Welcome to Season Two of the Antiracist Parenting Podcast! We start off the season with an AMAZING guest, Malaika Parker, who is the Director at Adoptive Parents of Color Collaborative. Malaika is committed to building whole and complete futures for her biological and adopted children. She does this, in partnership with her spouse, by being honest always, centering the humanity of Black people, and cultivating (literally in their urban garden) Black joy. Malaika is finding ways to build community and create environments that are free from racism and white supremacy, and she shares her “how-to” in this wonderfully filling - and nutritious - episode.
Please note: We sometimes use the acronym BIPOC, which means Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color.
PACT: An Adoption Alliance
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
E14: Adoptive Parents/Caretakers: Helping Kids of Color Access Whole Futures
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Guest: Malaika Parker
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Hello, welcome to Episode 14. And we're so excited for this particular episode, because it's the start of season two. Yay. Yes, Hannah and I we rounded out our season one series with our Sankofa episode, our year in review, and today, we're just really so excited to be able to kick off season two with our amazing guest that we have for you, Malaika Parker, which we will get to her in just a minute. But as you all know, we like to begin our episodes with our accountability check-in. So that is where we will begin. Hannah, do you mind reminding our listeners of what your commitment was and how you're doing with that?
Hannah: Yes, thank you. So I had made the commitment to basically introduce a new practice into my life of sort of analyzing and stopping to say, does this align with my values as I kind of navigate through the day? And I think it's going well, I definitely have had to slow down a lot, because it's doesn't maybe come natural to me yet. But I have noticed that by doing this work, I am starting to say “no” more. So instead of saying yes to everything, which is like my kind of typical way, I'm starting to draw some healthy boundaries. So I think that it's going to be a good thing for me as I continue on. But definitely noticing that, at least at the beginning. And then the other thing I had committed to was around this, the book of A Handful of Earth a Handful of Sky and SooJin - you had graciously offered that to me as a gift. And so since there hasn't been very much time since our last recording. We're working on that. So that's in progress.
SooJin: Yes, it is arriving today. So I'm hoping that I can drop it off at your house today.
Hannah: Okay, sounds good. Thank you so much for that.
Hannah: I'm so excited.
SooJin: I'm excited to give it to you. So my commitment that I made from our last episode was to think about how I can expand and increase spaces that are oppression-free. So not only in my personal life and like a personal sphere of influence, but thinking about like, how can I make that circle that network bigger? And it is and as I said last episode, it's an ongoing commitment. It's a larger commitment, but I have kind of been brainstorming about how I can do that. And there's two things have showed up for me - the first thing is this past week has been extremely deep, I guess. And what I mean by that is a lot of kind of generational trauma that we had been talking about earlier. You know, and I guess throughout like our episodes, some things have come up for me this week. And so I've been digging into that and so what I'm realizing from that is like, in my dreaming of expanding and dreaming about oppression-free spaces, like I still got work to do. You know, like that work doesn't stop. And so it's been a really good week because I feel like this excavation that I've been on, it's unearthing things that I thought I was done with and realizing that no, I still got a little bit more to do, I still have some more pieces that I need to address to kind of close the door or to feel kind of this sense of closure around this particular trauma. And so that's been really, really good. And then the second piece is I've been thinking about in terms of the expansion piece, I've been thinking about starting another podcast.
SooJin: Yeah, I'm not ready to quite share about that yet. I'm still kind of in the, I want to be sure that that's what I want to do before I put it out into the world. So because as we all know, words are powerful. And so I want to be very sure that this is clearly what I wanted to do before I speak it into the universe. But yeah, that's kind of where I'm thinking.
Hannah: Wow, that's amazing. And you are saying these words, but the work that you're doing is so hard. And so just wanting to honor like, it's really hard. And I think that it's really easy for us to be like, I don't want to deal with that, and sort of just kind of move away or back away. So thank you for doing it.
SooJin: Yeah, yeah. But you know, the thing is to me, there's no choice. Like it's not like when I'm in the work, it's not like hmm, do I want to do this or not? Like, I never have that thought, because it's like, of course, you know. I feel like I don't have an option like, other than “yes, absolutely.” You do the work because this is how I heal myself. And when I heal myself, I am a better person, you know, I'm a better parent, I'm a better partner, I'm a better friend. And that is my driving force, like I want to operate out of my optimal self all day, every day. And the only way to do that is for me to heal all this stuff, right? Because I don't want to respond out of pain, I don't want to respond out of woundedness I don't want to respond out of the trauma that comes out sideways when we don't deal with our shit. You know, I don't want to do that. So I thank you for acknowledging the fact that it is hard and yes, it is hard, but like it’s not an option for me to not do it. Yeah.
Hannah: Well, thank you for modeling that. And it lends itself perfectly to our intention for today, which is to be our truest, most essential, and as you said, optimal selves. So thank you.
SooJin: Whoo, I love that. Thank you for that. So I get the really great pleasure to be able to introduce you all to Malaika Parker, and Malaika and I we met through another kind of friend who is a transracial adoptee and they heard and found out that I was a transracial, transnational adoptee - have written stuff about it. And Malaika actually works for an adoption agency, an organization, and so that's how we got connected. And I was on her podcast, and she graciously accepted my invitation to be on ours. And so I'm just so glad that we can continue this conversation that we started with your podcast and having you here with us. So if you wouldn't mind sharing with our listeners, Malaika, who you are, where you come from, and what you do.
