Updated: Sep 23, 2019
It was a glorious moment when Shawn Thomas and Tamika Belle decided to be irresponsible and create the legend that you all love and know, nearly 23 years later (my mind is legit blown by the fact that I'm almost 23. I REMEMBER WHEN MY MOM WAS 23!!). Because of that, my step-mom Geneal, my other two "mom's" Lisa and Zuana, and my other dad Charles, that lands me being the middle child of 13 kids. I was the only child my parents ever had together, so I don't see half-siblings or step-siblings. When I found out that I had other brothers and sisters, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was fascinated by the fact that there were others that had the same blood and DNA running through their veins as I did. Our parents had their problems and went through more rollercoasters than you could ever imagine, but at the end of the day, they pushed it aside and brought almost all of us together.
• Shawn Jr. "The Dad": Shawn is a mess sometimes and he's beyond stubborn. He's the oldest (he'll be 29 this year). He refuses to listen to people and take advice when it comes to taking care of his health. He really should since he's the father of my nephews, Jayden and Anthony. And I hate to think about it, but I'm terrified of getting a call saying that something has happened to him because of a decline in his health that could have been prevented. In my teens, he along with our dad, were my salvation. He has his flaws, but he's always been there for me. He's always been the epitome of a big brother. My dad loved having all of us together, but when we got too much for him to be able to hang with, you'd find me, Shawn, Sa'Miyah, and Alexis piled up in a Cadillac riding around Princeton, sometimes just laughing until our stomachs hurt or until we had tears in our eyes.
• Alex "The Floridian": I never really got close with Alex, but he was a pretty laid back and awesome person. I know there were plenty of times where we would all just sit around and laugh (it reminds me of one night when the power went off in Princeton and we all had to sit around in the living room and laugh about absolute nonsense until we either fell asleep or when the power came back on, I honestly don't remember). He met a pretty great girl a few years back and moved to Florida. I can tell he's happy and it was the best thing he could have ever done. I know I won't have to worry about him in the back of my mind because he's always been laid back and he kept to himself.
• Chanda "The Mystery": I've spent a little time with Chanda. We went to the movies together once (to see the Conjuring and all of us were absolutely SHOOK). I'm always scared that she has this hidden hatred toward me because of our dad. Sometimes I feel like he just forgot about her and raised me as his replacement child. I remember carrying a photo of her when I was a kid. She was playing with a toy kitchen set and I was so proud of the fact that I had a big sister. I didn't understand the circumstances behind why I didn't truly know her back then and that was the beauty of it all. As a child, I was just so excited that I had a big sister. She was the first older sibling that I had any knowledge of when I was little. I didn't actually meet her until I was 16. I have yet to figure her out. Based on her social media posts, we like some of the same things and we have similar views on some things (and I swear to God, she and Mia could pass as twins. They both look like Daddy with a wig on and it's freaking hilarious).
• Charles Jr "The Stranger": The only one of my siblings I have yet to meet. All I know about him is that he's older than me, he was born in August, and he's somewhere in Baltimore (we think). I went to Baltimore for a class trip back when I was 15 and a group of my friends came running up to me saying they saw a boy that looked just like Shakur and they remembered that I had a brother that lived there. I wanted so badly for that to have been him and it was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. Even if it wasn't him, I think that it would have been less painful just to find someone that could have possibly known him. I spent 2 hours that day looking for him. Hopefully he's safe and sound. I know that he has a history of seizures. Thomas tells me all the time not to worry about it, but I would truly love to meet my brother. Stranger or not, we're still family and he still has sisters and a brother and nephews that would welcome him with open arms. I'm terrified of looking for him and finding out that he's deceased. Whether he would like us or not, I would still want him to know that he has us. I don't even know where it get started when it comes to searching for him and that hurts.
• Sa'Miyah "The Veteran": Sa'Miyah will be 25 this year and she's one of the bravest women I know. She's a slight alcoholic (ask her about the time she got drunk and ate cat food and we all laughed until we were about to piss our pants). A few years ago she decided to join the military and I was petrified. It made me sad for a while. She was moving across the country to be stationed in Wyoming and knowing that she wasn't going to be down in North Carolina and be able to come home every summer nearly killed me. But, she's faced everything it's ever thrown at her with her head held high (including getting pepper sprayed and tased). She's also faced so much in her personal life as well that I know I wouldn't have been able to handle. Ever since she came out to her mom and the rest of our family, she's truly had an "I don't give a fuck" attitude and I've aspired to follow in her footsteps with the same attitude. I can safely say that I truly have a big sister with her in my life. When me, her, and Alexis are together, be prepared to hear our rants about how Junior raped Ebony, hearing about boobs or vaginas more than a few times, and random quotes from the Player's Club or Scary Movie.
• Adrian "The Nomad": I won't lie, my brothers are 100% different from my sisters in every way, shape, and form. I worry about Adrian the most and the majority of the time, he can be an awesome person depending on who he's around. But he was almost killed because he was with the wrong people and when he went to someone for help, they slandered him all over Facebook (and you have no idea what kind of hell I will raise when I catch up with the bitch that did it). He was a great uncle to Draven when I'd spend time at my dad's when I was back home. He's done some crazy shit, but I can't see it. I always see the brother that sat with me and Alexis on the weekends in Dad's den playing Resident Evil on the game cube. Things were so simple back then and those are the memories of him that I will forever cling to.
