In the 1980s at the height of the AIDs epidemic, the NAMES AIDS Memorial Quilt (or rather a section)of it) came to Columbus. Back then, HIV diagnosis was a death warrant. Treatment was primitive by today’s standards, and PWAs usually didn’t live much beyond 2-3 years after diagnosis. I worked in the Theatre Department at Ohio State then. We lost two faculty members of our own, other faculty and staff in the College of the Arts, as well as Theatre alumni and friends.
I was a member of the local NAMES Quilt reading team, the OSU community of professors and deans. janitors and secretaries, grad and undergrad students who took turns reading out the names of the dead at the installation, around the clock, 50 at a time.
Naming the dead in stone, print, and voice is an ancient practice . In the US today we see these public naming spaces in war memorials, cemeteries and churches. Though often focused on civilian and military war dead they are also constructed/performed for the dead from natural disasters, mass murders, plane crashes, and other tragic events. Probably the most famous naming ceremony in the US in recent history was held at the site of the Twin Towers after 9/11. These ceremonies are solemn matters, bringing a final dignity to the remembered .Consumerized naming, even for a “benevolent” purpose has never been acceptable
While researching the Kolenda murder case for my Thursday blog I was surprised to find a reference in the Florida Times-Union to a public “calling out” of the names of adoptable children, in “celebration” of 1998 National Adoption (Awareness) Day. in Jacksonville Florida. The Kolendas and their adopted children, Yana and Toli, attended and were interviewed for the article.
Here are the relevant parts:
Others celebrating becoming adoptive parents gathered at Hemming Plaza in Jacksonville earlier this week to participate in a ”calling out” ceremony. The event, in which the names of children up for adoption are read aloud, was held to encourage others to adopt needy children during November’s National Adoption Month….
,,,The names of 70 children available for adoption in the Jacksonville area were called out during the ceremony in Hemming Plaza in hopes of finding adoptive and foster parents.
The event was sponsored by the Florida Department of Children and Families. All of the children named during the ceremony are special-needs children, which includes children who are over 8, part of a sibling group or minority race, or have physical or emotional disabilities.
Another article published two weeks earlier in the same paper described a 12-year girl old available for adoption Relinquished by her mother four years earlier, the girl had been “adopted” once, but returned after two days. Sufficiently re-habed through behavioral management therapy, she was once more on the block”
If she is not adopted shortly, hers will be one of hundreds of names read as part of a calling-out ceremony at noon Nov. 23 at Hemming Plaza, sponsored by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The service is done as part of National Adoption Month to make people aware of the need for adoptive and foster parents.
1998 was a long time ago, and I hoped this ceremonial phot-op had stopped.
A November 8, 2012 “media alert” from the Sacramento County Health and Human Services announced:
On November 14th, a four hour vigil will be held on the California State Capitol steps recognizing the 59,000 California children currently in foster care. Adoptive parents, child advocates, community and business leaders will continually read the name and age of children in California currently awaiting forever families.
And it’s still going on. Another “calling out” happened again in Sacramento only nine days ago::
November is National Adoption month. You can let a foster child know they have not been forgotten by joining us for the 25th Annual Calling Out of Names at the California State Capitol (North Steps) on Thursday, November 14, 2013 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
EMQ FamiliesFirst is partnering with Lilliput Children’s Services, Sierra Forever Families, Sacramento County and A Better Life to help California foster youth living in foster care find forever families. Organizing sponsors are Mission Focused Solutions and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services.
The November 19, 2013 SaccountyNews.com followed up with:
The County also participated in the four-hour Calling Out of Names vigil at the State Capitol. Elected officials, community leaders, and child advocates gathered together to read aloud the names and ages of every child in California currently awaiting a permanent home. Almost 33,000 names were read, each name a reminder to us all about how important it is for us to take action and keep the implicit promise of permanency to these children.
“During this month of giving thanks, this vigil is a wonderful way for the community to come together to raise awareness of and hope for those children who are awaiting permanent homes,” said Sherri Z. Heller, Sacramento County Director of Health and Human Services.
A similar event took place in Nevada. YubaNet.com reported:
Names will be read by dignitaries including Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency Director Jeff Brown, and many others. The event speaks the names of children who otherwise wait nameless and faceless. “Calling out their names in a place of power is a way of telling them they have not been forgotten. It raises awareness that beautiful children want and need homes and asks the question – do you have room in your heart and home for a waiting child?” says Johnson Vaughan.
I had never heard of “calling out” ceremonies until two days ago. I haven’t done any extensive research on this activity, just a quick Google look, but I’m betting this goes on in other places. Why? The harm caused to children by adoption fairs (which have their roots, as do many current adoption marketing schemes, in pet rescue), cross-country adoption visitations, and other public adaption stunts where potential adoptees expected to act like well-behaved trained monkey to find a forever home, is well documented. Is calling out–hawking children on the steps of the statehouse– any better?
I don’t think so.
Both demean and degrade. They create a special status; that of adoptable consumable with issues that nobody wants rivaling a the cute and cuddly HWI with future issues that everybody wants..You will never see see a healthy white newborn called out in the public square.
Calling out reminds me of the Orphan Train practice of “putting up” so-called “orphans” on wooden boxes to offer for adoption aka cheap farm labor or servitude. Reportedly the term “put up for adoption” comes from that custom.
The whole idea of reading off , for public consumption, the names and ages of adoptable children is creepy and invites trafficking. . It reeks of antebellum slave selling.
Geoergia Tann would love it
Who thought this up? Maybe it was a good idea in 1979 when calling out apparently started out and little was
known publicized about the effects of consumerized child shuffling, but it’s not a good idea now. One of the really sad parts of this is that some foster kids really want to be adopted. The 12-year old mentioned above said she was happy with her current foster parents, but she wanted to be adopted by a black family to whom she could relate. She sayid that if she is adopted she’ll say, “Yippiee I finally got a life.” I hope she did and it wasn’t through street theater.
Isn’t there a better way to find homes for these kids who want and need them? I can’t think of anything more embarrassing and undignified for a potential adoptee than having your name called out from a long list of adoptables. There is nothing dignified about it.
Much of the blame for this kind of activity lays at the feet of the newborn adoption industry. There’s plenty of children in need of families, but there’s no money in it. . There’s no $40,000 adoption price tag on foster kids The industry and it’s shills worship the fetus and newborn, and ignore the thousands left behind in state care.Their mission seems to be to save newborns from the hell of foster care
If anything, these calling out ceremonies are an indictment of the American child welfare system, and money-mooching adoption agencies, the feminization of poverty, and government incompetence, (slashed welfare benefits, the War on Drugs, the CPS civilian police state, and the welfare-prison complex). There has to be a better way for these kids to have a voice and to know that they are not forgotten. I don’t’ know what it is, but reading off names in feelgood melodramatic, overblown public spectacle isn’t one of them. .
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