Blog Post, Written by Alé

My Biological Mother was a Domestic Worker: An Adoption Story

Title appears: My Biological Mother was a Domestic Worker, an Adoption Story.  Under appears the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo, on the right is a pregnant woman's stomach with her arms embracing it.  Alé tells the story of being her biological mother being a domestic worker to be then be raised by domestic workers.

Friends, this a tough one to write.

Being an overseas adoptee from Brazil is a huge part of my story and my identity, interwoven into the fiber of my being. Whenever I feel like I have my footing and a deep understanding of my adoption story, the universe never fails to provide a new lesson.

A few months ago, I received one of these messages, in the form of an Instagram Post from an educator on race and womanhood, Rachel Cargle. Rachel often challenges her followers to think critically on issues of race and feminism, she insists white women #dothework, and confront hard truths.

A photo of Rachel Cargle and Alé at Rachel's lecture, "Unpacking White Feminism."  On the right it says Allyship = Knowledge + Empathy + Action, a quote by Rachel Cargle.
Meeting Rachel at her “Unpacking White Feminism” Lecture in NYC

One post in particular asked us (white women), to think about the way we have interacted with and perceive domestic workers. I learned from Rachel, that second wave feminism was largely about encouraging women to get out of the house. Feminism was framed as a way for women have careers, and lives of their own. For black and brown women of color in this country, having to work was not some profound new wave concept. It was a means of survival. Droves of white women liberated themselves and began careers outside the home. Meanwhile, women of color were entering the homes of white families to clean and raise children. In turn, losing time to spend with their own children.

The Circumstances of My Adoption

As I read Rachel’s post, over and over, my mind was doing flips. I went twenty-eight years not knowing my birth story. I heard things like, “She (your biological mother) gave you up.” Even more harshly stated, “She didn’t want you.”

In 2016, my biological mother and I connected on Facebook. I heard my story, our story, for the first time. My biological mother took a job as a live-in domestic worker for a much wealthier family. If not for this job she would have no income, no place to live, she had no options. She was 21 at the time. She realized she was pregnant. Her boss said there was no way she could keep her job with a newborn.

My biological mother already had a daughter in the care of the child’s paternal grandmother. She turned to the father of her unborn child. As I understand it, she quite literally had a door slammed in her face. She was given two options, live on the streets with her baby, or place the baby for adoption. Clearly, she chose the latter.

After my birth, she fell into a serious depression. She was ridden with guilt and uncertainty about the choice she made. The same boss who told her to relinquish me or face job and housing loss, told her not to worry about where I was because I had died shortly after birth. Not sure how that was meant to be helpful, or encourage her to get back to work. However, she did tell me she never truly believed her boss and knew I was out there. My biological mother lived with that pain for twenty-eight years until that day we connected on Facebook.

Being Raised in Part by Brazilian Domestic Workers

The nuances of this story dig deeper. My adoptive family (I never refer to them that way but for the sake of avoiding confusion in this instance I will), were privileged enough to be able to hire help. I was raised by many strong women, including my adoptive mother, grandmother, aunt, and two live-in Brazilian domestic workers. Both of those women had sons back in Brazil. In order for them to provide for their children, their best option was to come to United States and help take care of other people’s homes, and help raise other women’s children.

I am not sure irony is even the right word here, but the irony, of me, an adopted Brazilian child, being raised by Brazilian domestic workers, who are not even able to live in the same country as their children was lost on me. That is, until Rachel’s gut wrenching, thought provoking post. It is an incredibly painful thought to begin to comprehend. Those women also had to pretend they didn’t know I was Brazilian, because I didn’t discover the truth about my my adoption until I was twelve. Those two women were actually from the town in Brazil where I was born and could not share what it meant to be Brazilian with me, nor be with their own biological children.

I must admit I am still grappling with my feelings around this. Adoptees are often told we should be grateful. Grateful our biological parent’s gave us a “better life,” grateful our adoptive parents took us in for this, said, “better life.” Being adopted into the family I was adopted into gave me a lot of opportunity and privilege, and a loving family. Adoption also meant tremendous loss, loss of a first family, lost of my first language, first culture, first country, and starting life off with adoption trauma, the neurobiological consequence an infant faces when being permanently separated from their mother.

Action Items

Title: Honoring the Sacrifice of my biological Mother: A critical look at our relationship to domestic workers.  In the background is a woman with a globe on her stomach.  Two hands hold it in place with their fingers in the shape of a heart.  On the bottom of the image is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo.

If you have the need and are privileged enough to be able to hire a domestic worker, the point is not to shame you here. I stand with Rachel Cargle in asking you to think critically about your relationship to the women you are bringing into your home. Are you considering they are people with full lives and families who love them? Do you compensate them fairly for the sacrifice they are making to help you clean your house and/or raise your children? Are you being considerate of their time? What do you know about their culture? Is what you expect fair and just? Do you know their long term goals?

I speak in depth about my experience of being an adoptee on Episode 6 of the Dream Chasers and Change Makers podcast and have written another post about thing to avoid saying to adoptees, here.

