When I read Derek Clark’s bio prior to interviewing him for our 20 Things Adoption Podcast, tears welled. I met Derek briefly years ago, when both of us were speaking at an adoption conference. With guitar strapped over his shoulder, he ran to catch a flight, promising we’d talk soon. The gathering of admirers flocked around him were disappointed that they couldn’t get a selfie.
I knew Derek was someone whose story I needed to know.
Derek Clark’s life is one of resilience and redemption. As an inspiring motivational speaker and author, he and has become a viral video sensation for his “Rapping Dad” videos which have had over 250 million views. He’s also been featured on CNN Headline News, The Steve Harvey TV Show and many other TV shows around the world.
His past has never held him back from accomplishing what he set his heart and mind to. He found a way to deal with the pain that should be made into teaching curriculum for therapists, physicians, and clergy.
The Back Story
But, was Derek always this strong? Always this resilient? Always an ambassador of hope to a hurting world?
If you saw Derek as a pre-school child, he’d likely be thrashing around on the floor, screaming and kicking his parent whenever he/she drew close. If you saw him raging in Costco, you’d probably turn the other way and find the next aisle. If you were a parent, you’d likely grab your child’s hand and run to the next section.
The Parental Rejection and Abandonment
Eventually, because his extremely-needy first parents couldn’t control him, they chose rejection and abandonment for their solution. They dumped him off at the local psychiatric emergency room and then took off, never looking back.
Has anyone ever heard of such an awful thing? How could parents abandon their beloved child in a hell hole like a psychiatric emergency room? I give myself permission to judge their inhumane decision.
The Silent Trauma
Just imagine, little Derek sitting on the psychiatric emergency room gurney, watching schizophrenics parade around naked, orderlies with stone faces staring at him, and nurses passing out anti-psychotic drug shots like candy.
How could a little guy survive such trauma? Did someone take Derek under their wing and whisper that everything was going to be okay? Did an orderly show him his bedroom? Did they let him have his teddy bear or something that made him feel a teeny bit safe?
No one knew how to help him. No one saw the great potential beneath the bleeding wound of rejection. None of the aforementioned people or professionals knew that his anger wasn’t a bad thing. Perhaps, they thought that it meant he was an awful kid, with no hope of recovery.
The professionals didn’t show one ounce of compassion. Instead, they pronounced multiple psychiatric diagnoses and deemed that Derek was un-adoptable. With haste, they exited his room and left him alone.
The Cry Print
Apparently, no one knew about the concept of the “cry print.”
A cry print can be compared to a fingerprint, for it’s unique, like a snowflake, and it communicates the deepest of needs of the person it belongs to. Derek couldn’t cry, but he could rage. Would that qualify for his cry print?
The professionals didn’t know that Derek’s angry lashing out was his cry print, his way of saying that he was traumatized in the womb when his first father kicked his pregnant mother’s belly, before his birth when he had to be delivered with forceps, and in the first five years of life with his jailbird father’s departure and his mother’s neglect.
- Adopted and foster kids don’t rage and lash out for no reason.
- Adopted and foster kids didn’t begin life with a warped mind and spirit.
- Adopted and foster kids aren’t demon possessed.
- Adopted and foster kids rage because they’ve been deeply wounded.
Why couldn’t someone understand Derek’s cry print? Foster parents and professionals might have been terrified by his anger, which only added to his sense of rejection. They didn’t know that what Derek needed more than anything was validation of his anger. “You have every right to be angry. You’ve been through so much.”
“Adopted children need to have their anger validated by parents. This is the open door that leads to building a healthy relationship.
The Cry Print Is Validated
After 13 years of being labeled and rejected in multiple foster homes, a kind foster couple who were teachers by profession, heard and understood his cry print. They didn’t judge nor label, but instead got brain X-rays and taught him repetition. Along with a talented social worker, they loved him back to life.
Because Derek was interested in learning to tell his story, he became interested in the art of rapping, which was the vehicle he could use to release years of pain.
Derek is the author of seven books including: @iwillnevergiveup.com
- DISABLE THE LABEL
- NEVER LIMIT YOUR LIFE
- I WILL NEVER GIVE UP
His trials and triumphs inspire organizations, and even Presidents, with unique messages of hope and unwavering perseverance. He has transformed his identity from victim to victor and teaches others who are stuck in pain to do the same.
So, why did I think I needed to meet Derek years ago? Because we share many of the same hurts and both of us have come through them. Derek wasn’t adopted, but that doesn’t matter. We shared our feathers and our scars. I’m proud to be his friend and colleague.
I hope I’ve share just enough to whet your appetite for the podcast with Derek, go back to the home page here and choose podcast.