“People tried to dissuade my mom from adopting me -- ‘She has too many attachment disorders,’ they said.
“When my teacher broke it down, told me what adopted meant, she made me feel really dirty about it. There was some kind of shame instantly attached to it. For years, I never told anyone; it felt like a dirty, shameful secret like the scarlet letter. Like it tarnished who I was.”
Jasmine Sanders is the co-host of the top ranked and nationally syndicated radio show, The DL Hughley Show. She dominates airwaves daily in almost 60 markets across the country. I had the utmost privilege of speaking with her for an exclusive interview; Jasmine exudes warmth with her down to earth personality.
Jasmine is an award-winning media maven who has broken barriers to become a multimedia powerhouse, mentor and soon to be author. “Success” is written all over her titles, but the path was not paved for her - she has worked hard and moved mountains.
A foster care adoptee, teenaged mother, and abuse survivor, she was determined not to let her trauma and trials prevent her from making a difference in this world.
A bit from Jasmine about her backstory:
“I was in the foster care system the first four years of my life. I had 3 foster families and the fourth ended up adopting me around the age of 4. Biological mother had a biological baby that lived for about a week before she passed away. They adopted a boy, my brother, and had him for a year and a half before they felt ready to adopt a girl. I was brought into the fold and my brother and I started out with a tumultuous relationship; he was probably jealous of having a new sibling in the house. But we are very close now.
“I didn’t find out I was adopted until I was 12, when my brother told me. He found it through something my mom had written and told me. I started doing some of my own snooping and discovered that yes, I was adopted. I started acting out, I felt as though I had been living a lie. Who were these people who said they loved me and were my parents, but weren’t my biological parents? At the time, I didn’t understand what my mom had been through, losing a baby to death.
“I always wanted with my [adoptive] mom what I saw other mothers and daughters had, something special. But, we had a challenging relationship. I always felt like an outsider. I still grapple with that.
“Both my biological and adoptive mothers have passed away now. Once I discovered I was adopted, I needed to know about my biological parents. Why didn’t they want me? Why did they give me up? I started searching and when my [adoptive] mother found out, she was very upset. We had a lot of arguments about it. So I stopped searching for my biological family until my [adoptive] mother passed away. I waited about six to seven months before I started doing the search and found my biological parents about a year later. In total, it took me 15 years.”
Once Jasmine recovered all of the documents and information about her story, she felt as though she had been living a double life. She had been living years by one name and then found a file that had given her another name with all of these other people and lives. History unknown.
When her mother met Jasmine, she knew right away she wanted to adopt her. “But the people said not to adopt me because I have attachment issues. I didn’t want to be touched, held, etcetera. People tried to dissuade my mom from adopting me, but she pressed on.”
This happens a lot in the foster care and adoption communities; well-intending friends or family attempt to dissuade their friend/family from adopting a vulnerable child because of attachment disorders or health issues, etcetera. My question is, why are these children less valuable in society’s eyes? Why are these children so ignored and set aside? Why is it okay for us to decide these vulnerable children don’t deserve a forever family with stable love?
“The ongoing turmoil of always trying to be good enough and feel special, of just wanting someone to tell you ‘You are worthy, you are loveable, you deserve love like anyone else,’ is a battle. Once you reach a certain age, you battle these demons as a foster or adopted child. Add in hormones and you start really understanding why these young kids act out. All we want is to be loved. Will someone step in and love me out of this place of pain?”
Jasmine shared with me that she grew up on a farm in Tennessee. Her parents taught her how to work hard, how to remain humble, at the end of the day her happiness and joy resides in family and love. She knows the value of humility and hard work. These were things her [adoptive] family instilled in her and she believes is the reason she stays grounded.
Part of Jasmine’s great success is being featured in Black Radio exclusive, Urban Radop Nation, AOL’s Black Voices, BV Black Spin, Sister 2 Sister, Black America Web, and many, many more. Her most recent show she cohosts is the DL Hughley Show.
“I have done radio my whole life. I am at the highest level of radio, aside from owning radio, which is syndication. I was so excited to join Hughley because he is outspoken and talks about social and political issues. He is a stand up comedian; DL takes the real jokes people tell about adoption and foster care and gives me an opportunity to tackle the myths. I come in and add clarity, through hope and humor. I have willed myself to this place, expanded my platform so I can talk about these things. I could not be more proud to have such an opportunity to speak my truth. We have fun every day, we argue like a husband and wife.”
I asked Jasmine about her thoughts about being an incredibly successful person of color; I recognized it is unjustly difficult to become successful as a person of color. What would she say to young people of color who want to make a difference in the world, but have few role models such as herself, and racial mirrors who have broken down difficult barriers?
“This is what I think -- I think that it is very unfortunate, these things are just not fair. When you are okay and accept it as ‘the way it is’ that just because someone’s skin is different, their education is worse, that is horrible. If you are a certain hue, you don’t get the good books or updated computers -- you get the leftovers. How am I expected to compete in a 21st century world when we are starting off with education from the 17th century? We start off in the trenches. It is so hard and difficult for people of color to succeed.”
“Once we as a whole country can get to a point where we are okay saying it out loud -- that being a person of color is hard and difficult, we are faced with more challenges and this is unfair -- without buts, we can maybe move on. If you can say, ‘Yes, I am a part of this oppression,” then we can breathe a little bit. We know all white people are not responsible. But when you wake up time and time again seeing black children slaughtered in the street, when you look at economics, education, everything…”
“You cannot possibly wake up, see the world as it truly is, and say that it is equal and fair. You cannot.”
“To my brother and sisters, you can make it. It is tough, it’s not easy, but you can do it. Gird yourself up so when it is dry, you have enough water when you are thirsty. Make sure you have enough good in the warehouse so when you are hungry, you don’t starve. If was I was successful but didn’t help anyone, touch anyone’s life, it would be worth nothing. If you can touch one single person’s life in a deep way, your name will be remembered. Your name lasts forever.
“Being successful is tough and comes with a huge responsibility. I always say, ‘Where much is given, much is required. Heavy is the head.’ This is the battle we fight.
“The fact that you feel so strongly and passionately about racial divisiveness is a good thing -- you will help to change the country. It does my heart so good when I hear people who aren’t of color say, ‘I see the oppression, I see the injustice done to your community, I don’t like it.’ It is powerful when you meet a white woke person. Don’t lose it. You do so much in just believing, validating, and being appalled by it. That provides electricity to the powerhouse to change the issues. Instead of, ‘I don’t see it.’” Or worse yet, dismissive.
Lastly, Jasmine wanted to remind us all not to forget about them. About kids in the foster care system. She reiterated the importance of opening our hearts and homes to vulnerable children.
“People go through their lives, they buy fancy houses and get pet dogs, and they forget about us. About the foster kids. Sure, once or twice a year is adoption or foster awareness month, society remembers us then; but we are waiting all year. Please don’t forget about us. Yes, you see the commercial about the puppy waiting for you, but so is Johnny. I will always be a member of the crew, I’m a foster kid; I was lucky to be adopted. But don’t forget about us. We are waiting for our forever homes.”
So honored to speak with and learn from Jasmine. Her experiences, voice, and work are invaluable.
Read the rest of our interview here on Adoption.com.