and what doesn’t. And be open to criticism. You’ll get a lot of that. Acknowledge and address the points you think are fair, and ignore the rest!

The Push For Retroactive Citizenship For All Adoptees!

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LGA Nation! We need your help! Four of the folks (Jane Jeong Trenka, Kelsey Hye Sun March, Margie Perscheid, and Kevin Vollmers) involved with the amendment that will give RETROACTIVE CITIZENSHIP TO ALL ADOPTEES would like to hear your stories.

If You’re And Adoptee

  • Send us a brief paragraph of what happened when you realized that your parents neglected to finalize your adoption, and that you were not a citizen of the US.
  • Send us a brief paragraph if you had to face hardships because your parents neglected to finalize your adoption, which resulted in your not being a citizen of the US.

If You’re An Adoptive Parent With A Son/Daughter 18+ Years Old

  • Send us a brief paragraph of what was NOT told to you by your adoption agency in regards to finalizing your son/daughter’s adoption so that s/he would be a citizen of the US. 
  • Send us a brief paragraph of your son/daughter’s experience when s/he realized s/he was NOT a citizen of the US.

Please send your paragraph long testimonials to Kevin at: kostvollmers@gmail.com.  The testimonials will be used to help support a draft amendment created by Senator James Inhofe’s office that is currently being moved through the legislative process in Washington, DC.   We will honor all requests for anonymity.

Thank you in advance.  With your help, we can finally put this conversation to rest.

The Korean Adoptee Foodies!

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One of our readers Amie Kim suggested that we do a Korean adoptee chef and restaurateur post. We love to eat here at LGA, and so we said, “Heck yes!”

Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food – The New York Times Article

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“The rest of the Mission Chinese story is just as unlikely: Bowien is a 29-year-old Korean guy adopted at birth by non-Koreans, brought up in Oklahoma City, inspired by watching cooking shows with his mother. He never cooked Chinese food until the restaurant opened about a year ago. The staff is composed largely of the Chinese family that owns the building and still runs Lung Shan. Many of Mission’s dishes are precisely as “Chinese” as Bowien himself (which is to say not at all); and the owners maintain a zany idea to deliver anywhere in the city, as well as a larger commitment to changing the food system.” (source)

Eric Ehler of Seoul Patch and Gung Ho in San Francisco

This Year’s Top Chef Kristen Kish

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“I need to go back, not to find biological family, but to see where I was born and learn about Korean culture.  For me it’s important to know where I came from, not necessarily who I came from.  I would love to visit the clinic where I was born.  I think it will be a huge moment for me.” (source)

Marja Vongerichten of Kimchi Chronicles

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“Oh yeah, absolutely. We didn’t really talk about me being adopted because I looked like my parents and family. My parents are African-American and my mother is very fair-skinned and almost looked Asian at times too. Nobody ever questioned it and we didn’t really talk about it. My brother didn’t even know about it until much later. I grew up with memories of my birth mother. In terms of identity, I really didn’t acknowledge the Korean side because I couldn’t really without getting into this big, deep story. I identified with being African-American because my family was. I wasn’t really accepted as African-American because I don’t really look “full” African-American. I would always get the “where are you from?” and the Black kids would call me oriental. It was tough and I went through a real identity crisis in high school. I went to a performance arts high school in DC for two years that was predominantly Black called Duke Ellington. I went completely militant and was reading about Malcolm X for the first time and all these famous African-Americans and I felt a sense of pride and that I finally belonged somewhere. In college I had a hard time again. I think every kid whether adopted, not adopted, mixed or not mixed, you just go through the craziness of being a teenager. It was hard.” (source)

Kim Sunee

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Kim Sunée is the author of the national bestseller, Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home (Grand Central Publishing). Trail of Crumbs was both a Barnes & Noble Discover pick and a Book Sense Pick, and has been translated into Korean, Chinese, and Hebrew. She has been featured in the New York Times, Ladies’ Homes Journal, People, ELLE, and Glamour.

