Include your name at the Adoptee Rights Demonstration

If you would like to have your name carried so you can be included in the next Adoptee Rights Demonstration, fill out the form below to have your name added to a paper chain necklace of names.

Jeff Hancock and the paper name necklace in Philadelphia Adoptee Rights Demonstration, July 2009
Jeff Hancock and the paper name necklace in Philadelphia Adoptee Rights Demonstration, July 2009.
First moms and dads, adoptees, adoptees children, adoptive parents and your support group friends are each welcomed to join us in spirit.

Add your name to the paper chain name necklace:

Name:
Email:
Note: your email address will remain private
Select your state and city:
Message:

This was wildly popular last year, and meant very much to people as it enabled them to feel included, even though they couldn't join us in person. For me, it was a very humbling experience as I expected only to receive names. I never foresaw receiving personal stories. Included in the dozens of stories was one from a 90+ year old first mom who scribed her entire story to her great-niece, and had her send it to me in email.

There is no cost, and no one who replies will be denied. You are all welcome to pass the word to others. Last years names were carried in the form of a paper chain necklace which I wore through the entire day. The amount of replies that I receive this year will determine how this years list will be presented. To fully understand the impact of the paper chain necklace, I've attached the following essay.

Jeff

ESSAY

I'd like to share with each of you an essay I wrote on “What Those Names Really Mean” with regard to last year's paper chain:

One year ago my wife and I decided to attend the annual adoptee rights demonstration, which was held in Philly. I kind of felt sorry for all the adoptees and their first-moms who couldn't attend. Something possessed me to offer to carry names with me; never anticipating how many people would respond. I was incredibly moved by the experience, and in all honesty it changed me a lot.

Some people wrote me letters to go along with their name request. One in particular caused me to sit at my desk and bawl my eyes out. That's extremely rare for me to do, I've always hated myself for those times when I cannot control my feelings. I much prefer swearing and cursing as opposed to turning into mush. However, the letters people chose to include with their requests to have their name carried to Philly were intense, and written in ways that expressed both vulnerability and trust.

Of the dozens of messages I received, one in particular broke my back. It was from a very elderly birth mom who was 90+ in years. Somehow she had heard of my offer through someone who knew partly of he experience, and then got in touch with me. She had no computer, but had a great-niece who was willing to scribe her entire story. It was over 7 pages long, and detailed her traumatic life beginning with the relinquishment of her baby.

People in her family knew she had given away a child in her teens. They never knew her story or what effect it had on her. This was the first she had ever shared it with anyone. Towards the end of her letter she pleaded for me to include her name. I never asked for pleas; nor would I ever DENY anyone inclusion on the tribute list of names. I was really humbled by this letter as I never imagined something like this finding it's way to me. All I requested were names; never stories or person's validations that they had an experience they considered worthy of being written onto a slip of paper and carried though the streets of Philly.

Her shame and guilt from something that occurred 70+ years ago was still fresh in her mind as if it had happened yesterday. She felt unworthy of having her name included; I felt unworthy to wear it for her. Tonight I still feel extremely humbled by last year's experience. Her transcribed email hit me like a ton of rocks. When I offered to somehow represent the folks who could not make it to the rally, I never anticipated it's symbolic meaning. Once the stories flowed in, it hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest.

People ask me about “That thing around your neck” from the pictures of last years rally. Friends from the non-adopted part of my life have no idea how much that paper chain symbolizes to so many people. Being the guy who wore it for 12 hours, at first I struggled with the symbolism, too. I felt great humility through the many emails and requests I received worldwide from adoptees, moms, and their families. I cannot bring myself to parting ways with that original name necklace. Each slip of paper represents a life; a story indigenous only to one person. Though I never sought to learn their stories, I read and hold sacred each one I received.

Over the past year I have met so many more adoptees and the mothers who had to relinquish them. Beginning the day I returned from last years rally requests to be included on the Louisville chain for 2010 reached my in-box. I share the story of the paper chain when I speak at adoption related groups or lectures. I always get choked up speaking about it as it forces me to remember the many faceless individuals who lent me the use of their names for that special day in July, 2009. It's very intense for me, yet others who are either adopted or relinquished their child embrace me for doing this on their behalf.

On the other hand, I no longer mention the necklace in front of my non-adoption affected friends and family. When I reach that point where I allow my feelings to distract me, and I either get choked up or need a pause to regain myself; I feel their look and sense their uneasiness. It's that same look of fright or emotional disturbance you see on victim's faces in cheesy science fiction movies. I couldn't have placed a more horrified or shocked expression on their faces had I sprouted an evil second head right there while standing before them. It's hard for former classmates, distant relatives, or life long friends to immediately adjust when someone they have always seen as steady, self-disciplined, and sort of a wise-ass transform into a pile of mush. It's not a complaint that I have, or even a criticism. It's only an observation I recently discovered. Had I not carried those names one year ago I never would have made this observation.

That necklace last year meant more to a few hundred adoptees and moms than I ever could have imagined. It's the deepest humility and equally the greatest honor I've ever felt to wear it. From the moment of my very first post in July of 2009, when I offered to include your names, my life changed.

So anyhow, for some of you who have been asking recently, that's the story behind the paper necklace.