Adopted at birth by a white family in Minnesota, Brittany Nash struggled to find her roots in Black culture for much of her young life. She describes her childhood as one colored by loss of identity and a yearning to belong.
“I thought I was alone,” Nash said. “Being raised in isolation, whether in culture — or as I was, physically — I never had a community. I’ve never had people that were closely identifying with me. I finally found that with The Daily Adoptee. That in itself has been so gratifying.”
The Daily Adoptee is the blog Nash launched after she moved to Colorado Springs in February 2020. She describes it as a place where people with similar experiences can “find their tribe,” and an avenue for building a community of transracial adoptees.
Nash’s professional background is mostly in photography where, she says, she focuses on capturing emotion. For the last 10 years, Nash has worked primarily with Black- and Brown-owned businesses, aiming to help them promote themselves and grow. But since the pandemic hit, she has focused almost exclusively on The Daily Adoptee, and on reforming the adoption and foster care systems.
“Helping the adoption community find that voice and settle into these really tough topics when it comes to child welfare and how we navigate and promote these systems, that is really where my purpose in creating The Daily Adoptee comes from,” she said.
Nash doesn’t know any part of her birth story or whether she has siblings, but she says she’s grateful for the community she’s created. The Daily Adoptee has become cathartic.
“I formed a dual identity,” she said. “I am Brittany Nash, and I am an adoptee. I was raised in a white world, but that makes me no less Black, no less concerned about racism and discrimination.”
Nash spoke with the Business Journal about her concerns over the adoption and foster care systems, and the ways her personal journey has impacted identity, race and cultural history.
Why did you start The Daily Adoptee?
I am a transracial adoptee, meaning I grew up with a white family. Navigating this and understanding my identity and place in the world, I started telling my story — a difficult experience. In telling my own story, other adoptees started speaking out and reaching out. I wanted to create a space where we could tell our stories from our perspective and our experiences. That has really been my focus during COVID. [I was] new here in Colorado Springs [and the shutdown] gave me a lot of time to write and reflect.
My experience has been shaped by a lot of different things, whether it was racism, whether it was family separation, loss of identity and culture, [I learned] my experience really resonated with people. I took the time to … slow down and focus on how I can turn my story into an online publication. I intertwine with my writing in more of a journalistic way, while also writing poems and taking photographs. … It’s really interesting how my work with The Daily Adoptee still encompasses my professional work. Sometimes I’m planning with my community partners ... but I [also] still work in collaboration with some organizations back in Minnesota, primarily focusing on grassroots work. It is quite a project that is growing quickly. I thought with COVID, I would lose a bit of steam, but I haven’t. … Just yesterday, I was working with an adoption organization called Adoption Mosaic, and we were talking about adoption and foster care and the impacts of both. It was great to be a speaker for their organization and to raise awareness for adoptee rights and foster care rights and abuse in the system.
As a person of color growing up in a white household, what were some challenges you faced?
I can’t call my story unique. [I learned this] especially when I started writing and people started resonating with me or other people like me. I grew up in a white home that was abusive. In sharing my story, it starts ... showing the real impact of race and adoption and being abused in a white household. It showed me that I did not have that self-advocacy growing up. When I was 17, I actually was placed into foster care and I aged out three months later when I turned 18. Navigating that experience has given me a lot of experience with the system. I have made it a point to focus on the intent and impact of the system and the insistence that adoption and foster care are wrapped up in a neat bow, but we don’t talk about the reality of the impact that it has on the children that then become adults. That is really my focus.
During the time I was living with my adoptive parents, there were people who tried to seek help for me, and I tried to seek help for myself. When I was 17, I really pushed the envelope and decided they weren’t taking care of me and I needed to put my well-being at the forefront. … I often say I was raised in a racist household. I remember [my adoptive parents] telling me my biological mother never wanted me and I would live in a gutter somewhere and I was better off with them, but I was being abused. It was definitely a White Savior situation. The violence and silence that comes with that meant I had no control over my life, and I was shaped and formed into whatever they wanted me to be. There was no focus on my culture and no focus on me loving the skin that I’m in. I was their child and I had to do as they said. … I try to tell this story with my lived experience. People can say it wasn’t that bad, but I was the one who lived through it and once I started telling my story, people said they had similar experiences — whether it was religious abuse or food abuse or other abuses.
We are creating a system and insisting that this system exists, but it still is discriminatory and [riddled with] racism. However much somebody wants to help, if we don’t keep a child’s culture and their needs at the forefront, the intent does not overrule the impact.
How did being raised in a house devoid of Black culture affect your identity?
The interesting part is because I was abused and because so much was kept from me, I have this strong passion for knowledge. I remember because I was in isolation as a Black person in my home; it was very evident for me that I was not liked. [In terms of] my Black identity, I always knew I was Black. I never shied away from that, but it was never encouraged. It led me to seek out knowledge about all cultures — Indigenous people, Latino and Chicano, the Asian culture and eventually the immigration process and slavery. It became a rabbit hole and that was how I learned about my identity and kept myself steadfast. … While I was abused, I wasn’t somebody who was just taking it. I fought back for myself every step. When it comes to identity, books are only part of that. When you meet the real physical people, you begin the search for them and search for your community. Once I was out of that home, that’s what I did. In college, I worked for the diversity center.
… Anywhere I’ve gone, I’ve always tried to make it a point to home into that community. Coming here, one of the first things I did was look for Black businesses, events and cultural activities. Getting to know people and getting to know the history and culture of the city, I was able to come across other opportunities, like this past fall and winter, I was able to work with the African American Youth Leadership Conference.
… I’m proud to use my professional background to help in that way and consult in different ways. It has always been part of my identity that I was Black, but having the comfort and confidence to walk into my own cultural community and say, ‘I belong here and I have expertise and experience,’ has been extremely empowering.