And while the vibes of family reunions are usually high energy, there is sometimes the ambiguity of meeting new cousins and discovering folks one may have never met, which Sixto Cancel can relate to.
Cancel knows firsthand the impact of not growing up around family or knowing where he belonged.
He started navigating the foster care system when he was 11 months old. Since then, his journey has been full of challenges but also a realization that the system tasked to support and help him was consistently failing him. At one point, he had even given up on the concept of family.
“When I was 15, and I realized that the system was going to continue to fail, it was like, ‘Okay, Sixto, how do you make sure that you are prepared to live on your own, you’re prepared to be able to work, you’re prepared to make your own money because there’s nothing that’s going to come that’s gonna be given to you,’” Cancel said.
However, a couple of years ago, a phone call from his sister changed what that would mean for him.
“I got a phone call from my sister, and she told me that, just in three hours, there’s gonna be this family reunion,” Cancel noted. “And that’s when I raced over to Harlem and got to meet, you know, my father’s side of the family.”
Although this meeting was pivotal to his journey, it was a significant marker in his work, advocacy, and fundraising to support foster families through his organization, Think Of Us.