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*UPDATED* Abrazo revised fundraising dates, Abrazo related personnel were at the ARD, and Gershom’s comment on such

(Update below.)

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

The Adoptee Rights Demonstration had a “group” of Abrazo related personnel at it according to Gershom. She has written about how they shared a meal together after the demonstration at the convention center. In her post The Protest part 2, Gerhsom stated the following:

I was at the other table with some other protesters including a group from Abrazo Adoption Agency who came to support our cause. Interesting that an adoption agency was there, and the nations so called leading adoptee rights organization….wasn’t?

Well hint!

ONE of the very reason Bastard Nation wasn’t there was sitting right at your own table.

(Yes, obviously, there were simultaneous pre-existing organizing related issues as the Bastard Nation withdrawal statement pointed out:

We have concluded that this is not the time or place for Bastard Nation to take part in a Day for Adoptee Rights. The cost of the event this year spiraled and did not balance with the number of participants coming forward to show our strength to the politicians who hold the keys to the records cabinets.

notably the number of likely attendees when held against the DAR original concept of “mass movement”.)

But ONE of the reasons, BN, wasn’t in New Orleans?

Abrazo Adoption Associates, out of San Antonio, TX was the agency that fundraised off our event (yes, “our” because at the time, Bastard Nation, of which I am a lifetime member, nothing more, and I were also part of the event.)

As always I cannot speak for Bastard Nation, being nothing more than a lifetime member myself, (anymore than I can speak on behalf of other national organizations I’m a part of) but I can point at reasons in both the single statement Bastard Nation has released since withdrawing, and quote some of the personal thinking explained via a personal blog.

To again quote the BN statement:

Moreover, we are concerned with participation of Abrazo Adoption Agency in San Antonio, Texas. Unknown to DAR and BN until just a few days ago, Abrazo has been raising funds for the event in DAR’s name.

and

These funds went and continue to go directly to the agency, raising huge ethical issues for Bastard Nation and the equal access movement. Records and identity access is about our rights and has no connection with the marketing schemes of adoption agencies. BN has a long-standing, hard-line policy of accepting no support from the adoption industry. Bastard Nation specifically, and the adoptee rights movement in general, cannot and should not be co-opted or used by the adoption industry to promote its own agenda. We disavow all industry involvement in our work. Any entanglement with the adoption industry endangers the integrity and credibility of the adoptee rights movement.

Read this comment thread from June 2, ‘08 on Marley’s (the Executive Chair of Bastard Nation) personal blog, The Daily Bastardette, concerning the BN statement. Keep in mind that her personal comments there must be taken in light of her blog’s disclaimer:

The Daily Bastardette is an independent blog and not connected to any organization.

The discussion between Abrazo’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Jurnovich, b.b.Church/Ron and Marley is quite revealing. Marley makes it clear:

There were two issues: (1) fiscal responsibility/committed attendance. (2) Abrazo piggybacked on it–I think that would be the way to say it. The lead organizer of the event called for a suspension of DAR this year so it could be done right next year. We concurred. A few people disagreed, and went their own way. Some of them are genuinely dedicated to DAR coming off. Others, who had nothing to do with the planning or decision making prefer to spread rumors and gossip and blame Bastard Nation for God knows what, for doing what any responsible organization does–protect its members interests and investments.

Later in the thread Marley addresses Ms. Jurnovich directly about the Abrazo fundraising:

First you solicit funds in DAR’s name without their knowledge and consent. Then you continue to do so knowing the problems this has caused DAR, BN, and the adoptee rights movement in general. You continue to raise funds against DAR’s wishes.

and

To say that DAR or BN doesn’t want to work with natural parents, adoptive aparents, etc. is simply not true. We have plenty of both in our membership. But, we are not interested in helping adoption agencies position themselves and market their products and services in OUR movement. And that, is what your fundraising looks like to a helluva lot of people right now. Do you think for one minute that most activists would be interested in supporting an event which the adoption industry has funded? You wonder why adoptees don’t like the adoption industry This is a perfect example.A Day for Adoptee Rights, whether BN participates in it or not, is about adopted persons, not the industry.

According to a comment Ms. Jurnovich, (the executive director of Abrazo), attempted to post to my partner, Sleeps with Bastard’s moderated blog on June 6th (which he has not approved) the Abrazo fundraising in relation to the ARD event began in February ‘08, not May 9th, as the Facebook fundraising history page had led me to originally believe.

Which means that between February and May 29th Abrazo was fundraising off our event and we had no knowledge of it whatsoever. When we did discover it, by way of Amy, I explored the Abrazo webpage, I could find no link from off the Abrazo webpage into their facebook fundraising.

