Peace4Kids honors Chosen Family
Peace4Kids Executive Director, Zaid Gayle sits down with Board Member and Media Mogul, Angelica Nwandu, to discuss their unbreakable familial bond in honor of National Siblings Day.
Where we come from, tragedy builds unbreakable bonds. When we are at our must vulnerable there becomes a unique opportunity to deepen our connection with humanity while witnessing some of its ugliness. As painful as this experience can be, this is the foundation that shapes our work at Peace4Kids. It’s the concept that you’re born to relatives but you choose your family.
While today is National Sibling’s Day we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the diversity of relationships that youth in foster care experience. It is no secret that youth in foster care are sometimes separated from their biological brothers and sisters. Losing your connection to biological parents is disturbing enough, so couple that with the idea of losing your siblings and the effects can be catastrophic. Keeping these biological sibling’s bonds have been a priority at Peace4Kids. In fact, the story of George and Antony (see video below) articulates why this is a central focus of our work. However, there is an untold story of how biology is not always the most essential ingredient for family.
Angelica: When I first met Zaid I was looking to escape.
I had been uprooted from my neighborhood, my school, and my family and placed in a home with a white foster mother who didn't look like me.
I was placed in a school of people that, again, didn't look like me and I desperately needed to find my tribe. There was a deep desire inside of me to belong somewhere that I fit perfectly.
I was soon introduced to Zaid through our realtor and immediately found a home at Peace4Kids. There was a poetry team that met in the garden at Peace4Kids every Saturday and it was here that I found a voice. Zaid unknowingly became the first male in my life (outside of family) that I could have a bond with that did not revolve around abuse of some kind. It was important for me to form that brother/sister relationship with him because I had subconsciously formed the idea in my head that men only had one purpose in my life, and that was to hurt me physically, verbally, and emotionally.
It was through my bond with Zaid that I could break this perception. Zaid has a powerful way of helping people recognize and harness their power. His encouragement of my writing abilities came at a crucial time. He essentially taught me alchemy. I took my pain and turnED it into poetry. I took my anger and turned it into passion. I took my past experiences and turned them into resilience.
As Angelica found her voice through poetry, the resonance of her story shook me to my core. As a child, I lived in fear of an uncle who had a mental illness and often threatened to kill me and my parents. There were multiple occasions where he broke into our apartment and attacked my family. I would cower under a bed or in a closet.
I have never forgotten how powerless I felt in those moments. Through her poetry, Angelica cracked the armor of denial that had so eloquently protected me from my past. She allowed me to accept the difficult conditions of my own story that anchored my desire to support children who knew the same feeling of powerlessness.
This connection to tragedy became our collective triumph.
It united us in a way I could not have ever imagined. I never told Angelica about the violence I witnessed as a child… I didn’t have to. She was speaking for both of us and I was proud to call her my little sister. Angelica’s Beverly Hills placement didn’t last and she ended up leaving Los Angeles. While we lost contact for many years I kept searching and hoping that I would find her. I suddenly had a keen awareness of what it must be like for the siblings in foster care who do not get the opportunity to see each other.
Angelica: Even though I moved up north with my cousin and lost contact with Zaid for three years, the lessons I learned stuck with me and gave me the power to transform myself and my life. When I came back to Los Angeles for college I was happy that my brother Zaid found me. He cared enough to locate me and actually attended my graduation front and center. We've since been cool like the other side of the pillow as he helps me navigate my adult life in the same way he did when I was a kid.
Our bond has only strengthened and our connection has deepened more than we could have anticipated.
Together we’ve learned that the power of family is not something that is branded through veins and DNA. Family is a commitment to a connection that assures that you reflect the healing power of love in the darkest and brightest hours of life.