Country star Thomas Rhett and wife Lauren Akins took a stand against racism for their daughter, Willa Gray, and voiced solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The two adopted their 4-year-old from Uganda in 2017, before having biological children. The two fell in love with a baby.
“I was in Uganda in 2016, and I had a picture of one of the babies there, and I had shared it on social media,” Lauren explained to Kelly Clarkson. “And when I finally got to FaceTime that night, I was telling him her story, ‘Babe, we know so many people who are trying to adopt right now, and this little girl needs a forever home.'”
At that point, she didn’t realize she’d be the lucky person who’d end up welcoming the baby into her family.
“The second I touched her, it was electric,” she continued. “I was like, ‘Oh, this little girl has just taken my heart.'” During the call to Thomas Rhett, Lauren’s love continued to flow. “I was like, ‘Honey, we’ve got to find her forever home. Like, I know that’s why I’m here — to get this girl to her home.'”
As Lauren talked to Thomas on the phone, he said something that surprised even him. “I was like, ‘Well, bring her home.’ And I don’t fully remember even saying it,” he admitted.
The adoption was finalized a year later. They named their baby girl Willa Gray.
The couple went on to have two more children — Ada James and Lennon Love. But Willa holds a very special place in the couple’s heart. This was a situation where they both just knew they had to add her to their family. It was an intuition based on love. The couple had thought about adoption before, but they never knew it would happen so fast.
“I’d always talked about adopting my whole life,” Lauren said. “My mom is actually adopted. I just thought it was really cool. And we had talked about it off and on, but it wasn’t something that we’d sat down and had a full-on adoption conversation.” Even though the placement was an incredible one, the couple still has obstacles to face in the future.
The biggest one is race. While Thomas and Lauren don’t treat their daughter any differently due to her skin color, they know she’ll face obstacles and prejudice that their other two children won’t. Right now, the United States is facing a huge issue involving race, and it’s opened up many people’s eyes as to how different the black experience truly is.
Thousands of protesters marched at a Black Lives Matter rally in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with crowds chanting "black lives matter" in solidarity with U.S. demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. https://t.co/5r89Vc4Xrp pic.twitter.com/qCuN7zFIig
— ABC News (@ABC) June 2, 2020
Even though people may say that they “don’t see color,” others in authority do. And black people need to try to survive each day with an unfair target on their backs. White privilege is all about the ability to go out and do normal activities without much fear. Many black people simply don’t feel safe.
“I have been nervous to post anything in the past and even now because of how some people believe that I, as a white mother, am undeserving or incapable of raising a black daughter,” she wrote. “I believe that shaming comes from people who choose to see only my white skin and her brown skin and refuse to see our hearts and love for each other. That shaming has created such anxiety in me that I am afraid to share my heart on social media.”
While those who are white can definitely be wonderful allies and activists, we need to accept the fact that we’ll never fully understand how it feels to constantly feel discrimination. And that makes us privileged. With these protests happening, people are just fighting for the right to live life the way they should. Hopefully one day soon, Willa Gray and the other beautiful black children out there will live in a world that’ll treat them with nothing but love and respect.