A Brown Baby’s Journey
My official search to find out who I am and where I’m from began in earnest in December of 2004. However, I’ve been trying to answer that question all of my life.
I am a Brown Baby. My birth mother is German and my birth father was an African American solider stationed in Germany in 1953. I was adopted by my parents who brought me here to the United States. I’ve know I was adopted since I was about 6 or 7 years old. But it wasn’t until my mother died seven years ago that I began to actively begin the search for my own personal roots to find out who my birth parents were and find out who I was related to in Germany and here in the United States.
While playing a round of golf at the Municipal Golf Course in Pompano Beach, Florida in December 2004 I was paired with an older couple Wolfgang and Christine. We greeted each other as most golfers do prior to teeing off at the first hole. As we left the tee box and began playing the first hole I thought that I had detected that Wolfgang and Christine had an accent from somewhere but I wasn’t exactly sure where it was from. We completed the first hole and continued on to the second tee. Each of us hit our tee shots and some where after that, between our second shots to the green, I decided to ask them where in Germany they were from. As we left our golf carts and walked to the green Wolfgang responded that they were from Munich. They spent their winters in Pompano Beach and returned home, as so many people do in the spring.
I immediately told them that I was born in Munich. Wolfgang seemed to know right away what my story would be. As I explained the circumstances surrounding my birth, my birth mother a German woman and my birth father an African-American he listened inventively and then began to tell me all about Post World War II Germany. I became locked into his every word. For the remainder of the afternoon of golf we talked about my being adopted and being from Germany. I was intrigued by Wolfgang and Christine’s willingness to listen to my story. On that day, during our round of golf, they provided me with insight about Germany and German people that I did not know.
In four and a half hours a lifetime of repressed questions came to the forefront of my mind. It was as if someone had turned on the lights to a dark room. Suddenly, I wanted to deal with questions that I had never before chosen to consider and pursue “Who am I and where did I come from?” I wanted to know if my looks favored my birth mother or my birth father. Did my mother look as I imagined her? Was my father still alive? If so, where was he now and had he ever considered looking me? Did he even know that I existed? What really happened to cause my birth mother, the woman who carried me in her womb for nine months, to just give me away? Had she ever considered keeping me? If so what happened? Did she miss me or wonder what became of me? Did she ever try to find me or speak about me to anyone? I wanted to know the answer to all of these questions and more.
I had asked myself all of these questions many times while growing up as a child. But, they were questions I dared not to ask anyone fearing that I might hurt my mother and risk losing her love. Funny, I never once considered asking my father because we never had a heart felt conversation the entire time he was alive. I wouldn’t have ever considered asking him.
I have come to realize that my thoughts were probably very normal for any adopted child much less one born in post World War II Germany with an African American father and German mother. I don’t recall exactly what ignited the spark, or what it was that caused this new found desire, but I know that I left the golf course energized that day with a willingness to go down a path that all my life I had denied wanting to explore. I wanted to begin searching for my birth parents.
My mother died October 4, 2004 at the age of 101. Her death opened up and freed me of thoughts and questions I have been holding back inside for my entire life. My mother Alma Walters is my adoptive mother and together with my adoptive father, Ulysses “Sarge” Walters they raised me. I am using adoptive now only as a frame of reference because they were my parents. It was the two of them who opened up the doors to their lives and hearts and they took me in as their son. So while I ask the question “why me and how did I get here?” I am here because of their love for each other and because of their desire to have a child of their own. I must also recognize that I am here today and I have the life that I have because of my birth mother. She made the decision to give me up for adoption thus making everything else that has happened in my life possible. Everything in my life is codependent with this decision. The life that I have had couldn’t have occurred without that decision and that of my parents who raised me. I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet my wife and have the two wonderful (did I just write that) children that we have. So I’m grateful for their decisions. Clearly, I’m here because of them.
I wrote the first comments almost 3 years ago. That was also 3 years after I met my birth mother. I recall first watching “African-American Lives” and sharing the DVD set with my birth sister in Germany after meeting her at her home in Australia in 1997 a year after first meeting her. I was able to find and meet my birth families with the assistance of an individual who specializes in reuniting children born in Germany and Austria, who were given up for adoption, with their birth families. The story is probably too long to write about in this space but it has been a wonderful and rewarding experience. I met my birth mother in Munich, Germany in June of 2006 and I met my my sister, two nieces and their families. I have visited with them almost annually since then and I even visited my sister at her home in Bundaberg, Australia. I have also had the pleasure of meeting my birth father’s family. Unfortunately, he died in 1959 but I now have three brothers and nieces and nephews that I didn’t know existed. In both instances my new found families have been wonderful and very accepting of me and my family.
In finding my own roots Ihave also had the opportunity to visit my (adoptive) mother’s home country of St. Kitts. While I was there she was still alive and we were able to get a copy of her birth certificate . My wife and I confirmed that at that time she was the second oldest individual alive from St. Kitts. So while I still have much work to do I have been working to complete my family circles. Ironically, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet anyone from my father’s family. When I was a child we did meet apiece of his but I have lost track of her. My (adoptive) dad grew up in Cambridge, MA. It’s ironic that it’s right in the back yard of Dr. Gates. It’s my intention to get up there and begin that search Hopefully, I’ll begin soon.
I hope that Dr. Gates continues to share his work with us all. I also hope that those of us who are committed to “Finding Our Roots” continue to share our stories and journeys so that we can all come to know more about each other.