Earlier this year, the League held its first official Advocacy Boot Camp. Organized by our community engagement team, the boot camp brought together advocates from around the state working on issues that matter to millions of Michiganders. Over two days, these campers formed bonds, created plans and shared a vision for a better state. One camper, Erica Curry VanEe, penned this reflection of her experience with her fellow advocacy boot campers. As we move toward a new year, Erica’s words inspire and strengthen us. We hope they do the same for you.
When our family branch is broken, a part of us forever dies. We may be replanted, but we will never be the same. When we are not deeply rooted and receiving the nourishment from our origin tree, we are weaker and bend with the wind. Other branches from neighboring trees may break our fall or try and mend us, but only if those trees are strong enough to hold the weight of our broken branches.
It’s like this with the trauma of family separation. The younger it happens, the longer and deeper the impact. It takes many forms: at birth, at the border, through a bullet, drugs, mental illness, prison or death. Many of these separations are caused by systems that are designed to exclude, otherize and produce radicalized outcomes. When your branch on the family tree is broken through family separation everything feels uncertain, impermanent and replaceable. It can feel as if there is no hope.
Until we see the forest that surrounds us.
We heal in community. When we lead with authentic relationships and vulnerability, community forms quickly. If a cord of three strands is not easily broken, what happens when those cords multiply by 40? How will we stay unbreakable, even while holding the weight of all the broken branches? The answer lies in our root system. Just like the trees, the deeper our connections and networks are with one another, the stronger we will be together. In community we can do things that none of us can do alone. We can withstand the winds that try and tear us down, and break the fall when more branches come down with each storm. We are in this together. If not us, who? If not now, when?
I stand by your side in solidarity, campers, grateful and humbled for the opportunity to hear each of your stories. Please call upon me whenever and however I can help advocate for your cause!
With respect and appreciation,
Erica Curry VanEe is president of the Michigan Adoptee Collaborative