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25 Years of KAAN Reflections - Taneka Hye Wol Jennings

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

As we build up to celebrating our 25th anniversary, we will be sharing reflections from members of the community. In this post, Taneka Hye Wol Jennings, Korean adoptee, volunteer, and conference presenter, shares some of her experiences with KAAN.

How/when did you first learn about KAAN?

I learned about KAAN from the three co-founders of KAtCH. I attended my first KAAN conference as a youth program volunteer in 2015. Over the years, I have volunteered with KAAN’s youth program, presented workshops related to adoptee citizenship/organizing and mental health/grief and loss, and have also been a keynote speaker. I wrote a blog post for KAAN shortly after George Floyd’s killing.

What has been KAAN's importance to you?

For me, KAAN stands out in the Korean and broader transracial adoptee community as a space that seeks to be safe and welcoming for adoptees to participate in the fullness of our intersectional identities - including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, ability, and immigration status. It is a space that intentionally promotes a spectrum of adoptee identity development, from community-building to learning to healing and action.

Since I attended my first KAAN conference as a youth program volunteer in 2015, KAAN has played an important role in formative times in my life. In 2015, I was reeling from the loss of my adoptive father. At KAAN, I attended a workshop on grief, where I gave myself permission to cry and feel my losses deeply. The experience was so powerful that I decided to co-facilitate a session on grief and loss with a couple of friends at KAAN some years later. In 2018 and 2019, I joined fellow Adoptees For Justice organizers to present a workshop, and spoke on the subject of organizing for adoptee citizenship. It felt exciting and inspiring to unapologetically own our power as adoptees and demand justice for the failures of adoption, immigration, and legal systems to protect our basic human rights.

Then, in 2020, I was asked to contribute a reflection to KAAN’s blog (Beyond Speaking Out) following the killing of George Floyd. At that time, I did not know that this event would spark a global uprising for Black lives. What I did know was that a deep injustice had occurred, which was not an isolated incident. I knew that the same White supremacy and systemic racism that has fueled the enslavement, imprisonment, and lynching of many Black people is also what drives the forced separation of many adoptees of color from our birth families, and that we have a responsibility as adoptees to not only speak out but to lead lives of solidarity and action that strengthen bonds of love with our fellow humans.

Over the years, KAAN has provided me with space to grieve and heal, grow in community with fellow adoptees and allies, and engage in the critical analysis necessary to reject the myth of the “grateful adoptee,” “good immigrant,” and “model minority,” and instead lean into a way of life rooted in co-liberation and pursuing the collective good. I am immensely thankful for the thoughtful, inclusive, and brave leaders who contribute to making this space possible, year over year.

This year marks KAAN's 25th anniversary. We look forward to continuing to connect, empower, and support members of the adoptee community for the next 25 years (and beyond!) but we need your help to do so. You can contribute to our mission by joining our 25 for 25 campaign.

Donate at this link. Suggested donations are $25, $250, and $2,500 but any amount makes an impact.

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