Malaika: All right, thank you so much for having me and SooJin just again, that conversation was so beautiful and wonderful, and I'm so excited for it to be out in the world eventually. So my name is Malaika Parker and I am many things. And one of the things that I am is a parent through adoption and birth and my journey to becoming a parent led me to working in the world of adoption. I as a brand new parent was kind of looking for community because, you know, I grew up in community I function well in community, I really was clear as like, as I thought about becoming a parent that I did not know anything. And that I needed people around me to kind of, you know, to model what it looks like to be an excellent parent, right, including being excellently imperfect, right. And I am blessed with like, an incredible community of Mamas and Papas, and Babas. But not many of them are adoptive parents, right? I have this incredible community of people of color, but many of them have not built their family through adoption. And so as a new mom, I really was interested in what does that community look like where there's intersection between being a Black mom and being a Black mom through adoption. And so I started doing work with PACT very kind of, slowly building of community. And my oldest child is 15. So, um, you know, I've been kind of on the slow build for about 12-13 years, maybe. And now it is the full time work that I do in the world, right, and, like creating spaces for people of color, who have built their family through adoption, to talk about parenting, to talk about the impact of race and racism to, to think about, just like who we are, how we hold space, how we show up for our kids, how we can be allies for children who lost a family to become part of our family. So that's a lot of who I am, I spend a lot of time thinking about parenting, I spend a lot of time thinking about, you know, just being really grateful for the privilege of getting to share space with these incredible people that are my children. And then I also spend a lot of time thinking about race and thinking about the impacts of racism and white supremacy on my understanding of who I am. On my children's understanding of who they are, and how kind of as a society that gets so framed by this legacy of white supremacy. So I've spent, in addition to doing work around adoption, I've spent a lot of time thinking about education. My background is in youth development. I spent a lot of time thinking about police brutality, and did some work around police accountability. And yeah, so I kind of do it all. I also am an avid urban farmer.
SooJin: Oh my goodness, this conversation is gonna be rich. Well, I can already like, I mean, as a listener, I can already like, you're a treasure trove of so much goodness! What an incredible resource that we have, you know, in you - like our community. Wow. Okay, so let's dig in. Let's dig in. Because all the things that you talked about is all the things that we talk about. Right? And the more people we have doing this work, the more sense of community - exactly what you're talking about. And also just like ideas for how to engage in this work and to be better parents and all that stuff, the better we all will be. And so, on that note, given everything - all of that you've learned and through your work through your education, and through your lived experience - how are you raising your children to be antiracist?
Malaika: Yeah, it's an interesting question.
SooJin: And a huge question, too.
Malaika: So yeah, it's a really good one, right? Because in thinking about that kind of leading up to today. I've been kind of like, I actually don't get asked that question that often. And I think there's a few reasons right. My understanding of my definition, my understanding how I live with racism is that you know, it requires power and bigotry, right? Like it's the combination - the power to impact how social norms play out. And so I don't practice that Black folks, or people of color, oppressed people can actively be racist. I do, however, believe that people can be incredibly bigoted, right. And I do believe that the way that we show up in the world impacts other people's lives in varying ways, right? I do understand that, for example, as a Black woman as a lighter-skinned Black woman, that I have skin privilege over my comrades, family members, community members who have browner skin. And the way that I show up in my Blackness directly impacts their experience with Blackness, right. And so when, like, thinking about antiracism and thinking about, like, the global context of it, and the intention of using of using that term, I think, the ways that it shows up in my parenting - so I have a list. Because I've really been like thinking about it. Right. And I think one of the biggest things that we really try to do as a practice within our family, is make sure that our children have access to like whole and complete futures, right. Like, I love how Robin Kelly talks about future dreaming. So the way that as a family we look at antiracism is - I think the primary thing is, this sense of joy, right? And Black joy, and that is inherent in that is that our children have access to whole and complete futures, right? That they get the opportunity to dream about all of the things, which includes the absence of racism and white supremacy, right. And that inherent in that conversation is also necessary. The tools to be able to unpack that, right, so we talk a lot, you know, and in our family, I'm the one who's obsessed about these conversations, right? So like, my parenting practice is in within our family, my parenting partner - his role is like kind of supporting and co-signing on the things that I say in these conversation. And then I'm always the one that's like, okay, let's think about this, let's break this down. When we watch this cartoon who was missing, um, and I think both are important, actually, right? That there's a lot of importance when we're parenting within a community, when we're parenting within couplings with that, you know, like, all of the formations of what it means to be raising children, that our children actually hear these messages that are echoed throughout their community, right, that it's not just, it's very easy for my children to experience me as being like extra and over, right. But it's when they go out into the world, and the people around them reflect not only their brilliance and amazingness, which our community does an amazing job of, but also reflects back to them like no, there's some stuff that's going on here, that's absolutely not okay. And it has direct impacts on you, and it doesn't have anything to do with you, right. Um, and so I think that is another piece of like, ensuring that our children have a community that is inherently built on antiracism that's inherently built on really challenging white supremacy. And we talk a lot about like, you know, the choices. And it gets more complicated the older my children get, right, but we definitely talk a lot about media and what we're consuming, and we don't always consume like the best, most ideal versions of what we should be, you know, bringing into our psyche and into ourselves. But when we're, when there's absence of that, then we talk about it and I want my children to be able to look at things and be like, “Oh, this is why this is not good for me.” Right? And to be able to say like, “Oh, it's a problem that like, I don't see a Black person as a main character.” Or it's a problem that every time I see a Black character they're the friend or the neighbor and they are a caricature of what Blackness means or I don't ever see people in media with their natural hair, or I don't see a variety of what Blackness looks like. Alright, you know, like all of the different storylines in these like very subtle ways that actually really, really break down our sense of selves over time. And sadly, I cannot protect them from everything, but I feel like I can at least like surface it, with the hope that it minimizes or reduces how much of it they take in as part of who they are.
SooJin: Yeah, and give them the tools to analyze and critique it. Yeah. Which is something that they that that is a way of protection.
