On adoption resistance: bridging false divides.

This was my first piece for Land of Gazillion Adoptees [link to article] originally published in September, 2014.

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Daniel, Ibn Bahija: An Open Letter to Lebanon.

Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa.

Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa. (Photo by Mayda Freije Makdessi)

Seest thou one who denies the Reckoning? Then such is he who harshly repulses the orphan…. —The Small Kindnesses, 107:1–3

  النسخة العربية: دانيال، ابن بهيجة: رسالة إلى لبنان

We remain the repulsed, splinters, expelled from the body; the corpus surrounds us, englobes us, drives us out; it then returns to a state of “as if” we had never existed. Should we attempt return, we do not notice that the immune response starts yet again, only at this point we are incapable of understanding its reasonings and explanations. Ô Lebanon! Shall I be sorry that I wished not to return as an “American”? Had I done so, I know I would have been embraced with open arms, as the colonized greet their oppressors. There is no comfort here. No, I sought something more from you: an origin, a sense of source, an acknowledgement of belonging, a claim to place—a wish shared by many also discounted as not being “of” this place, none of which you deemed worthy of offering. In this regard, I was naive to an extreme, no doubt. Things have changed as they are wont, though it took much of a lifetime: After a decade of search, a DNA test, and reunion with extended family, a great unblocking took place as word got round, as the who and the what and the why made the rounds; and an elderly man plagued by his memories of a child absconded with half a century ago came forward, and revealed a secret to the only man he trusts with such information, my cousin Jamal’s father. And with that the Sisyphean task, twelve long years later, is accomplished.
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Adoptee, represent!

Deported Not Forgotten fundraising campaign: adopteeadvocacy.org

At the Adoption Initiative Conference in 2018 in Oakland, I presented a paper entitled: “Resisting Extirpation: Revolutionary Adoption Activism” [link to PDF ➤]. In the paper I discussed the fact that 10 percent of Korean adoptees in the United States were without citizenship due to the negligence of their adopters. I also spoke of one consequence of existing without political embodiment, namely, deportation. Beyond that, I pointed out the way in which after one deported adoptee committed suicide, other adoptees further negated his existence:

Despairingly, it also echoes an article in the Korea Times which, on May 24, 2017, reported that Phillip Clay, a deported Korean-American adoptee, had also “departed this life”. He was found dead from an apparent suicide in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Korea.

For many adoptees faced with the paradox of their adoption, this is often the only agentive action allowed them. The article cites other adoptees who speak of Phillip’s “psychological issues” and “lack of support”. In siting illness in the individual adoptee [and not the society that adopted and then deported him] and abandoning him to third parties, they unwittingly fulfill his excruciatingly slow lifelong death sentence, the intentional genocide premised on and presaged by his adoption.

Furthermore, his self-abnegation, resulting from the inherent lived contradiction of social death set in motion via the adoptive act, is compounded by adoptees, now inadvertent accomplices, in a secondary act of extirpative adoption. This time, quite sadly, it succeeded in its goal. To further belabor the point: The name of the law used to deport immigrants such as Phillip is: “The Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act”.

The stunning contradiction of adoptees inflicting the extirpation of their own adoptive class onto those deemed “unfit” is also reflected in discussion of the Adoptee Citizenship Act [link ➤]. The act, and the activism that accompanied it, were the result of the outcry following the news that many adoptees were never naturalized. And yet, to hear an adoptee speak of defending their citizenship by defensively defining themselves as being one of the “good immigrants” is to understand the depravity that underlies the endless caucus race that is seeking economic and political embodiment in the Global North among all displaced, dispossessed, and disinherited persons. As adoptees, we need see ourselves in this light and through this lens.

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little did u know

The little did u know podcast is produced by Matthew Charles, transracial adoptee, poet, and activist. I had the great pleasure of conversing with Matthew Zoom-wise for a few hours, and those conversations resulted in the current podcast and the one coming up in a few weeks’ time. The episodes that are currently up explore issues of identity, abolition, and the radical response that is the only valid one for adoptees—all speaking right to my heart and to my head. Give a listen and activate.

Link to the podcast: https://open.spotify.com/show/5z1vjRAPLeeP1YFVVHvVlk

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Salaam Beanie

Salaam beanie knit in Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok yarn

This design started out as a search for a knitted version of a ṭāqīyah—referred to in other languages from within the faith as an ’araqchin, kufi, kap, or topi. After a dozen or so prototypes I settled on this design, and expanded it also to work as a beanie. The design incorporates the square-kufic Arabic rendering of the word “salaam”—peace/peace of mind.

Like many ṭaqiyah on the market, this is more or less a “one size fits most” design, in this case knitted up for an adult-sized head. The fabric and cast-on are pretty stretchy and allow for a large range of sizes. Changing needle size and yarn weight will allow for much variety here, as seen in the samples section.

