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  • Writer's pictureMidWestMixed

Keno: Within, Between, & Beyond

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Within, Between, and Beyond is a multi-layered art installation and participatory experience sharing an evolving archive of stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who identify as Mixed Race or Transracial or Transnational Adoptee. Interviews for the video portion of the installation were conducted by Lola Osunkoya, who here introduces our subjects and shares a few highlights from their stories.

Keno is a Black transracial adoptee, a poet, and the founder and director of Black Table Arts. Keno uses he/him pronouns. He grew up in a self-described loving, white family in Minneapolis with his twin brother, while his other biological brothers lived in St. Paul.

Keno was our very first preparatory interview, early in pandemic. Leslie and Keno masked up and I participated in my first foray into modifying through video calls to stay connected to my values and commitments. In my notebook, I took a few quotes from Keno articulating his work.

He described his work and calling as, "Imaginations in the future of Black identity: I use themes of gardens, possibilities of home, poetry, hope, beauty, imagination. I create spaces for us to come together for a moment, beautiful spaces to be alive. A call to return."

In terms of his hope for Black community: "Be a student of your joy. Find a space where you don't have to prove yourself."

In our recorded interviews, Keno expressed a passion for the political education of the guardians of adoptees. There is a time to be educated and a time to defer.

Know what work you can’t do. I think programs that are led by Black folks who also have and adoptee experience are important for Black adoptees to go through. That might not be the job… I’m not saying the White guardian needs to have all the conversations, but this even requires thinking. What conversations can I have and what conversations can’t I have?

Keno often reflected on his own family, and discovered some interesting things while processing his adoptive family’s response to the uprising last summer.

Watching mom’s vocabulary shift around satisfactory response. But Black folks can’t hold their breath for white folks to have their revelations. I’m not hearing an enthusiasm to do work outside this moment, no orientation to organize. This is continuous. I don’t think the tragedy of George Floyd is explicitly about adoption, but it is about the normalized racial violence that is presented all the time in the American public. The video is the moment that had my adoptive dad articulating the role of the State preventing my bio parents from resources in his role to be able to adopt me.

It’s telling about what Black death to get us to think about. I dream of a world where it doesn’t take Black death, where it takes imagination and enthusiasm of our relations and who we are to each other in this country.

Lots of powerful revelations. We can’t wait to share more of his brilliant story with you this Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.

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