Malaika: Yeah. Yeah. And I think until we can change our whole society, and make it a more just and equitable one. I think that's one of the biggest tools. I also really, really believe in activism. And I really believe in showing up, right, so part of the conversation, which has been challenged greatly during this time, right, during the pandemic, whatever phase of the pandemic we're in right now - it's not clear to me, that we haven't really been able to show up in the ways that we normally do, because a really strong component of the way that I parent is to talk about hard things with my kids, but then, like, take them to an action and show them like, yes, this is wrong and unjust. And this is what your community is doing, to make sure that you have access to a different future and like, and to see it, to feel it, to smell it to be in it. Um, and that's been really hard during this time. And so we've tried to find ways to continue those conversations to show examples, but it looks different.
Hannah: I have a question kind of building on like this tools to unpack. So it seems like you're talking about the like, analyzing and critiquing kind of like, moving from talk to action? How do you help your kids with, like handling or dealing with difficult emotions that come out of inevitably, the scary and hard parts of the reality of this work?
Malaika: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's interesting, because there is this conversation about, like, developmentally appropriate conversations with children. And, you know, it's interesting, because that shows up in adoption, and that shows up in talking about race and racism. And I was recently talking with some families about this about, like, this idea of, like, when it's appropriate to talk about particular things, and it's never appropriate, it's hard and awful, and like, not okay, right? If I just go on the adoption conversation for a second, right, my children should never actually have to experience the loss of family, right? That is an awful experience, and there's nothing that I can do to make that not awful. But what I can do is echo, like, as much as I can, as an ally, I get that it's hard, I get that there will be different feelings and different emotions throughout your lifespan, and I'm here for it, right? And I'm also here for you to tell me when I've completely fucked up right? Right. And I'm also here to like surface, to do my own reflection so that it's also not just on you to tell me that I have messed up or you know, not done the right thing. And so as a person who is more in the role of an ally than directly impacted by loss of family within the world of adoption, I can kind of think about it in a different way. Right? Whereas like, when I think about race and racism I've lived through it, my family's lived through it, I've watched my mother you know, my grandmother worked against racism, my mother has worked against racism, you know, like I am swimming deep in the water. I always have been and so it's hard. It's hard to talk about - to be in a country that actively works to kill you. Right? Like there's, there's just, there's nothing developmentally appropriate about that. It's awful, it's horrible. And similarly, what I can do is show up for my children. Right? What I can do is and what I think I'm really good at and my 15 year old will testify to this. I am their road dawg, right? Like if anyone you know, my children know, like, if we're in school, and something happens - Mama has our back, right? If someone says something that's not okay, like Mama has our back. And I think it's really important for all children, but children who experience oppression and then on top of that Black children who experience oppression constantly, to have that sense of we are not in this by ourselves, right? And to know that like they have a space to be able to go to be mad to cry, and to also to be ambivalent and to also know that they have space that they can show up in where they can let that down like they can let that burden down right so one of the things that I really like about farming and gardening is that we're like I worked really hard to cultivate space that is like Blackness right? Where like there is Black brilliance and all of the places, where there's sunshine, where it's beautiful because I understand for myself and for my children that it provides a respite. I also understand that there's a within the practice of gardening right of planting seeds that there's some future thinking that's just intrinsic in that right and so like my children actively working at like growing food for the next season for themselves if there's a practice in that that's also about like, I'm brilliant, I got skills I know how to take care of myself there's no one that can take that away from me, and I will be able to see this to the end right? I will be able to plant the seed right now and in four months, six months like some of the food we're growing we won't even see you know, we have trees that will not bear fruit for another like five years right? Some of them my children will be parents by the time they're like fully in if they decide to be parents, they might not decide to be parents - you know, that we won't see any of the fruits of our labor until they are parenting themselves. I think it's a complicated question. I think that's what white supremacy does to oppress people is it takes away our ability to have respite and so part of the work for us especially as parents is to provide as much of that as we can, but it's tricky. So just to use gardening again, as an example, we garden in our own home, but then we also do a lot of community gardening. And we have conversations about some of the spaces that we are gardening in and some of the hard conditions that are happening around those spaces, right and sometimes that feels really hard for my kids. But we can't just kind of be in our own cocoon and kind of not participating in our community. Our respite has to, in my opinion, and in my practice, our respite has to be about us but it also has to be about - how do we extend out that privilege to have access to that to the rest of our community and the folks that are around us because we don't live in a bubble and we should not be living in a bubble we should be lifting up everyone that we can along with us to have access to full and complete futures.
Hannah: Wow, thank you.
Hannah: Yes, that is so helpful I just so appreciate that. And I wonder more about like the farming piece like so you're planting like trees but also like vegetables, fruits, like plants like growing your own food. That's amazing. Yeah, like how did you get started with that because I've been thinking about trying to do something like this, and I don't know how to do gardening yet but I was just wondering like how did that start?
