A few weeks ago, I had the amazing privilege of participating in The KAD Diaries photo shoot at the beautiful Long View Gallery on 9th Street in DC. This was the second photo shoot for this photo art project filmed and photographed by LA-based filmmaker, Zeke Anders. A couple of months ago, the first photo shoot for the KAD Diaries took place in the Venice Arts Gallery in LA and was a huge success. Zeke wanted to expand the project to include more stories from Korean adoptees on the east coast. So, in collaboration with Adoption Links DC, The KAD Diaries DC photo shoot was born.
The DC event was a huge success, capturing about as many adoptee accounts as the LA shoots, which were held over two dates. Friday before the shoot, I met up with some really cool Korean adoptees in the city. It was so nice to share stories with other Korean adoptees who shared a lot of my experiences. A few already reunited with members of their biological families, just like me. A few just started their searches.
One fellow adoptee discovered that he had biological relatives that immigrated to the US from Korea, just like me. We both reunited with our biological families a little over a year ago. We both shared how meaningful, challenging, and emotional the reunion experience was and how it shook us to our cores. I shared how I felt like I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was all over again. Before my reunion, it was like my whole identity was based on the fact that I knew nothing about where I came from or who my biological family was. And after my reunion, I had to rebuild my identity merging the two worlds. He could definitely relate.
Each attendee had the opportunity to share his or her experiences during a filmed group interview session. We talked about our experiences growing up in a transracial adoptee situation, experiences with racism, birth family reunions, and experience with religion in the context of being adopted. It was so amazing to connect with other people who could relate to so much of what I experienced growing up as a Korean adoptee. Amazing to hear how similar our experiences were as well as how unique each of our stories were.
Most adoptees were infants or small children when they were adopted. We all described various experiences growing up where we had to explain our situations. One girl who was adopted as an infant shared how someone actually asked her adoptive parents how they could understand her growing up since they didn’t speak Korean. Almost as if she was born speaking Korean to them even before learning her first words. Many of us encountered people who actually became upset when they discovered that we didn’t speak Korean, not understanding that many of us were never exposed to the Korean language.
A few of the questions were easier than others. A few questions were really emotional. One really emotional question was when Zeke asked us, “What would you say if your birth parents were here right now?”
I said, that growing up I had a beautiful life– one that I am very thankful for. So, I always wanted the opportunity to tell my birth family that I was okay, that they made a good decision, and that I’ve been really happy in my new life. If I ever had the opportunity to meet my biological parents, I would tell them that I was thankful for bringing me into the world and for making the tough decision to let me go for the chance of a better life.
There was definitely a camaraderie among us through our shared experiences. There were moments when we were at a loss for words and even struggled to hold back tears. I related to so many of the difficult things each of my fellow interviewees experienced. After a tear-filled moment toward the end of our interview, we all shared a group hug!
One of the most emotional moments for me was when a fellow adoptee was asked a tough question. She thought about her response and then asked to pass on answering as she fought back tears. Her silence actually spoke volumes to the stories that we each had. That the lives we’ve lived and the challenges that we’ve faced were entire volumes of unspoken joys and challenges that often couldn’t be expressed in words. And sometimes, instead of words– tears speak.
Just like at the LA photo shoot, participants chose to stand in front of the Korean flag, the American flag, or in the center of the two while Zeke Anders shot their portrait. This was a nice depiction of the internal struggle that every Korean adoptee faced– the feeling that they were often being split between two different cultures, two different families, and two different lives.
I’m really grateful for the opportunity to participate in this meaningful project and to connect with these lovely Korean adoptees, or “KADs.” I felt like they were more than new acquaintances. It felt like we knew each other for years– a KAD family who already proved to be a huge circle of support. Their words and personal stories shared during this art project meant more than words could express. And I’m excited to be part of this newfound community.
If you would like to follow this meaningful art project, feel free to subscribe to the tumblr site at http://www.thekaddiaries.com