On May 30th Ron spoke with Ms. Jurnovich on the phone. According to Ron’s report back to the DAR organizers, she refused to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with Abrazo utilizing our name in their fundraising without our knowledge or consent.

In fact, even after we found out about the fundraising, and had by then contacted Ms. Jurnovich about it, they continued their fundraising into their own agency 501c3 until approximately June 4th, 08.

That means approximately 4 months worth of fundraising, never once so much as mentioning it to Adoptee Rights Demonstration organizers. Then close to a week of continuing on even after being spoken with.

It doesn’t matter whether money came in by the bucketload or drips and drabs, the bottom line is Abrazo was doing it without ARD organizers knowledge or consent.

Nor does it matter whether the nuDAR orgnaizers, those left after others withdrew, consented. The monies as originally collected, were collected under shall we say, ‘highly questionable circumstances’ at best.

According to this 12:17am comment by Elizabeth Jurnovich, made to this blog post written by Amy, she claims the contributions were returned to the individuals, but the agency encouraged them to resend the contributions directly into the ARD as individual contributions made by Abrazo related individuals rather than as a single agency contribution.

Please be assured that every dime raised was returned to each donor, with a full explanation of why Abrazo was unable to forward it to Protest organizers as intended.

Abrazo did encourage all donors to subsequently mail contributions directly to the adoptee rights protest (or other groups), but we have no way of knowing whether any did so, given the ill will aroused by Bastard Nation’s attack.

Ms. Jurnovich, (as well as the usual cast of DAR related individuals) also tries to tar Bastard Nation for having integrity and pulling out of the event, in light of Abrazo’s fundraising falsely equating such to an ‘attack’.

So come the actual event, the Adoptee Rights Demonstration in New Orleans, there was Gershom, dining with Abrazo and the group they brought to participate in the ARD.

More than half of the ARD organizers had left in part over the issue of Abrazo’s fundraising off our event/use of our event without ever informing us, much less asking event organizers’ permission to utilize our event in this way. During my time as an ARD organizer Abrazo was certainly not acting as an authorized fiscal agent.

The Abrazo fundraising was one of several reasons, clearly the lack of “mass movement” participation being a critically important SIMULTANEOUS factor.

Ron/b.b.Church, on this Bastardette comment thread, addressing Ms. Jurnovich, made his reasons clear, he has been willing to work with industry in the past,

But I won’t work with people that sandbag me. And that’s what you did.

He elaborated further in his June 5th statement:

In a series of remarkable posts one of the volunteer organizers revealed that Abrazos, a Texas adoption agency, had been fundraising under DAR’s name and had raised over 800 dollars for the event. This volunteer organizer stated she did not know whether this money was intended for DAR or if it was being raised to fund attendance by Abrazos staff and supporters to the event. This information was like a hand grenade thrown into the mix.

The volunteer organizer in question was of course Amy, who had revealed on May 29th to other organizers Abrazo was raising the money on a facebook page AFTER Ron’s call for suspension. (The two events, the call for suspension and Amy’s revelation of the Abrazo fundraising happened within 13 minutes of one another on the organizer’s list, no doubt most organizers reading such got the two one right after the other.)

The Bastard Nation June 1rst withdrawal statement also makes mention of the Abrazo fundraising as one of the simultaneous reasons they had chosen to withdraw:

Moreover, we are concerned with participation of Abrazo Adoption Agency in San Antonio, Texas. Unknown to DAR and BN until just a few days ago, Abrazo has been raising funds for the event in DAR’s name. http://apps.facebook.com/causes/85456?recruiter_id=15092383

Note that the Abrazo facebook page linked above “open adoption rocks” has changed considerably from the time of DAR organizers realization of it’s existence through Abrazo closing it down, on through to today. For historical purposes, you can see at least the statement they appear to have posted June 4th when the fundraising on facebook appears to have finally ended here in my post ARD- Abrazo finally ends their “open adoption rocks” facebook fundraising. I have yet to go back and pull the wording on the site from the time period when ARD organizers were first discovering it.

My partner, Sleeps with Bastard was even more specific about his take on Abrazo’s actions in his May 31rst post, A very brief comment concerning adoption:

I am not here to promote adoption. I am not here to create events or other means that others coopt so they can continue strip mining pregnant women for product.

This is about getting information out of the state, without compromise. This is not about teaming up with the industry’s marketing efforts that are not about getting information out of the state, but about continuing and growing their business, and nothing else. They will compromise and bargain away unconditional access to OBC’s because they have no stake in those OBC’s, only their business of selling kids on their own terms independent of the state.

The contents of [an adoption agency’s] websites are about the terms by which they move product, not about how bastards everywhere are going to gain their OBC’s.

Be sure to see the full post for related links that detail precisely what he is talking about in the above.