Malaika: Yeah, I was raised in a family where like, everything intersects with race, right? And so often when I think about something there are there's like, things that I'm interested in but it often like if I trace it back it often has something to do with like how does this impact my understanding of myself and my community? How does this connect me back to like, my history my community, my culture, right? So it sounds like a roundabout answer but actually there's a through line. My oldest child was homeschooled for a little while and she got really interested. I'm a very outdoorsy type, but you know, I like I love the sun. I'm the most alive when the sun is out. Like I love to be all tanned and like glow, you know, like I just I love it, I am not my best self in the winter, it is miserable for me. So then my children have a little bit of that too, right? Just like wanting to be outside. So my oldest was really interested in animals and not so much farming but just kind of being in space with animals and nature. And so part of her homeschooling was to go to this farm that's near our house, or near our community. But in a very white affluent area, and there's, it's beautiful, there's all this land, animals or horses, they like, learn about wilderness skills. And as I reflected, driving her, like 30 minutes each way, each day, and she was like super into it, wanted to do it all the time. And I was like, this is such an interesting experience, like we are leaving our community of Oakland, which is where we were living at the time to go into this neighborhood where there's like, almost no Black folks, there's no reflection of Blackness in this and like, that's just an interesting, you know, it was kind of like planting a little bit of seed for me, right. And we had at the same time, we had started just like spending more time outside, I was noticing how my children were like, happier outside, I was happier outside, when you're homeschooling, sometimes you can spend a lot of time inside, right, and we were all like better human beings. And I started to kind of connect the two and then we started like gardening at home, I didn't know what I was doing, like, at all, but we grew stuff, right and, and like, my daughter was like building fences, and I just was fully into it. And I started thinking more about how this narrative about enslavement of Africans impacts my and many of us our understanding about Blackness and land connection, and how it feels. For me, it often felt like someone else's thing, right? Like, it didn't feel like I have the tools or the skills to know how to do this, that it felt outside of me. And you know, and in some ways, just keep it real, it felt like it felt like very, like mired in whiteness, right? And I started just kind of thinking about that more and exploring how, like when I actually learned more, when I thought about like, well, why did enslavement happen? Right? Like, I mean, there are lots of different reasons. But one of them is actually an asset, right? Like one of them is because there was a skill set that that African peoples who were enslaved had. And this is what capitalism does. It was stolen, right. And it was taken, the bodies were taken, but also the skill set was taken. And the more that like we can, for me, the more that I can connect back to that, that asset, the more that it changes my narrative about Blackness. And so when I figured that out, I was like, I'm in. So that was maybe seven years ago, and it is it is like a little bit of an obsession. A lot bit of an obsession – it’s what I spend most of my free time doing. My kids are like little farmers and it just has been a really beautiful process for me personally. But then, for us, as a family, we built a community around Black folks and urban farming. And I think, you know, it's very healing and I am super fortunate that I get to spend a lot of time. So when I spend time in urban farming, it's a very people of color-centered experience and Black-centered experience. When I do work in adoption, I get to spend all of my time talking to other people of color who are talking about and thinking about parenting. And so there's a way which I have created for myself and my family of like people of color-centered bubble and like I really like SooJin when you're talking about - this is not the exact way that you talked about - but like removing opportunities for oppression to show up in my life and urban farming is one of those ways. It gives me access to like, unpacking this whole experience of freedom and like self-determination and liberation, which are all of the things that were stripped from us. As you know, as we were made to be commodities. And it's a gift that I hope that I'm actively working to give to my children right to, you know, and they, depending on the day, some days they love it. Some days they’re like ugh! But it's not ever going to be for them something that they have to question whether or not they have place in it. And for me, that's really important. They will also always know how to grow their own food. So when there's an apocalypse, they will be okay.
SooJin: They'll be ready. They'll be ready. Yeah. Oh, I love all this, like forward thinking stuff. I was curious, you know, because adoption is such a big part of your life, part of your world in terms of your work and your personal and familial life. I was wondering how it is, I'm not quite sure how to phrase this question. But like, how does adoption and antiracism, like adoption and anti-oppression work that you're doing in your parenting, and in the raising of your children - what's the connection? How does that show up? Are they connected?
Malaika: Yes. 100%. Yeah, that's an excellent question. So I grew up in a family. Like, you talk about most things, right? I have an older sister who's I think she's 12 years older than me. But she was like, honest to a fault about all the things right. And so I typically am a pretty honest person. You know, none of us are always perfect. But becoming a parent and becoming a parent through adoption, it was really clear to me that, like this practice of honesty always, was really important. For adoptive families, and from my understanding of learning from adult adoptees that like this notion of like, I have access to all the information and I don't have to question it, is really important. And so I really work to parent from a place of like, saying all the things, and I am mindful of the fact that I have a 15 year old child, and my youngest is five, right, so the conversations that I have, with each of the four of my children looks different depending on who they are with their ages, but it's always based on honesty. I don't lie to my children about anything. I don't lie to them about Christmas, I don't lie about the Easter Bunny, and I give them options about the version of reality they would like to explore.
SooJin: Oh my gosh, that is brilliant.
Malaika: Many people think that I am a Scrooge. But you know, I'll just be like - and this is related to the question you asked me SooJin - but I'm just on a little tangent. When we get ready for like, the holidays, because we enjoy celebrations in our house. And so we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate Kwanzaa we celebrate all of the things that we possibly can. And you know, they might ask me, like, is Santa Claus real? And I will say, do you want me to tell you the truth? Or do you want me to tell you about the story of Santa Claus? And you know, and then some of them some of my children will be like, tell me the story. And some will be like, no, tell me the truth. And they will get whatever version, but they're clear that it's a story.They’re clear that there isn't actually I mean, you can believe in all fantastical things you want to but like there actually is some basis of reality there is not there's not this white dude that comes down our chimney.
