'From a Place Called Love': Adoption odyssey inspires documentary
From the time he could grasp the concept, 61-year-old north Columbus resident David Bynum knew he had been adopted.
“I was about 5 or 6 years old,” Bynum said, when the only parents he ever had known, Coy and Nell Bynum, told him he was adopted.
For nearly the next six decades, Bynum didn’t dwell for long periods of time about his biological parents, but they never were far from his mind.
“No matter how well you’re raised, you always have that question," he said.
But Bynum was busy raising his own family, which included his only biological child, his daughter, Joanna, with his first wife, a stepson, Marcus, and a stepdaughter, Sheena, with his second wife. He also was working as a defensive coordinator for football teams at Marion-Franklin High School, his alma mater Eastmoor High School, from which he graduated in 1977, and, most recently, Reynoldsburg High School.
He did not return to coaching after the start of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
It was one of those birthdays ending in a zero that motivated Bynum to finally undertake a search to identify his biological parents.
To chronicle that journey and tell what he leaned along the way, Bynum made a 66-minute documentary film, "From a Place Called Love: My Adoption Journey."
The documentary won the 2020 Columbus Black International Film Festival; two other film festivals in which it was entered were canceled, Bynum said.
The documentary, available for purchase as a digital download from fromaplaceoflovefilm.com, is also a how-to primer on the process of identifying biological parents and children who were placed for adoption, as well as the emotional impact such searches often create.
In 2018, Bynum was a 58-year-old man beginning to show the first signs of “normal aging,” he said.
“I saw 60 on the horizon. ... If I was ever going to find my roots, it was now or never,” Bynum said.
The effort was not only to answer the lingering riddle but also to fill in some important blanks, he said, for himself and his daughter Joanna.
“If you go see a doctor about anything, you get those questions about whether there is a family history about this or that thing,” Bynum said.
He thought identifying his biological parents could provide important family history.
“The way I saw it (then), I was playing with house money," he said. "Tomorrow isn’t promised, and I wanted to find out (the identity of my biological parents) before I left this Earth."
With the assistance of the Adoption Network Cleveland, an independent nonprofit organization that helps people find their biological parents or children, Bynum learned the identity of his parents, Linda Evans and Chuck Comer, both of whom are deceased.
But he also learned that he has four half siblings.
His parents did not have another child together, but his father had two other daughters, and his mother had a son and a daughter, each in their respective marriages.
All four of them attended Bynum’s 60th birthday party in Columbus.
"I had all facets of my (biological and adoptive) families there," including his wife, Marie, Bynum said.
Bynum also learned about the circumstances of his adoption.
Bynum was born in July 1959 at what is now OhioHealth Grant Medical Center to a white mother, Linda Evans, and a Black father, Chuck Comer.
Those circumstances alone were enough to raise an eyebrow before the mid-1960s, even as far north as Columbus, but add to it that the baby was born out of wedlock, and the general advice would be for adoption, explained Traci Onders, the search specialist at Adoption Network Cleveland.
Bynum was born during the height of the Baby Scoop Era, said Onders, describing the period of time after the end of World War II and until the early 1970s when the country saw increase in the number of pregnant, unwed women and subsequent adoptions.
“Unwed, pregnant women had limited options; the advice to avoid an illegitimate child was usually adoption,” Onders said, right up until the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, provided for legal abortions.
In many instances, two birth certificates are issued in adoptions. The first usually, but not always, lists the biological parents, Onders said. After an adoption in the Baby Scoop Era, a second birth certificate was issued that listed the baby’s adoptive parents.
In 2015, new laws in Ohio opened up records for births that occurred between 1964 and 1996, allowing a new group of people to search for biological parents and children.
Current law allows for 21-year-old adoptees, or those 18 and with an adoptive parents or guardian’s permission, to apply for original birth certificates, Onders said.
In the case of Bynum, who was born in 1959, his records already were open, but his birth mother’s common name provided a challenge, Onders said.
Still, with some work, Adoption Network Cleveland was able to identify his parents.
After learning the identify of his parents, Bynum, a lifelong Columbus resident with an extended orbit of acquaintances through coaching and other activities, began to discover people who knew his parents.
“A few people told me they knew my mother was pregnant but didn’t know she was pregnant with me,” Bynum said.
Incredulous at the circumstance, others who learned about it suggested Bynum share his story.
“'You need to write a book,' they said," he said.
Instead, Bynum parlayed his familiarity of using videotape and filming as a football coach into self-producing a documentary about his experience.
The documentary, with an original score and soundtrack, includes his family members and staff members at Adoption Network Cleveland.
“It tells of David’s own emotional journey” but also tells viewers contemplating following in Bynum’s footsteps what to expect, Onders said.
“People seeking to find adoptive parents need to be prepared" for any of a number of responses, including being rejected, Bynum said.
“You are opening Pandora’s box," he said. "You don’t know what you will find, so you need to be prepared."
Children who are adopted sometimes learn their birth mothers never gave them a name or face being told by birth mother once found that no relationship is desired.
“You’ve already been rejected once; what if your birth mother still doesn’t want to see you again? It’s something some people who are adopted have to be prepared for and to carry,” Bynum said.
Bynum, who directs the documentary, said in addition to being a tutorial and providing emotional preparedness, he hopes it “removes the stigma” associated with adoption “while giving people a different view of search and reunion.”
In addition to Bynum's website, the documentary is available on Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and, beginning July 1, for free on Tubi.