She ate and lived in Europe for ten years before working as food editor at Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine. Her writing has appeared in Food & Wine, ENTREE, The Oxford AmericanCooking Light, and Asian American Poetry and Writing. Sunée has appeared several times as a guest judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef Americaand has collaborated on several cookbooks, including The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Ed Mayes, and the Tupelo Honey Cafe by Elizabeth Sims and Chef Brian Sonoskus. She is currently working on a cookbook to be published by Andrews McMeel March 2014.” (source)

Sang-hoon Degeimbre – The Star Chef Article

Chef Sang Hoon Dejeimbre of L'Air du Temps - Noville-sur-Mehaign

“At the age of five, Sanghoon Degeimbre was adopted with his younger brother into a large Belgian family with eight other children. By the age of 14, Degeimbre had discovered his love of cooking, and preparing meals for his family not only trained him in the practicalities of cooking for large numbers, but it also ignited his desire for further education.” (source)

Minnesota’s Very Own Kat Melgaard and Thomas Kim of The Left Handed Cook

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“It’s a market stall at the Midtown Global Market, run by a newcomer to town, Thomas Kim, who came here for the same reason a lot of local chefs did, because of love for a girl—a North Dakota girl, as it happens. That girl is Kat Melgaard, who grew up on a farm in Noonan, North Dakota, and lived in Minneapolis when she attended the Aveda Institute. She thought this would be a good place for her and Kim to set up their future and, boy howdy, I think they’re right.” (source)

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Don’t Get “Stuck” In Minnesota, Craig Juntunen of Both Ends Burning!

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I walked away from adoption in the summer of 2006.  Disenchanted by the system and disgusted by what I had done as an agency person, I vowed never to return.  But I did after moving back to Minnesota from Washington, DC.  My fellow MN adoptees reminded me of the power of our voices and showed me that the adoptee community could and should be the leaders in adoption.  So, I started Land of Gazillion Adoptees to do my small part.

LGA has obtained success.  I don’t attribute the success to what I’ve done, though.  I attribute the success to all involved with LGA, the numerous individuals who have shared their perspectives, insights, projects, and programs with us, and, perhaps most importantly, the growing adoptee movement in Minnesota which is a force.  No offense to anyone, but one would be hard pressed to name another state that matches the vitality of what adoptees have going on in the “Land of Gazillion Adoptees.”  It is into this environment that Craig Juntunen of Both Ends Burning is brining his traveling bus tour for the film Stuck on Tuesday, April 23.

I hope Juntunen is ready for a debate because many adoptees here in Minnesota are not enamored by his wealth, power, lobbying, and connections.  Many are fully aware of his/Both Ends Burning place in the Evangelical Adoption Movement.  Many have actual research, not sentimental rhetoric disguised as facts, to refute every statement Juntunen/Both Ends Burning/Stuck surely will profess as the truth.  And many will make sure Juntunen/Both Ends Burning/Stuck leave town wondering why the traveling circus didn’t get a free ride.

We’ll see you soon Juntunen/Both Ends Burning/Stuck.  Before you get here, please know that the new, thriving Minnesota adoption community is the house adoptees built, not by folks like you ;)

I leave you with this.

“They hate, they petty
They say we too heady, too heavy, too many, too much punk
Much too drunk, too much luck, love too much
Yup
But we earned it all
All work ’til the curtain calls and our time is up
They ain’t got enough
And it burns ‘em up
Before tour and First Ave it was D4, T-Rock
And way more than I’ll name drop
But I got y’all when I see y’all
And I’ll keep y’all when the beat stops
I built more than a rap career
I got my family here
But some punks wanna jump up
With a sharp tongue and their fronts up
Like we got here by dumb luck
But they just wanna become us
That’s what’s up when you come up
I move like a dump truck
Too long on the road and I earn what I hold
But if you wanna let me know I can burn your flow like
Whoa” – From “Doomtree Bangarang” by Minnesota’s very own Doomtree

The ARPC Conference: Reframing the Adoption Discourse

Our friends at the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative just sent out their conference notice. We understand the following folks have already been confirmed to present:

Jane Jeong Trenka, Marissa Lichwick-Glesne, Robert O’Connor, Katie Hae Leo, Liz Raleigh, Amanda Woolson, Soo Jin Pate, Lisa Marie Rollins, Kelly Condit-Shrestha, Susan Ito, Chad Goller-Sojourner, Sun Mee Chomet, and many more!

Sounds pretty amazing!

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