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What's In A Name

If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive

~Audre Lorde I remember growing and hearing the occasional "black" name that made me laugh. Even as a kid in elementary school I would hear it and think "Their parents tried really hard, maybe too hard." Even today jokes are made about "black names" and the uniqueness of our names. The non-laughing matter is those names have become synonymous with something negative, less than or inferior. Sheniqua on an application means you won't get an interview because a "q" followed by a "ua" apparently is an indication of skill level or intelligence. Since Sheniqua has been teased all of her life for her beautiful name she, he, we hide our identities and we allow people to rename us. And Sheniqua becomes "Nikkie" on applications, just to get through the screening. But at what cost? Something happens when you let other people name you. I remember an Asian student was registered for one of my classes at Mercer. When it came time for him to introduce himself he told the class his name was "George." I looked at my roster and said "I think you may be in the wrong class, I have no George on my roster." He told me is actual name and said "but you can call me George." My follow up question was simple, "Why?" Naming is one of the most important things you can do. When you get to name something, you get to put your stamp on history. Most black people in America will never know what their names should have been but we get to say what our names will be. We get to name our children, businesses, events and Holidays, and we get to say what is acceptable. One thing about a joke is if no one laughs it is not funny. If we, black people, stop finding our lovely names of children, businesses, holiday... funny, then they won't be inferior they will be creative, they won't mean ignorant they will mean flair. We get to define, name, create and speak for ourselves.


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