And finally, there’s me, the other organizer who resigned, particularly in light of the Abrazo fundraising. I have had grave concerns about industry co-optation of any form of Bastard organizing to regain our state confiscated materials.

The landscape is such that with international adoption becoming an ever more ’sticky’ proposition what with so many abuses coming to light as of late and ’sending countries’ closing their doors on U.S. Prospective Adopters, many are instead turning to domestic adoption.

And not merely domestic, ‘open adoptions’ so often legally unenforceable, but great for the marketing.

Abrazo is one of the agencies that has focused upon finding a niche market for itself, selling ‘openness’, be that ‘open’ adoption or open records. So much the better if they can find self professed ‘activist’ adoptees, such as Amy to give their ringing endorsements. (see in particular my Amy related portions of this post, Adoptee Rights Demonstration / Day for Adoptee Rights some history and Gershom’s “storm” to see her personal endorsement of Abrazo, it too has since been removed from her blogsite.)

Similar to what my partner said, I am not here to work to create events that agencies such as Abrazo can utilize in their own marketing, specifically see pieces such as Abrazo’s Affinity volume XIV number 1 newsletter (pdf) front page. This is what industry co-optation of Bastard voice looks like in practice. This is ARD in use by Abrazo.

They do not define the meaning of Bastard rights, nor what our issues (political, legal or otherwise), nor feelings are. They are at a separate position in the adoption pentagon (Bastards, parents, adoptive parents, agencies/lawyers/intermediaries/lobbyists/industry, and finally the State.) Abrazo occupies the space of agencies/lawyers/intermediaries/lobbyists/industry. Their interests are not our interests.

They cannot speak for us.

I’ve been writing about my concerns with such since for some time now, see my tags, Adoptee Rights Demonstration, and Abrazo Adoption Associates.

And so when nuDAR organizers such as Gershom EMBRACE those who fundraised off us into their own agency 501c3 for months without our knowledge or consent, yes, just as you might reasonably expect, some of us were absolutely not in New Orleans, (with good reason).

Bastard Nation represents a non-industry co-opted Bastard created and Bastard run organization. One where Bastards speak with their own voice, not as photo-op ’set design’ for agency propaganda. (’Cause I think we can all guess what’s gonna run in upcoming Abrazo materials, pretty pictures of them “supporting” adoptees in New Orleans, never mind what they themselves stand to gain by such.)

One is about us working for ourselves, the other is about how adoptees can be used to further the marketing goals of the industry.

When it mattered, BN stood by their principles, that of “accepting no support from the adoption industry,” so much so that when Amy from within the DAR organizers list was advocating for Abrazo and sharing information with them, Bastard Nation executive committee members took the drastic step of unanimously voting Amy off BN’s Legislative Committee. You can find the full text of BN’s letter to Amy, which she first posted on her blog then took down, in my post here. Quoting the most pertinent part:

Bastard Nation has a long time policy of not accepting support from the adoption industry. Without saying, we do not advocate for the adoption industry or any adoption agency or professional within it. You have done both. As an private individual you have the perfect right to do so, but as a member of BN’s Legislative Committee your duty is to uphold BN principles, practices, and integrity.

Your relationship with Abrazo as documented in your own blog, “Regarding Bastard Nation’s Withdrawal” posted on June 2, 2008 at 3:51 pm and your actions on the original DAR Action List clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of and concern for Bastard Nation’s mission, activities, and ethics, as well as the security and integrity of the original DAR. We are astounded that you failed to grasp the ethics and motives of an adoption agency funding the DAR protest, much less their procedure of funneling funds sent to them into their own 501(3)(c) account. This funding was done without the knowledge DAR sponsors and leaders, and would never have been approved had they been informed of the scheme.

We take this step to insure the security of Bastard Nation correspondence and the upholding of our principles and rules.

Bastard Nation has had to make some difficult choices surrounding the ARD trainwreck, but in the end, they stood by their own core values as well as the long term interests of the far broader non-industry co-opted adoptee rights work.

It is vitally important that whether lobbying or doing educational work, the genuine adoptee-centric open records movement be disentangled from industry interests and finances. To do otherwise is not only a conflict of interest, it is to abdicate authentic Bastard voice and the ability to speak genuinely for those in our position of the adoption pentagon.

At the end of the day it’s really a question of whose narrative is it in; them participating in an adoptee narrative or adoptees reduced to props in their narrative? It’s a question of influence, societal privilege, control, political access, and power, and ultimately who has more, adoptees or industry?

Bastards must control their own narratives, else they become typecast actors who may as well be in from central casting, playing out roles predetermined for them, for the use and purposes of others. Not unlike the roles Bastards are so often photographically reduced to be that in online photolistings or in industry marketing materials.