Malaika: You know, so along those lines, I really try to be honest with my children. And what I know to be true is that the world of adoption is built on incredible racial injustices and incredible economic injustices. And I'm also clear that as an adoptive parent, I have benefited from that unjust system and it is my responsibility to make sure that my children understand that. Because there's a part of that, that if we don't, so if we don't understand that it's built on these systems of inequity, then we will blame our community, right. So the fact that there's a disproportionate rate of Black children that are placed for adoption. One narrative about that reality is that Black folks don't take care of their children. And so the system has to come in and parent them, right? That's one version - that is inaccurate, untrue. Historically false. The other version is, well, we live in a country that does not actively support people of color, particularly Black people, particularly Black women in parenting their children and having the skills and resources and access to making sure that they have every single thing that they need to be okay in life and to be okay to show up for their children. And in absence of that, what happens is children are quickly removed, or families are encouraged to place. And then adoptive families get all of these resources, right to be able to parent those same children. And if I don't explicitly talk about that, then there is a narrative that my children will hold about themselves and their communities of origin that just isn't true. And I am not okay with that. And although I work for an adoption agency, the work that we do as an agency is explicitly antiracist, is explicitly challenging white supremacy, talking about unearthing the things the ugly parts of adoption, not maintaining the storyline about happily ever after. And, you know, and kind of a whitewashing literally, of the adoption experience. And that is all really important. So from when we talk about adoption to like, even when we talk about things about like crime and punishment...like, why it is really important to me that we walk in a space that is really complicating the ways that we look at things because, you know, we live in a society that is framed by white supremacy. And so for most things, if you just scale it back a couple of steps, you see that that has something to do with what's going on. That doesn't mean that there is not some agency around, like, how we show up how what we have access to what we did, you know, but it's not as simple as well, this person made a bad choice or this person, you know, didn't do this thing. Like, it's almost always far more complicated than that. And I think having that curious mind, I think having that complicated narrative can make things hard, but it's also crucial, I believe, for our survival and for our wellness. And so it, I hope, and I'm not always perfect at it, but I hope that one of the things that I'm doing actively as a parent is helping my children to, like, complicate that. And sometimes they get tired of the conversation.
SooJin: Oh, Malaika, I can't thank you enough for that answer. And for all the ways in which you are connecting adoption to white supremacy and oppression. Wow, thank you. Thank you for that. I just have one more question before we move on.
SooJin: And that is I want to circle back to like where we began, you answered the question of like, you know, the main kind of primary principle in which you approach antiracist parenting is by ensuring joy right, that your children experience a world and a life of joy. And so I was wondering, given the parameters and the limitations you're living under right now with COVID, and the wildfires fires, and the poor air quality that you're breathing on the West Coast. Like what are you doing to inject joy in your lives?
Malaika: Yeah, I mean, so it's funny because I'm thinking about like, what would my children say about me saying that we live joyful lives? Like, I think it's relative. I think it's definitely relative, so one of the things that we have done as a family during this past year and a half is just - there's a lot of ridiculousness in it. So let me just like, start there, we have done many things that we would not have done before. So like, you know, at one point we were thinking about and this is a more superficial and I'll kind of start with the more superficial and then go to the more helpful things. Um, so we have, as part of our kind of urban farming life, we also have a lot of animal friends that live with us. And we have had some loss because that's what happens with, you know, that's what happens the circle of life, and I have been like, there are lots of things that I cannot control, we can get another chicken. We can get another puppy, right? And so like, we have four chickens, we have two puppies. We have a bunch of rabbits, and not all who joined our family during this time, but like, we spend a lot of time with them. And some of the things that I might have before been like, we don't need two puppies right now. I've been like, will it bring us joy? Yes, it will. We will make it happen. And, you know, so like things that, you know, like we've eased up some on restrictions around screen time, right? So our kids got a Nintendo Switch, again, incredibly superficial, but brings them a lot of joy. And when like, you know, when there's wildfire season happening in California, they can't be outside and while I want our family to be a “no screens” – all board games and connection, and like all of these things all the time, that actually isn't always the reality of what my kids find to be joyful. And so partially I try to listen to them and balance like, what is my fantasy of how our family will function? And what is the actual thing that will like, be joyful and, and sometimes centering for them in the moment, right. And one of the things that we have done during this summer, because one of the pieces of this is that my husband works outside of the home, and he does not work a job where he's been able to work from home. And I do work a job where I've been able to work from home, but I've been working during this entire time, right? And so the summertime, with all of this beautiful freedom has meant like trying to reimagine, okay, how are we engaging? Like, what are my, although I have a very flexible schedule, I still have to do some work to further the mission of this incredible organization I get to work for. And so we do kind of a balance of like practicing some skills that we want to make sure that we're maintaining, I don't believe in summer school because I do I believe, I think that kids need to just be and the reality is that like they're going back into school in the fall, right? So like, fun ways for them to like engage in some like academic skills stuff, followed by some bribery of like some screen time. But both and we're doing like some cooking projects or spending time I have, like kind of mandated when we're home during the day so that we go outside and spend time in the backyard even when my kids like the more that we've been kind of living through this pandemic, the more that they've gotten into, like, we don't need to go outside. We're fine where we are and I feel like no, no, actually it's for your own health and wellness. You have to be outside in the sun and like better yet put your hands in the dirt, right or better yet, like lay on the hammock and just like let the sun shine on your face. And we go on hikes two days a week and my five year old has required that we go to a different place every time and so that now we're halfway through the summer like that is you know, they're like okay, it's Monday or it's Friday, we're going on a hike. That's what we're doing. Um, we have started I totally stole this idea from other people but this like a Black joy camp, and so it's a chunk of every day but especially the days that I'm working, where they spend and sometimes it's me with them or sometimes it's just my kids together, where they're like doing things that explicitly bring them joy. Right? So like, it's not screens, it's a screen free time. It's a connection time. But, you know, it's like painting rocks, or like, we went out front of our house and like, did double dutch for an hour and a half, right? Or, like just sitting outside. Or like, they, we, as a family, we manage, I manage a community garden, but my children, like are very strong helpers. Spending time in the garden. And because now that it's beautiful and like bountiful, they love it there and it feels, you know, it brings them a lot of joy. But for me, I think again, it's about the explicit conversations about like, what does joy mean for you? What does that look like for you? What does it feel like for you? Right? So there'll be like, well, we're gonna do this thing you said this thing are working at right, like, some of my kids are very, like, it's time for joy. What does that mean? Right? And, well, you know, and I'm kind of more of like, I don't know, it's whatever, right? And there and so we've been having these conversations about, like, did it bring you joy, right? Is sleeping right now bringing you joy? Is doing double dutch, like being in the sun? Why does that bring you joy? What are the parts of that, that make you feel good? And having, having conversations around that because I want them you know, I know a lot of incredible adults who are really struggling with like, what with like, naming what joy looks like for them, or what rest looks like for them, or respite and I hope that my children will live a life of being committed to their community and to collective service of community. And I also know that that takes a toll and so I want them to be like, have this many skills and resources in their tool box, to be able to like, take care of themselves to be able to engage in really hard things for long periods of time, because along the way, they're taking care of themselves. So that's my favorite part. Like just even when they're like, it's time for Black joy. Yes it is, let’s be joyful!