In writing this vulnerable blog post, I ask you to sit with any feelings it may have stirred inside you. Feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page and share your thoughts in the comments.

Alé Cardinalle|LSW |Adoptee

Blog Post, Change Makers, The People Need to Know!, Written by Alé

12 Black Change Makers You Didn’t Learn about in School

In this post we will give you bios of 11 black change makers you didn’t learn about in school. Learn the rich history from yesterday and today of some of the most influential, pioneering and badass black Americans who influence our history.


1. Alvin Ailey

Heading Says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  On the left the is a photo of Alvin Ailtey, wearing a red leotard, in a dance pose.  There is a bullet list of his accomplishments on this right.  It is says activist, founder of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, recipient of Presidential Medal of Honor, and Choreographer, Below is his name, and the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo.

Alvin Ailey was a child during racial segregation and lynchings and grew to have the nickname, “Cultural Ambassador to the World,” for having danced and toured all over the world. He had a strong sense of black pride that developed at an early age while attending a southern baptist church and juke joints. He found dance at Lester Horton’s dance school. Ailey went on to popularize modern dance and his show “Revelations,” is the best known modern dance performance in history. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and later the Alvin Ailey school. Although the dancers were multi-racial, Ailey wanted to ensure black dancers were given opportunities because they were often turned away from other performances. He died in 1989, and after his death Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Honor. @alvinailey‘s dances theater continues on today.

Learn More: https://www.biography.com/people/alvin-ailey-9177959

2. Mae Carol Jeminson

Title of the photo says celebrating black change makers.  Below on the left is a photo of Mae Carol Jeminson, smiling in a full space suit, with the helmet open.  To the left are bullet points of her accomplishments.  It says, first black woman in space, engineer, physician, college professor, holds nine honorary PHDs.  On the bottom of the photo is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Logo

 Dr. Jemison became the first black woman in space in 1992, going into orbit on the Space Shuttle Endeavor. She was selected to join the Astronaut Corps by @nasa while she was serving the @peacecorps in the 80’s. Currently she is the principal of the 100 Year Starship organization. Oh, and she’s been an actress too! She’s been featured on Star Trek: The Next Generation. 🚀 

Learn More: https://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378

3. Keith Boykin

The heading of the photo says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  On the right is a photo of Keith Boykin wearing a suit.  He is standing in front of a brick wall.  On the right is a bullet list of his accomplishments, including, LGBTQ advocate, award winning author, political analyst and commentator, and Co-Founder of the National Black Justice Coalition.  His name is printed below.  On the bottom of the photo is the dream chasers and change makers logo.

This man’s resumé is more than impressive but here’s a little info: @keithboykin1 was the editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties law review, while attending Harvard Law. He later went on to be the highest ranking openly gay staffer in the Clinton White House, as special assistant to the president and Director of Specialty Media. He published his first book in 1996, “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America.” He is often seen as progressive broadcaster and commentator on CNN, and he is the cohost of “My Two Cents,” a talk show on BET.

Learn More: https://www.keithboykin.com/bio

4. Anna J Cooper

Heading says celebrating Black Change Makers.  Below on the left is a black and white head shot of Anna Cooper.  To the write is a list of her accomplishments, including black liberation activist, author, educator, and one of the first black women to earn a phd.  Below is her name.  On the bottom is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Logo.

If you’re like me, you have never heard of Anna J Cooper despite her impressive contributions to society. Not only was she the first black woman to earn her PhD, she is often referred to as “The Mother of Black Feminism.” Ms. Cooper was born enslaved and at only 9 years old she was able to earn a scholarship and began her teacher training and road to academic excellence.

Learn More: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anna-Julia-Cooper

5. Angela Rye

The heading of the picture says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  Below on the left is a picture Angela Rye wearing white with her arms crossed.  On the right is a bullet list of her accomplishments including CEO of an advocacy firm, attorney, political analyst and commentator, and podcast host of On One with Angela Rye.  Below is her name and below that is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Logo.


@angelarye
 is a change maker currently impacting history. She is an attorney and a liberal political commentator on @cnn and a political analyst for @npr. She is involved in several organizations– including the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network. Angela also co-founded @impactstrategies which encourages young professionals to engage both civically and politically. 

Learn More: https://dodoodad.com/angela-rye-biography

6. Octavia E Butler

The heading of the picture says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  Below on the write is a headshot of Octavia Butler looking at the camera.  She is wearing a blazer with geometric patterns and glasses.  The Background appears to be a berry bush.  To the right is a list of her accomplishments, including award winning sci-fi writer, feminist, first sci-fi author to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.  Below that is her name.  On the bottom of the picture is the dream chasers and change makers logo.

Rejecting the idea to become a secretary, Octavia E. Butler entered a field dominated by white men, and became an award winning science-fiction writer. Ms. Butler spread her success around by teaching several writing workshops as well. Furthermore, Octavia Butler’s stories explore far reaching issues of sex, power, and race. Her writing garnered her a diverse following, and she claimed black readers, sci-do fans, and feminists were her most loyal fans.