For an adult-sized beanie or skullcap, recommended are aran-weight/worsted-weight yarns or equivalent. A variety of yarn materials has been tested for this pattern and are available in the samples section along with suggested needles, yarns, gauge, dimensions, and weight in grams. Pattern includes a chart and written instructions as well as notes on recipe-like possibilities.

You can download the free pattern from this link: pattern-beanie-taqiyah_final-resize.pdf

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Adoption Initiative Conference 2022

The Evolution of Adoption Practice: Activist and Community Perspectives

Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26, 2022

Registration is now open. Keynote speakers and panelists:


Scheduled presentations and panels:


Purchase Tickets 

To register for this conference, please fill out the Adoption Initiative Attendee Registration Form on this website. 

(On the Tickets page, click “Select Number of Attendees” to complete the form.)

To purchase tickets for the conference and/or to make a donation to the Adoption Initiative, go to Adoption Initiative on EventBrite


In an effort to be inclusive of those whose lives have been impacted by care and welfare systems including adoption, as well as those who might not necessarily have the means to pay for conference registration for other reasons, we are asking participants to consider donating more to help cover the costs for potential attendees so impacted.

Further to this, we are on a case-by-case basis extending discounted registration to those unable to attend due to financial constraints. Please contact me for further information [email above right] if you would like to attend but are unable to for financial reasons.

We thank all of our community for thus allowing a broad spectrum of participants to attend our conference, and for helping make sure that all those who wish to attend are able to do so.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the conference.

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Graphic Liberation! A conversation with Josh MacPhee

From the web site for the Justseeds Artists’ Co-operative:

This conversation I had with Daniel Drennan ElAwar (from Jamaa Al-Yad Artists’ Collective) took place over zoom on September 29th, 2021. It is part of an ongoing series of conversations I’ve been holding with political graphics producers under the title of Graphic Liberation! These conversations are organized by Department of Art and Art History at Colgate University. You can see the other conversations by going to the Graphic Liberation! project page HERE.

Thanks as always to Josh for the engaging conversation and to the students at Colgate for their attention and questions. It was a real honor for us to be included in this series.

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Fiber Arts: “To Oakland With Love” Exhibition

Kufiyyeh test knitting

I am honored to have been asked to participate in an exhibition of fiber arts at the Pro Arts Commons/Gallery in Oakland. My work will represent knitting done while sitting vigil waiting to hear word from friends and family in Lebanon and Gaza these past months.

More can be learned from the Pro Arts web site:


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My Vigil [Full Transcript]

JRR Kinsey, who oversees the Blood’s Call: Online Journal & Podcast and who interviewed me recently [link to interview ➤], asked me to contribute an audio piece to an artists’ web site produced by Ming Studios [link to site ➤]. I’m adding the full transcript here.

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My Vigil: An Audiocast

JRR Kinsey, who oversees the Blood’s Call: Online Journal & Podcast and who interviewed me recently [link to interview ➤], asked me to contribute an audio piece to an artists’ web site produced by Ming Studios [link to site ➤].

It has been an intense summer of vigilance: friends and family in Gaza; in Lebanon; displaced from Syria….along with the day-to-day of news concerning the current state of the world. This audiocast starts with a wheatpasted poster I saw seeking support for an Indigenous girl being rehomed. The notion of genocidal settler-colonial displacement ties this violence to the recent discoveries at the residential schools here, as well as the continued destruction of Gaza, Palestine, and Lebanon.

My hope for the piece is to tie this cataclysmic violence together as sourcing from similar systemic oppression, to point to the resolute vigilance it requires of us to face it, as well as to point out the waste of energy that is screaming into the void concerning such issues. These are not isolated incidents, but wholly connected and linked one to the other; their unlinking is equally tactical.

Collaborating with me on this piece are Amany Es-Sayyed [link to her Instagram ➤] in Beirut, as well as Ziad Sader in Nabatieh South [link to his Spotify ➤]. I am grateful for their gracious cooperation as well as their inspiring spirit.

You can listen to the podcast via this web page:


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August 15, 2006: Day 35 of the July War • The Day After

This month marks the 15-year anniversary of the July War on Lebanon. I kept a diary at the time, and will be uploading excerpts from it over the coming 33 days.

Things are quiet and the absence of jets in the sky and bomb blasts during the day is like a huge weight lifted from the collective consciousness. The president of the university has returned to campus; the daycare center on the bottom floor of my building started up again; the water in my building has come back after being gone for a week or so; hundreds of thousands of people are ignoring travel bans and are making their way back to their homes, or what is left of them. I’m not saying that things are anything like back to normal, but there is a desire to get there, and soon.

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August 14, 2006: Day 34 of the July War • Complicity

This month marks the 15-year anniversary of the July War on Lebanon. I kept a diary at the time, and will be uploading excerpts from it over the coming 33 days.

Can we get to the part where the Israeli people demand the resignation of this criminal government of theirs? Yesterday I mentioned the 20 bombs I counted falling on the southern suburbs within the space of two minutes. Those bombs brought down 12 buildings, including one that used to neighbor the building of one the men who works in my university hall.

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