An In-Depth Look at My Personal Background

(specifically – pre-natal cocaine exposure, family separation, foster care, Black Bag Day, and why it’s important that we speak with our own voice)

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Let me welcome you to this quick, informal snippet of my autobi-blog-raphy with a thank you! Your time is valuable, and it means the world to me that you would spend some of it getting to know me better. I am fiercely passionate about authenticity in storytelling and representation in all avenues, so it’s appropriate that I start with a bit of my own history.

Explaining my journey and purpose is impossible without my origins, which may render as heavy. Listen up, folks – under no circumstances are you allowed to pity me or feel sorry for me, that’s not productive. I’m just going to describe my life in the language of 2020 while having a bit of fun!

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I was born on September 30th, 1989. I was born, given the name ‘Kimmoni Okearah Wallace’ by my biological mother Kimberly Wallace, and given pre-natal crack dependency by – when it comes down to it – the US Guhment. Rest in power, Kimberly – her soul transcended in late September of 2021. I never knew her, and she never knew me.

I’m sure I read a ‘Brothers Grimm’ fairy tale about crack once…

Men in charge of protecting the people poisoned them instead. The poison was a devious one – it would trick you into thinking you couldn’t be happy without taking it. It physically rewired a human’s brain chemistry so they could not experience the feeling of happiness without it. It’s not just a drug – it’s a curse. What’s ultimately disgusting in the loneliest of ways? I only know what I just wrote because I was poisoned, too. It’s not on the same scale, but my own brain chemistry was severely affected by those conditions. I have trouble with the natural processes that lead to feelings of joy, happiness, and excitement.

My intestines didn’t develop correctly as a bonus. Turns out, this is the ultimately defining situation. The ultimate pre-existing condition, as well. My admittance into a PhD program at the University of Aberdeen – my desired goal for 2021 – would be the equivalent of medical asylum.

SFY_gut_mosaic_base SFY_gut_mosaic_hover

As stated, my intestines never developed correctly. They look like a series of grocery bags tied together in a yuppie’s attempt to recreate redneck yard art. My first surgery was immediately after I came out of the womb. My second was when they removed me from my biological family ‘for my own good.’ The primal wound. The State of California murdered my family in my mind… then Truman Show’d me.

That’s all it was. Dramatic, yes. That’s all it ever can be if we engage with reality. All those people eating their meals off of trafficking a child and destroying a woman’s sense of self. Lawyers, judges, people who work in CPS…. There are so many ill-actors disguised by the “legitimacy” of state-sponsored family separation. Y’all really may as well drive a van and scoop people off the street. Oh, right. They do.

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Kimberly Foster had five children, all half-siblings. I was the first child she was labeled “unfit” for. There were three other times “unfit” was stamped next to her name. My oldest sister grew up in our biological environment. I was trafficked by the State of California, fostered, and placed. My home was stable. We had food on the table every day, family vacations, lively holidays with gifts and relatives – I was provided for. The day I turned 18, at three in the morning, I was told I had “five minutes to pack up your shit” and leave. September 30th, 2007. Black Bag day.

Ever seen The Truman Show?

My biological mother, a Black Woman born in the late sixties, is and has been a victim of the crack epidemic in 1980s California Bay Area. It took me a very long time to recognize her struggles and that she’s a survivor because of the way I was personally colonized.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known I was a foster kid. My parents told me when I was four or five years old, but I knew before then. All of my sisters are much darker than I am (a theme in both my fostered and biological Blackness), and none of us looked like each other or my parents. I was often thought to be their biological son, which is one of the reasons I was trafficked into that outcome to begin with. My adopted father, a Black Honduran man of the African diaspora, and my adopted mother, an American of British-German ancestry, raised me in a small California mountain town with my two adopted sisters called Foresthill.

We were one of the only Black-involved families in town. In 2015, Foresthill had a recorded population of 1,483. There’s probably upwards of 3,500 people in the communal area surrounding the town. For sixteen years of my life – the development years – it was the only home and society I knew. Every Foresthill kid can relate to the feeling of their identity being controlled by the smallness and the closeness of the community. There’s a lot of beauty in small town mountain life in California. Unfortunately, it comes with it’s fair share of toxic nonsense.

