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25 Years of KAAN Reflections - Aeriel A. Ashlee

The included photo is from a KAAN virtual happy hour that I hosted during the pandemic. Such fun to connect with other adoptees from across the country and around the globe!

As we build up to celebrating our 25th anniversary, we will be sharing reflections from members of the community. In this post, Aeriel A. Ashlee, Korean adoptee and former Advisory Council member, shares some of her experiences with KAAN.

How/when did you first learn about KAAN?

I first learned about KAAN in 2014. That year, the conference was in Minneapolis (my home town) and so I attended as a volunteer. My mind was blown! I had never been in community with so many other Korean Adoptees and their families.

What has been your involvement in KAAN?

Since then, I have served KAAN in a variety of capacities: I have presented several workshops and a keynote at the annual conference, I coordinated the annual conference adoptee dinner from 2016-2018; I served on the National Advisory Council from 2017-2021, I coordinated the annual conference scholarship committee from 2018-2021, and I was co-chair of member engagement (hosting community conversations and virtual happy hours) from 2019-2021.

What has been KAAN's importance to you?

KAAN will always have a special place in my heart. When I first stumbled upon KAAN (in 2014) I was just beginning to really delve into my own adoption journey. Unexpectedly, I found the KAAN community to be exactly what I didn't know I needed... an adoptee-centered (now adoptee-led) organization, expansive and inclusive of the diverse array of emotions and experiences within the adoptee community, and encouraging of adoptive family involvement.

KAAN has been a meaningful place to explore my racialized identity as a transracial and transnational adoptee, as well as a wonderful space to build meaningful and lasting friendships with other adoptees. I've also been able to share KAAN with my family; inviting my husband to attend and co-present with me, inviting my (adoptive) mom to attend and co-present with me, inviting my (adoptive) dad to attend, and bringing my daughter to annual conferences! As an adoption scholar, I have also the privilege of presenting and sharing my research on the racialized experiences of transracial Asian American adoptees in college with KAAN, and appreciate the mix of other academics as well as community organizers, KADs, birth/first families, adoptive families, agency folks, etc.

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