SooJin: That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing all those wonderful ideas. Wow. And I love how it's like become a part of their vocabulary, too.
Hannah: And making sure to dedicate time to it like that's so critical.
Malaika: Yeah. And it's not perfect right? So one of the things that I really love about the work that I get to do in the world is that it reminds me often of the things that I need to be doing right so like last week, we weren't that great about doing it. But now that I'm saying being recorded - so like now next week I'm gonna be like all the space for joy. And sometimes it's just like a few minutes right like sometimes we get wrapped up in our day and we don't get to it. I try to make it like an hour to two hours but sometimes we don't get there and instead of like beating myself up about like, it's not perfect it's not how I imagined like okay, so let's do something right like we have a lot of fruit trees and the other day we hadn't you know, I've been trying to get my kids to like pick all the fruit off the trees because you know, that's the thing like harvesting the beautiful stuff and like it's not actually all that fun all the time because there's a lot. And I've been trying to like encouraged them to do it. And the other day I was like, okay, what is a way for me to like spin this into not spin it but like, present it in a way that isn't like a chore but that is like, how can we make this enjoyable and so we like they researched all the things that can bake with we have an abundance of apricots and figs I'm like, what can you bake or what do you want to make with this abundance and they came up with all of these recipes and went out and picked from the tree but I've been trying to get them to do right and it turned into like this incredible joyful evening of like my kids like working together to create these you know, kind of tasty not so tasty creations. So like, there's the scripted moments, but then there's also like, how do we like just like bring ourselves back to having that space accessible to us.
Hannah: Okay, so Malaika before we do the lightning round of questions, which is kind of how we end. Is there anything like an organization or project or initiative that you're working on that you would like our listeners to know about?
Malaika: Folks who are connected with adoption, whose families were built through adoption, who are adult adoptees, and allies of adoption should definitely look us up and we're at PACTadopt.org. And I really want to encourage folks that even if there is not if you are not directly impacted by adoption, we are all impacted by adoption. Right? And, and to look for some resources about how to be an ally how to show up for folks. Because as a family who is supporting other families in their parenting journey, and for my children, I want my children to have access to a world where like, everybody understands that adoption is not a fairy tale, right? The burden on them to have to hold that and explain that to people is unfair. And it is a racial justice issue for sure. And so I really encourage folks to look us up look up other adoption organizations who do not paint this fairytale picture of adoption and just really get curious about the conversations that are happening.
SooJin: Those organizations are few and far between and that’s why PACT is so amazing. That's why the work you're doing there Malaika is so amazing.
Malaika: Thank you.
SooJin: So important.
Hannah: Wonderful. Okay, so the questions that we're going to ask our meant to just kind of be like lighter and just whatever comes to mind first it doesn't have to be fast or anything but just kind of wherever it goes. So fill in the blank antiracist parenting or caretaking is...
Malaika: Telling the truth.
Hannah: What's the last thing your kids did to make you smile?
Malaika: The story that just came to my head I probably cannot share, so we'll go with the second one. So during the pandemic my husband and I have done like little date nights and we'll like feed the kids with like whatever food we have in house and then we'll order takeout we'll watch you know a show or something and my children the last time we did that they were like no, no more of this.
Malaika: And we're a large family so it can get pricey right to do take out all the time or like even you know, semi-frequently so we stopped doing that and they kind of like revolted this week and it was incredible and so yesterday we did take out and we all had Japanese food together and they all like picked out their favorites and which is like an incredible like I just was so happy watching them just like devour this delicious food and yeah, they were so happy and like they had won the revolt. They could see the inequities around disproportionate takeout and yeah, it was really sweet and like all right, y'all okay, yeah.
SooJin: Oh, I love it. You're getting exactly what you've been teaching. Yeah. Little activists. So hyper-aware about inequity, and they're gonna do something about it. Yeah.
Hannah: Okay, what are you reading right now?
Malaika: So as the parent as the Mama of four beautiful people, I don't get a lot of quiet time to like sit and read an actual real life book. So one of the practices that I've started during a pandemic is listening to audiobooks. And so that current audio book that I'm listening to is Children of Blood and Bone, which is not a new book, but it's just so yummy and wonderful and like, just good. And I love it and I like walk around with like my earbuds and like listening to books and I feel like, you know, like I'm it's a twofer I'm doing that whatever I'm doing and also getting to kind of have a moment of escape and like, fantasy and reality and like I just love how intertwined the story is with fantasy and like, actual Indigenous practices and just all the things that are so good.
Hannah: Oh, I hadn't heard of that.
SooJin: It's on my list and you saying it and bringing it to my consciousness, it's going to be a Fall read for me. So thank you, I need to bring it back towards the top of my list. So whoo, I can't wait to dig in. Thanks for that.
Hannah: What are you doing to take care of yourself?