My foster parents legally shortened my name to Kim. They literally removed my name and the ancestral purpose behind it. I remember asking my mother in the first grade why they made this decision, and the answer I received is that my name “was too ethnic,” it was for “my protection.” A futile effort – I was referred to as “Kim Slavid” by some of my hometown peers. I wasn’t traumatized by these folks – it was an early lesson in who and what to give power to.

Listen – I don’t like the name “Kim.” It’s actually my biological mother’s name. When you call me “Kim,” you’re making me into a junior of someone I don’t know. You’re taking my power away. It’s nothing personal towards you, the consumer of my experience – “Kim” is not, and was never, my name.

My name is Kimani. Respect my name.

“Kimani” is a Kikuyu name meaning descendant of a great ancestor. “Okearah” is a person who influences mass beauty in the changes around them. As I am now, I am firmly embraced by my name and identity as Kimani Okearah.

My identity was defined and provided. In my environment, I was convinced I had to socially exist as a character first. With the foster system, I was removed from my own ethnic and biological identity. All I’ve ever heard through my life from everyone around me is how good this was for me. People from my parents to friends to scout troop leaders posit me with hypothetical situations of how my life could be so much worse. What I came to understand is that the people who were telling me these things wanted me to withdraw from curiosity. They wanted me to be smaller than I am. They would tell themselves and each other that encouraging my ignorance towards my own identity, origins, and culture would make ME happy. Kim David, or Kimani Okearah?

2020 language here – I was a light-skinned Black kid that didn’t understand why I looked so different from my family, my friends. I didn’t understand why I felt like I was supposed to be a different person than I was. From head to toe, I was supposed to be a different person. This expands beyond my family identity and to my ethnic identity as well. I’m a human of primarily African / Indigenous American ancestry that was exclusively taught European history, language, religion. I was taught to view myself through the lens of white supremacy. I don’t naturally belong with these people. My mouth is not biologically shaped to perform the phonemes that sustain English. I know very little of my true family history, I know very little of pre-colonial African history, and imperialistic Christianity (which I was raised in) justifies all colonial violence and expansion in the name of the biblical God. Dystopic. Truly.

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Oftentimes, fostered children are expected to perform gratitude. I found myself struggling to write about the reality of the situation because of who those words may hurt – but, at the end of the day, it’s not about them. Tell your story. Tell it in an impactful way.. It’s about what is real – and continuing to perform your role in the Truman Show for anybody else’s sake is something that will always eat at your soul until you can’t find the crumbs.

Anybody who is really on your journey with you will see their love reflected in your growth and success – the best part about that is it’s a two-way mirror. You are loved.

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The adjacency of the foster system to colonization has allowed me to deeply examine what it means to be “adopted.” European mythology treats the brutalization and ethnocide of the African and American peoples as adoption. Over 400 million Black Africans and over 600 million Indigenous Americans died to establish “colonial rule.” Most people carry themselves through every day without having to think of that fact. I see the blood in the asphalt, I see the skin in the concrete, I see the decaying flesh of my entire ethnic identity on every dollar bill. This may seem like negative thinking – this paradigm is necessary to advance the brightest possible future.

I see how identity is affected through inauthentic representation. From my earliest years, I was told that my biological mother was probably dead. She isn’t, but imagine hearing that as a young child. Your mother “gave you up for drugs” and died for them. That’s all you were given to know about the woman who brought you into the world. Imagine how that affects your confidence, your development, and your self-worth – all from a dictation – a whisper of death on careless lips.

My personal experience is a direct parallel to the larger experience of humans living under the conditions of ‘race’ and being called “Black” by people who call themselves “white.” We are a controlled people. We are told our visual appearance is the reason why we need to be controlled. For Black Women, the issue compounds in ways only they can describe.

I’ll stay in my lane. Ethnic African descendants in modern America face this control – primarily through inauthentic representation and storytelling. I’ve seen chattel slavery referred to as ‘imported workers’ in a textbook. The Afrodiasporic community in the USA is discussed, consumed, accessed, and erased by those that see us now as a humanitarian rehab project – if we’re to be seriously engaged with at all.

We have to eliminate this pervasive, constant, and consistent need to take authority over and participate in storytelling spaces where we don’t belong – myself included. The body is oppressed. The mind is authentic. The feelings are real. The voice speaking for the mind, body, and what those elements feel is foreign. It can only be reductive, oppressive. We’re being talked over.

Join me – speak for yourself!

Until next time
~Kimani

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(published on 10/19/2020 • www.okearah.ninja)