She considers Mother Ruth to have been one of her greatest mentors. In the third installment of this year’s Black History Month profiles, we take a look at the living legacy of Kofi Adoma, activist, organizer and, indeed, originator.
When she was born on October 19, 1956, the name on her birth certificate read Amorie Robinson. But she is best known to our community by the name she has adopted for herself, Kofi Adoma, or Dr. Kofi as she is often affectionately called. A Detroit native, Adoma’s activism began while she was still in high school.
“Activism must be in my blood,” she said. “Both of my parents were activists, though in other areas. My mother founded the first state chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, and my dad ran for several state and city offices back in the 60s. They instilled in me the principles of social justice and equality for African Americans.”
While still attending Highland Park High School, Adoma protested with fellow students against the poor quality of education they were receiving. But if the school’s shortcomings affected Adoma, she did not let them stop her. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oberlin College and went on to earn a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Michigan.
“I came out to myself in the LGBT community in 1979, the year I first met Ruth Ellis,” Adoma recalled. “Soon after, I helped create the Detroit Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays which later transformed into the James Baldwin/Pat Parker Society.”
But a quarter of a century ago, Adoma’s options for socializing were few.
“I went to the only club for black lesbians at the time, the Club Exclusive,” she said. “That’s where I met lots of women from all different backgrounds and levels of being out. I was fascinated and pleasantly overwhelmed.”
She was also inspired. Adoma is responsible for helping to found some of the oldest and most enduring African-American LGBT organizations in Detroit. The list includes Full Truth Fellowship of Christ Church, Family, A.LORDE Collective, Ujamaa Investment Club, Race Matters, Karibu House, and the Ruth Ellis Center.
“What drives me is my sense of commitment to social justice and having lived as a black woman in America,” said Adoma. “Just being a person of my multiple identities forces me to be conscious of the way others treat me and how I am responded to. Even being a butch woman and a woman of physical height, I know all too well about differences and how we treat one another based on superficial differences. I’ve lived the experience.”
Between creating and nurturing critical community organizations, Adoma continued to study. In 1996, she graduated from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. Currently, she does outpatient therapy at Counseling Associates in Farmington. She also does psychological testing in schools, juvenile detention facilities, and prisons across the state. In addition, she is also an instructor at UofM, teaching women’s studies and psychology classes including Introduction to LGBT Studies and Intersection of Race and Attractional Orientation. Recently, she submitted an article called “Misunderstood, Misled and Misfit: The Marginalization Experiences of African-American Lesbian Youth” to the American Psychological Association’s journal anthology on the psychology of women of color. The article is based on a presentation she made at the 2005 Association for Women in Psychology Conference.
“I’d like to think that my knowledge base as a psychologist and psychotherapist has helped to bring the masses of my people closer to the practical uses of psychology as a way to liberate themselves, which is a part of self-healing and self-empowerment,” she said
Undoubtedly, Adoma has helped heal and liberate many others through the important work she has done over the past two decades. So, then, which item on her long list of accomplishments does she count as the most significant?
“My most important accomplishment – if you want to call it that – is being openly married to my life partner and being very Christian-centered about my marriage and everything I do in my community and professional work,” she said. “In all that I do in the LGBT and other oppressed communities, God is there working through me and making sure that I use the gifts God gave me.”