Malaika: Yeah, that's a good question. I think there are a few things in it. It's imperfect. Gardening is definitely my primary, like, care for myself. But then I also but there's also a way in which that practice is me constantly thinking about other people and caretaking for something else, which, you know, as a mom, as somebody who's constantly working to create community, I have recognized that I actually need to do things that just care for me, like no one else, it’s fully selfish, just about me. And so I started and I got this from someone else, but I started like, a nighttime skincare routine, which is incredible. And also like, it feels there's just something so huge about this, right? So again, like parenting, being a part of a co-parenting duo, right? Like, I often will fall asleep fully clothed, like glasses still on, like exhausted and I wake up the next day, like what happened to my time? I think about this idea that as an adult, I'll have like, time to watch movies or time to read books or you know, what happened to that and so part of what I have started doing in this is with the help of my parenting partner because he'll take on a lot of like the nighttime routine, and I will like put lotion on you know, I will shower, put lotion on, like, put face creams on and you know, like just be really relaxed in it. And I got like myself a weighted blanket. I have like a back massager. Like I have a whole setup. And it's really incredible in like the practice in the moment, but then I also wake up feeling like I had time, like it's just an interesting shift because I wake up with that same energy. That has been huge, and it feels so small, but it's been like, I got cute pajamas. I do not sleep with my clothes on anymore. That you know, like I have, I've woken up feeling like such a loser some days – like how am I still in my clothes? And so I am like reclaiming that dynamic and like requiring that I spend time on just taking care of myself.
SooJin: I feel rejuvenated, just listening to you talk about your nighttime routine.
Malaika: Yeah, it's good, it's good.
Hannah: Okay, what is something you can do now that will change the conditions for all of us 10 years from now?
Malaika: I think being really clear about my value and about the value of my children as human beings who have emotions and feelings and worth and like standing in that and joy right and requiring other people to witness that. I think showing up in that spirit and showing up in the spirit of like requiring that to be seen as of other Black folks. Um, right like that. We actually as Black people in this country, in this world are deserving of all of the humanity and that there's so many ways that that reverberates. Like how we get treated by the prison industrial complex how we get treated by the adoption industrial complex, how we get treated by like, the whiteness of parenting narratives, how, you know, like, it's just how we get treated when we talk about like access to vaccines, or food or all of this stuff. It's like if there were an active shift in this country, about the humanity of Black people that it would, I believe it would shift everything. And so for me, I think, being really clear for myself and for my children, and for the people connected to me, that that is not an option, it is a requirement. Right? And that I'm deserving of that, that it shifts, you know, I think it's, there are many other things that I am hoping to do and doing and like actively working on. But I think that that's the core of how I've really tried to show up in the world. And I think it and it drives all these other things, and I think, has huge impacts on what's possible.
SooJin: Yeah, a little bit of time that I've spent with you, you know, we've only spent like, two times this is only our second time, like, you know, meeting. And I have to say, like, you embody that, like, I feel that so deeply and everything that you say that your energy, like, everything, like, I feel that so strongly from you.
Malaika: Thank you.
Hannah: So based on that commitment, how do you hold yourself accountable to that?
Malaika: Yeah. You know, I find it easy to, to identify my own humanity, you know what I mean? Like, I, I don't struggle a lot with that for myself, I don't struggle a lot with seeing that in my children, or the people that I love really dearly. It is complicated to extend that out, right? So when we go back to the conversation we're having earlier about, like, having a complicated narrative about life. Like simple things, right? Like we've had our car broken into, and people around us might be like, oh, you know, like, have all of these conversations and I really actively push myself to have conversations that are rooted in let's see all of let's think about all of the things that might be going on right now. Right? Like did this person have access to food did this person have access to what they think they need for survival? Did this person grow up in a society that is actively telling them they are not worthy and actively pushing them to like fully engage in capitalism which like even when you have the things that you need teaches you don't teaches you that you don't? Right? Um, and so like working hard to see the humanity in all of the people around me that does not mean that I have to love and to be their cheerleader. Right, because some people are just foul and just you know, and there is a story there. There is an experience there that I think is important to understand and not just flatten right. I think the flattening that we do to other people is what leads to like the rise of high capitalism that you know, like I think that's it's what leads to us being okay with locking people away removing children from families watching people starve to death on the street. And so that is my active practice to kind of see the humanity in other folks even when I actively don't want to.
Hannah: Yeah, wow. Okay, last question. What would you like the Antiracist Parenting Podcast to investigate or explore in a future episode?
Malaika: Yeah, I think this idea of like, antiracism for Black folks, right? I think that that is an interesting conversation. It was. It really engaged my mind. Like I think about antiracism all the time. But then when I think about like, how do I hold that in myself? And what does it mean for now non-Black families and what does it mean for Black families? What does it mean for oppressed folks? And what does it mean right? And I know that you all have talked to folks around like, obviously, around antiracism, but like what are all of the narratives that come up for? For Black folks, and I don't know if you've already covered this, but antiracism in education beyond just like you know, just like the symbols and like superficial, which is another one of my obsessions is like, how do we really like, get to having conversations with children in classrooms around antiracism?
Hannah: Yeah. Is there anything else you would like to say or share before we say goodbye?
Malaika: Thanks. So I think I've said all the words. I appreciate you all this has been really fun. And yeah, I appreciate the space that you're holding and for inviting me in and thank you for your good work.
SooJin: And thank you for just all the all the goodness that poured from your mouth. I know it's early for you, but you would never know it. Just because, yeah, you're just so frickin brilliant, Malaika, Thank you so much for sharing. Yeah, your concrete examples I know are going to be so helpful for our listeners. It certainly is for us. So we know for our listeners as well. So thank you for that.
Malaika: Yeah, yeah.
SooJin: So go get some of that joy. And thanks so much for being with us and sharing yourself with us today.
