Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

What does my family really know about me, now?

Jamila Medley
4 min readJan 10, 2022

Did you and your family start a text thread during the pandemic? Mine did. Some of us are closer than others — like my mother, her sister, brother, and cousin on the thread. My siblings, adult daughter, my husband, and 2 first cousins, and stepfather are on it too. We’re family, but we’re not all close.

We are family that sees each other during the holidays. I love watching my mom and aunties sing and dance to 1960s Motown during Thanksgiving. They give me room and sing with me a pitchy and yet resounding rendition of Tomorrow from the movie Annie (a childhood favorite of mine) Some see each other more frequently as they live in the same household or close by.

We’re a family who will come through with some money to help someone out when in a bind. An uncle or cousin will knuckle up for you if these streets require it (or, at least that was true when we were living closer to those streets in Brooklyn). As I’ve gotten older, I have found myself gleaning from the wisdom and lived experience of my mother and her sister in particular. I enjoy them.

All to say that I love my biological family. I believe they would be there for me pretty much no matter what. It is also very clear to me that friendship can be a very distinct bond from familial ties. My family is not my friend. Usually that distinction is okay. But tonight, I’m not so sure that it is.

I just finished watching The Color of America episode on season seven of CNN’s United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. The episode explores the “browning of America” primarily from the perspective of BIPOC folks in 2020–2021 Philadelphia. I have a friend who was interviewed by a producer to be on it, which is when I first caught wind that the show was coming to Philly. That was exciting!

Turns out, that the nice fuzzy episode I expected is not what it turned out to be. Rather, I finished the episode feeling triggered by the representation of suffering happening in my adopted City and how it has impacted me personally.

I saw people who I have worked with — including two people I recruited to be on the board of the organization I ran until May 2021 — in the episode talk about their experiences as activists with racialized state-sanctioned violence at the hands of the police. I…

Jamila Medley

I write to reflect on & learn how to live more authentically, slowly, & intentionally in a culture that dares you to go against the grain.