Then there's me of course "The Mom"! I have no tolerance for bullshit and I'll call it out in a heartbeat. I'm definitely a demon and a force to be reckoned with when they or anyone else gets on my bad side. My siblings always come to me for advice whether it's medical related or if they need answers to the most unexpected questions. I don't know why, but I feel incredibly motherly when it comes to most of them. I have this desire to want to help all of them any way that I can whether it's putting a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, money in their pockets when I barely have it, an ear to listen and laugh with, or a shoulder to cry on when things feel like they're far from being okay. They all watched me go from a 17 year old in a bad relationship to a pregnant high school senior, to a first time mom that worked as a cashier at a grocery store and decided to go to nursing school. They all watched me haul around textbooks in one arm and a toddler in the other. They saw me raise an intelligent little boy on my own for 13 months before finding true happiness and they were there for me when I made one of the biggest commitments in my life. If I don't give myself enough credit, they make sure to pump my head all the way up.
• Alexis "The Old Soul": Alexis just turned 20. She was the very first person to show me that I wasn't alone when it came to being different from the typical black girl stereotypes and being depressed. She showed me that it was okay to speak your mind and talk shit about anything right or wrong (my censor button broke when we formed our bond because of the Marilyn Manson rumor). She loves Nirvana and indie bands. Because of her, I learned that music doesn't have a color and you can love any song that makes you feel good. She and Sa'Miyah were true ride or die sisters because the both of them have always had my back when it came to anything you could think of.
• Tamia "The Thug": Mia (which she prefers much more than Tamia) will be 22 just seventeen days after I turn 23. She's always been my right hand. People always thought we were twins when we were kids (mostly because our mom would dress us like we were). For years, we lived under the same roof and we fought like cats and dogs. But we shared a bond like no other. When I moved, she moved. She was lightening and I was thunder. When we played softball, we were 4 and 5, 15 and 16, 17 and 18, and 9 and 10 and we were unstoppable. Our relationship as sisters is a lot different than with Sa'Miyah and Alexis, but it's still fantastic. We've been through hell and back together. We've raised hell and shut shit down more than a few times together. She can make me want to strangle her sometimes, but I could never love her any differently.
• Ryan and Shakur "The Twins": They're not actually twins, but they were born in the same year, Ryan on my dad's side, born in February, and Shakur, on my mom's side, born in June. Shakur is my baby brother. I swear I could wring both of their necks most of the time. I really think they take the phrase, "I'm here for a good time, not a long time," seriously. I don't think they understand that black men are an endangered species and the both of them will be blessed to live beyond the age of 21. Young black men are intimidating and they can't see that. They have to break their necks more than females because so many stereotypes are used to define their character. Neither of them listen to NOT A DAMN THING WE TELL THEM and they usually hear us saying "I told you so," a lot.
19 years ago, I remember a foggy morning in June. Mia and I were wearing red plaid pajamas and we were huddled around the phone talking to our mom when we got the news that our baby brother was born, but he wouldn't be coming home as soon as we expected. Turns out, after a lengthy scheduled C-section just three days before Momma's birthday, Shakur Raekwon entered the world and shook us all. He was born with a cleft lip and palate. For those of you that don't know, it's when the hard palate in the mouth is not completely closed. Sometimes it extends to the lips, leaving an open gap from the lips all the way to the back of the soft palate in the back of the mouth. Our baby brother was immediately flown to Charleston for the first of 8 surgeries over the course of 18 years. He had the palate and lip closed, later, a bone was removed from his hip to be put in his mouth, he had his wisdom teeth removed, both jaws were broken and rewired shut, and now with less than 50 days left, he will have his braces removed. It's been a long and painful ride, but it's almost over. He's never had any serious illnesses, no ear infections, no problems eating, and no speech problems, all of which are always anticipated with clefties. Mia and I have always been extremely protective of him because his birth defect has always made it feel like he was incredibly fragile.
I love both of my baby brothers and I know that they have the potential to be great. I can only hope that they will both take heed to my bitching and lectures because I mean well and I want them to grow and prosper in life.
• Olivia "The Gymnast": Recently I've been like a kid in a candy store because I found out that we have so much in common and are so much alike. We both love Riverdale and Xxxtentacion and that's a huge deal to me. I would love to actually hang out with her and fan girl over both things. She's extremely dedicated to gymnastics at 11 years old, even more than I was dedicated to cheerleading for 14 years. She stays busy with the sport just like I did with softball and cheerleading. I was always unsure of what her personality would be like as I held her in my arms for the first time when I was 12 years old. When she came along, my mom was completely done with having children, so Olivia was the first baby sister I was actually able to hold. I know she will be just fine as she walks through life because she's ambitious.
• Laziya "The Baby": I always thought I could never love a child that was adopted the same as one that shared the same blood as I did. But when Laziya was born back in 2016, when I laid eyes on her, my heart melted and I fell in love with her. We all did. She was removed from a shitty situation that could have killed her and I think that's what's made us love her even more. She's raw and hardcore just like the rest of us. She knows how to walk in a room and demand attention and she knows how to do it well. I'm honestly glad she came along when she did. I never would have though that she was just what we needed to make our family feel complete.
And there you have it. 12 pieces of my heart that I love dearly whether they know it or not. Being around them all at the same time makes my heart burst because at one point, I never thought we would be able to see the day where that could happen. We laugh hysterically like no one's watching, we don't care what comes out of our mouths, we have each other's backs, when it comes to outsiders, together we tear down anyone that might be a threat. Our parents don't know how much I appreciate each and every one of them for that. They're simply one of the most beautiful parts of my life.