Learn More: https://www.biography.com/people/octavia-e-butler-38207

7. Janet Mock

The header of the picture says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  Below is a head shot a curly-haired Janet Mock wearing ornate hoop earrings.  On the right is a list of her accomplishments, including transgender activist, author, tv host, and producer.  Below is her name and below that is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo.


@janetmock
 is a transgender activist, a New York Times bestseller, a TV producer & host, an NYU grad (woo woo), and has been a magazine editor. She was assigned male at birth but affirms that she always been female. Her book Redefining is the first book written by a trans person who transitioned in their younger years. She’s also been a guest on Oprah’s (😍) #supersoulsunday. She stands as with other black and trans change makers, like Laverne Cox.

Learn More: https://janetmock.com/bio/

8. Edward Bouchet

Heading of the picture says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  On the right is a sepia tone headshot of Edward Bouchet.  On the right are a list of his accomplishments, including 1st Black Person in to receive a PhD in the US, Physicist, Yale Graduate, and educator.  Below is his name and below that is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo.

Despite his brilliant mind and his PhD in physics Edward Bouchet was unable to get a job as a college professor because he was black, even though he was one of the only people in country to have attained that academic achievement. Additionally, he taught at some of the only schools that offered rigorous curriculums of chemistry and physics offered to African Americans for 25 years. It was only after death that his work was given accolades with several awards and honors.

Learn More: https://www.biography.com/people/edward-alexander-bouchet-21317497

9. Rachel Cargle

The header of the photo says celebrating black change makers.  Below to the right is a head shot of Rachel with curly hair with a headband.  She is wearing a black sweater.  On the right is a list of her accomplishments, including activist, creator and lecturer of "unpacking white feminism," writer, and entrepreneur. Below is her name and the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Logo.

 If you haven’t heard of her yet, @rachel.cargle is an educator and academic. She is one of the most influential black change makers of our time. Her work focuses on the intersection of womanhood and race. She has a large Instagram following where she asks her followers to #dothework and unlearn the racism that has been perpetuated throughout white culture. For black history month, Rachel has posted a prompt for people to google and learn about important black history. She also is a speaker and tours the country with her lecture, “Unpacking White Feminism.” Rachel writes for Harper’s Bazar. She is also a student at Columbia University, and an entrepreneur.

Learn More: https://www.rachelcargle.com/

10. Ella Baker

Header on the picture says "Celebrating Black Change Makers."  Below on the left is a black and white photo of Ella Baker wearing sunglasses and speaking into a microphone with her arm outstretched.  On the right is a bulleted list of her accomplishments, including civil rights activist, mentor, leader, and critic of sexism and classism in the united states.  Below is her name and the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Logo

Ella Baker is one of many black change makers who worked largely behind the scenes with famous civil rights leaders, like MLK. She was a mentor to many other activists. One of her mentees was Rosa Parks. Her work involved empowering the oppressed to advocate for their rights. She also called out racism and classism within the civil rights movement. Ms. Baker worked within the NAACP for 15 years. She started as a secretary and worked her way to becoming the highest ranking woman within the organization. However, she challenged hierarchies within organizations all together.

Learn More: https://ellabakercenter.org/about/who-was-ella-baker

11. Killer Mike

The title of the photo says Celebrating Black Change Makers.  Below on the right is Killer Mike, wearing a black t-shirt, he is making a serious face and holding a small kitten.  On the right to his picture is a list of his accomplishments, including, black activist, rapper, actor, and producer of trigger warning.  Below is his name and the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Logo.

Atlanta based rapper, Killer Mike is half of the Grammy award winning rap duo, Run the Jewels.  He is a political activist whose work leads to empower the black community.  In the 2016 election and now, he has been an outspoken supporter of Bernie Sanders. He invests in property and owns a barber shop. Killer Mike aims to show the black community how they can find financial security and success outside of sports and music.  He has recently produced and released a Netflix series, “Trigger Warning: with Killer Mike.”  It is enlightening and HILARIOUS, he is certainly one of the highest ranking entertaining black change makers.

Learn More: https://www.biography.com/people/killer-mike-5102017

11. Angela Davis

The header of the photo says celebrating black change makers.  to the left is a photo of Angela Davis with gray curly hair wearing an #IMWITHKAP football jersey.  To the right is a list of her accomplishment, including LGBTQ advocate, radical black educator, author, and co-founder of Critical Resistance.

Angela Davis is a writer, activist, educator, and revolutionary. Her work is vast and spans decades. She is known for work in prison abolition, she herself was jailed, accused of participating in a prison outbreak but was later cleared. She has written several books, including a title called, “Women, Race, & Class.” Throughout recent history she has spoke out on major events like the Vietnam War, LGBT rights, the war on terror, and was a co-chair for the @womensmarch on Washington in 2017. 

Learn More: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/angela-davis

Are there more black change makers you are inspired by? Let us know in the comments below.

By Alé Cardinalle | LMSW Candidate NYU 2019