I am not saying that Bastards must ‘go it alone’, we certainly have other potential allies; others who are also in their own distinct ways disempowered, de-voiced, and used. Manufactured iconography has been created of them, things have been done to them, and things are ‘done on behalf of them.’ Likewise, they too, often have little access to political power, or mediums in which their authentic voices and their own narratives can be autonomously controlled. I am speaking of course, of others both within and without adoptionland. Most of all though, Bastards stand with those fighting the abuses and abusers, the corruption and the corrupt within the industry that had such effect upon so many of our lives, (Bastard or otherwise.)

I am talking about addressing systemic structures, and understanding who in those relationships ultimately has power and who doesn’t. Those with the power are those who are in positions to actually utilize a given event, regardless of any other attempted narrative or intent.

It’s not a question of what happened, it’s a question of who is more in position to utilize such; adoptees, or industry? Are adoptees there for themselves, or just to be used yet again, by the likes of Abrazo, whom Gershom has clearly welcomed, even in the aftermath of their actions.

That’s the difference. And that’s a big piece of why I at least, was not in NOLA.

****************

Update July 29th

****************

This evening Abrazo Adoption Associates’ executive director Elizabeth Jurnovich attempted to comment on this post, I have moderated her comment, but will address the pertinent points. In her comment this evening she said:

The February fundraising reference regarded Abrazo’s contribution to the Protest’s newspaper ad, for which Ron sent us his thanks, ;a donation which was openly listed, along with Bastard Nation, for MONTHS before any of you took offense to the Facebook fundraising effort we later launched in May.

So let’s be clear, in this, she is now saying that the February reference which she had made in the attempted comment to Sleeps with Bastard’s blog (back on June 6th) was in relation to a specific contribution for the newspaper ad. (What Ron or did not in regard to contributions was unknown to me at least.)

If the Abrazo donation was listed, it would have been listed on the page only visible to donors. As I was not a donor directly to the event, I never had any way of seeing such. (I’ve already explained, I was unwilling to give money into Gershom’s personal account with no organizational oversight.) So I at least never saw such a listing. I was unaware of any agency money in the event at the time I was an organizer.

Finally Ms. Jurnovich says in this evening’s attempted comment that as I had noted earlier, from the facebook fundraising history page, it appears to have been created May 9th.

Then there is the explanation of the fundraising she offered in her attempted comment to Sleeps with Bastard’s blog which was also moderated. It was this eariler June 6th attempted comment from Ms. Jurnovich that I based the above post on. Allow me to again, quote the pertinent portions:

The Facebook Causes application required us to identify a 501c3 to which donations could be directed and the Adoptee Rights March was not an IRS-recognized non-profit (which was why our efforts to encourage our agency clientele to donate via links posted on our website since 2/08 had been largely unsuccessful.) Our agency had already made a donation to the March eariler in the year, as was clearly denoted on the donors’ grid shown on the March’s website,…

The “links” portion in the above was unclear as she was speaking of the facebook fundraising, was she by “links” referring to links (to the ARD website?) or links (to their facebook fundraising?). I believe it’s now clear what she probably intended was links to into the ARD website. The Facebook page would have created months later in May.

Perhaps Ms. Jurnovich could clarify, this then is one question:

Is she saying that 1.Abrazo had made the newspaper ad related donation, 2.AND that Abrazo had links off their website since February encouraging their “agency clientele to donate via links” to the Adoptee Rights Demonstration page, (which was not a nonprofit) and 3. and thus in May they stopped trying to get their members to go over to the ARD page to donate and instead set up their own Facebook fundrainsing page to collect donations into their own agency 501c3?

If so, the facebook fundraising, which apparently began May 9th, still utilized our event without our knowledge or consent.To the best of my knowledge, Abrazo never contacted Adoptee Rights Demonstration organizers to mention them having set up the Facebook fundraising without our permission until apparently Ms. Jurnovich first mentioned it to Amy, which Amy then passed along to the rest of us.

Between the two attempted comments Ms. Jurnovich’s own words, lead to a second question:

Is the February fundraising mention in relation to the newspaper ad as Ms. Jurnovich said tonight, or a reference to earlier supposed links off the Abrazo page as she said in the June 6th attempted comment to Sleeps with Bastard’s blog?

Again, the actual dates of when the Facebook fundraising began are still far less important than the fact that for whatever reason, without ARD organizer’s knowledge or consent at some point, (apparently May 9th) Abrazo set up their own form of fundraising into their own agency 501c3 off our event and it was done without ever once notifying, much less asking permission from Adopee Rights Demonstration organizers.

Even if Ron had been aware of agency money in the ARD, something others of us were not aware of, that hardly granted permission for Abrazo to set up their own fundraising off our event into their agency 501c3 .



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