Malaika: Okay, thank you.
SooJin: Oh, wow. Isn't she amazing?
Hannah: Absolutely amazing. Oh, my goodness. I'm, like, just so many like sparks of like, oh my gosh, like, I'm starting to make these new connections. And like, the way that she explains it is just so like, helpful in like, crystallizing, like, okay, so this is like, how, you know, just like talking about in the context of like, adoption and the experience of adoption and then also like, the experience of experiencing racism and oppression and then goodness, just like the how that has led to the gardening piece and connecting back and I'm just like, oh my goodness. Like, yeah, it's just so helpful to hear, like, the work that she's doing, like, and like even just the different ages of her children and just like you can just see that. I mean, she has to because of that like think through like all the different stages of how it's showing up and the conversations to be having so I yeah, I feel like I'm going to need to sit with this for a while, but I am just like, totally engaged and found it so helpful.
SooJin: Yeah, me too. I there were there were times when I'm like, oh, I can't wait to re-listen and hear her say that again. Or share that story again. Um, it was just yeah, I mean, me too. I feel so full from the conversation because it was just so rich and meaty and nutritious. But in a fun and joyful way right? Not like you know, in all like, this is healthy for me kind of way. Although it is healthy for me, but it was also really super enjoyable. Yeah, yeah.
Hannah: Yeah. So what are you thinking?
SooJin: Hearing you kind of summarize, you know, like how you're feeling and what you heard, just makes me realize, like, her whole life is integrated. Like, this is what holistic living looks like, you know, I mean, the personal is the political, the political is the personal, like, it's this web, you know, like her family, her work. Like systems and activism, fighting, you know, like, it's all it's all like, integrated for her. And I just, and I think that's, that's the fullness that I'm feeling is because that's rare. That's rare that we see someone who embodies such a deliberate practice around antiracism and fighting white supremacy and oppression that it is like woven into every aspect of her life. Wow, wow.
Hannah: Yes, yes, exactly. That was like the number one thing that was coming in my head the whole time was just like, wow, like, and then as I'm like, no, stop thinking about, wow, I’ve got to pay attention. But like just even the bit about, like thinking about when the instances happen, whether it be an instance of when there's an actual absence of white supremacy, or when there's an actual, like, feeling of joy, like actually exploring, like, what is it about this moment, or this feeling or this experience? That is making you feel whole or making you feel seen or making you feel that feeling so that you can then take that learning and replicate that? And so because I feel like we often focus on like, you know, the negative stuff, like, why are you feeling down? Like why? You know, instead of like, what makes you feel good? Like, why is that happening? Yeah. And I was just like, oh, hi. Like, I need to look at the other side of this whole thing.
SooJin: Yes. Oh, I love that. Yeah. Yeah, that is exactly what she does. I think I want to talk about, like, the commitment that I'm going to make, um, you know, I loved how she said, you know, the practice of honesty always like that, that's something and even like, down to the Easter Bunny, and like...
Hannah: I know, I'm like there goes the tooth fairy!
SooJin: Yeah, and how I love it, you know, like, you know, I give my children the opportunity to engage in the version of reality they want to participate in like, I thought that was brilliant. Yeah, really good. And if I would have heard that sooner, I would have totally adopted that and done that. But you know, Sxela knows, it's like, she knows the truth now. Um, but I really like, um, okay, so two things, these are the two commitments I'm going to make. The first is that I'm going to start incorporating the language of joy, kind of what you were talking about the language of joy into, like, my everyday conversations with Sxela. And, and ask her, you know, like, does this bring you joy? Why, you know, like, explore that, examine that. So, so have that be more a part of our conversation, and also for myself, you know, for myself, um, and then the second thing is, oh, gosh, I loved when she said something to this effect. She said, the more I can connect to that asset, so the asset of how like, her ancestors, you know, they were brought here, they were stolen here brought here for a reason, right? Like, you know, white folks, colonizers, they saw them, and they're like, they're really good at this. So seeing like, their assets, and then exploiting that, and she said, the more I can connect to the assets of my people, the more I can connect to my Blackness in a way that is antithetical to white supremacy. Wow. I mean, that just gives me chills just like, yeah, thinking about that. And so I've never really thought about like, what are the assets of my people? Like, what are the assets of my ancestors? I have never asked myself that question. Like, I can go on and on and talk to you about all the ways in which they've been oppressed. All the ways in which they've been dehumanized all the ways in which they've been exploited, but I can't but to think about like, the assets. You know, because they were dehumanized, exploited, oppressed for their assets because of their assets. So like, what was that asset? That's, I'm going to take some time to reflect on that. And to start thinking about, like, how I can connect to the assets of my people. Oh, I'm so excited to do that.
Hannah: Yes. Cool. I can't wait to see what you find. I, first and foremost, I am going to learn more about adoption. So that was a very clear message that came through that as someone who really doesn't have a you know, intimate link with adoption. I'm going to learn about it. And I think the other thing I want to do is so Malaika said about kind of this idea of, what do we need versus what do we think we need kind of based on societal messaging, and I think I'm gonna do some analysis around that as a next step.
SooJin: Oh, and I can't wait to hear what you came up with what insights you came up with. Yeah.
Hannah: So thanks Malaika for bringing that to the fore.
SooJin: Thank you Malaika, so much for making our lives better for deepening our practice. Don't you feel like we're getting deeper into the work?
SooJin: From all that we've learned from her?
Hannah: Yes. Oh, my totally. Yeah.
SooJin: Okay, and we hope that you our listeners are also you know, learning and are able to deepen your work through our guests, and you know, me and Hannah sharing our journey. So thank you for tuning in. And may you continue to grow and deepen your antiracist practice. Take care everybody.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.