Operation Babylift Exhibition: Public Programs


During the opening program, poet and adoptee Lee Herrick moderated a conversation with four people adopted through Operation Babylift: Cath Turner, Mike Frailey, Jessica McNally and Nol Meyer (left to right)

Adoption Museum Project and Presidio TrustThis series of nine public programs was part of the exhibition, Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies, co-curated by the Adoption Museum Project and the Presidio Trust. The Adoption Museum Project was lead developer on seven of the nine programs. They ran 4/15-12/15, and took place in and around the Presidio Officer’s Club.

The programs explored exhibition themes more deeply, gave voice to stories not told in the gallery and related the exhibition to contemporary ideas. Through different formats –panel conversations, presentations, performance, film, and workshop — the programs offered audiences many ways of accessing the Operation Babylift story and ideas.

Program Descriptions:

Operation Babylift: Adoptee Voices (4/16/15)
April-16-Operation-Babylift-Adoptee-Voices Four people who were adopted through Operation Babylift 40 years ago reflect on their memories, questions, experiences growing up, and the legacies of that event. The panelists will be Mike Frailey (Hawi, HI), Jessica McNally (Oakland, CA), Nol Meyer (Los Angeles, CA), Cath Turner (Clovelly, Australia). The discussion will be moderated by Lee Herrick, Poet Laureate of Fresno. Lee teaches at Fresno City College. He was adopted from Daejeon, South Korea when he was 10 months old.

Film Screening of “Last Days in Vietnam” (6/18/15)
maxresdefaultJoin us for a special screening of the documentary film Last Days in Vietnam, highlighting the tense and chaotic final days of the war. In April 1975, the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon, and South Vietnamese resistance crumbled. As cities and villages fell to the North, the few U.S. diplomats and military operatives who remained in the country contemplated withdrawal. With the lives of thousands of South Vietnamese hanging in the balance, those in control faced an impossible choice––who would go and who would be left behind to face brutality, imprisonment, or death. Directed by Rory Kennedy, this Academy Award nominated documentary premiers on PBS in April in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Running Time: 98 mins

Birthmother (7/30/15)
July-30-Birthmother_thumbnail21Birth/first mother Deanna Ross presents Birthmother, a solo performance that weaves her own highly personal memoir with moving and surprising facts about the history and culture of adoption in the United States. Following the performance, Deanna and other birth/first mothers from On Your Feet Foundation will engage in conversation about the performance and talk with the audience. Deanna Ross lives on the Monterey Peninsula, where she teaches dance and choreographs for theater productions, sings and writes songs with her husband in the indie folk-pop duo The Jinxes, and is at work on her debut novel.

Writers from the Vietnamese Diaspora (9/24/15)
Sep-24-3-Aimee-Phan_thumbnailWriters Kevin Minh Allen, Violet Kupersmith, and Aimee Phan read from their work, which spans genres of fiction, ghost stories, poetry, and essay. They explore how it relates to their diverse identities and experiences as members of the Vietnamese diaspora, including Vietnamese American and Vietnamese adoptee. Author and adoptee Susan Ito will moderate.

Vân-Ánh Võ (9/25/15)
Sep-25-VanAnh-Vanessa-VoDan-Bau_Photo-by-Jason-Lew_thumbnailVân-Ánh Võ devotes her life-long passion and mastery of the dan tranh zither to the creation of distinctive music infused with a cultural essence that can only come from this unique Vietnamese instrument. Among her accomplishments is an Emmy Award-winning film soundtrack and frequent work with the Kronos Quartet.
The VA’V is her collaborative project blending traditional sounds and songs of North, Central, and South Vietnam with modern soundscapes, integrating elements of jazz, Western classical music and rock along the way. This interactive performance will provide cultural context for a vibrant musical hybrid, with instrumentation also including dan Bau (mono-chord), dan T’rung (bamboo xylophone), vocals, Indian tabla, cello, and drum set.

Nguyen Da Yen v Kissinger: A Legal Challenge to Operation Babylift (10/15/15)
OBL0259-GOGA-34782-597-Operation-babylift-bedsDuring Operation Babylift, a class action lawsuit was filed to investigate the legality of U.S. adoptions of Vietnamese children. Nguyen Da Yen v. Kissinger was one of the most visible, documented, and far-reaching challenges to Operation Babylift. Yet it remains largely absent from the history of that event. Dana Sachs, author of The Life We Were Given, will talk with two participants involved in the lawsuit and the volunteer effort at the Presidio. Tom Miller was a volunteer attorney who assisted in bringing the class action lawsuit, Nguyen Da Yen v. Kissinger. He also assisted in individual cases representing Vietnamese families seeking the return of their children in his role as Deputy Director of California Rural Legal Assistance. In April 1975, Michael M. Howe was asked to help form a team that would organize volunteers to assist with receiving and caring for the Vietnamese infants and children who arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area through Operation Babylift.

Narrative Burden (11/5/15)
bertballlard-e1443210977609-117x150 Dr. Bert Ballard, who was adopted from Vietnam through Operation Babylift and is also an adoptive parent, speaks on the idea of “narrative burden,” or how one’s personal narrative is both a source of identity and a reminder of difference. Drawing on personal stories and his research, Dr. Ballard will explain narrative burden as it relates to international adoptees, adoptive families, and other marginalized and visibly different groups and individuals. There will be time for Q&A and conversation after Dr. Ballard’s presentation.

Dialoguing About Adoption: Exploring Operation Babylift Together (11/6/15)
ob-exhibit-e1443212172445-117x150In this highly experiential workshop, participants will visit the Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies exhibition, learn about the conditions for productive dialogue, and practice dialoguing with each other—even when our experiences are very different from each other. This unique workshop is facilitated by Dr. Bert Ballard, a Vietnamese adoptee and adoptive parent with expertise in facilitating dialogue. The free workshop is open to anyone with a connection to adoption including: adoptees, birth/first parents, adoptive parents, foster youth alumni, foster parents, placement professionals and therapists.

Playback Theatre: Stories Inspired by Operation Babylift (12/10/15)
Dec-10-Playback-Theatre-e1443219455165-117x150Living Arts Playback Theatre transforms personal stories told by audience members into improvised theatre pieces on the spot using movement, ritual, music, and spoken improvisation. In this performance, they invite you to share feelings, images and personal stories inspired by the current exhibition Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies. Come share a story or simply watch one unfold.

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