Friday, February 16, 2007

The Name Game Pt.2

"Say your name again?"

"What's your real/given name"

"What did your mother name you?"

"Are you a muslim now?"

The above-mentioned questions are familar to anyone in the Black community who has 'changed' their name. It's the subject of many inside jokes when discussing the diversity of our experience. Check this hypothetical convo taking place on any block USA:

Person 1 - "Did you hear that "Insert name here" changed their name?

Person 2 - "Naw. To what?

P1 - "I don't know...Marvin X Farrakhan or something like that..."

P2 - " He must be on some back to Africa thing... If his mother call him 'insert name here', then that's what I'ma call him"

P1 - "You know he still eat pork & like white girls"

While funny, dialogue like this is damaging & counteproductive for a myriad of reasons. One, it binds everyone into whatever mental prison that person in presently incarcerated in. Two, it creates this paradox: names that have no meaning get a wink & a smile, while names that may serve as a representation of self-discovery & self- definition get snide remarks.

Furthermore, the response "well, what did your mother name you?" ain't enough either. Your mother/father may have had the best onlf intentions when naming you, b.u.t. a person may identify qualities that they would like to be known by that may not be present in what we in the NGE call our 'honorable' (called as such due to the level of honor that we give our physical family) names.

While a name is not everything, it serves as an important marker for one's understanding of self. Every culture in the world are known by their names, as it sets the foundation for what's expected from you in society*. When your name gives you no idea of your life's journey, it's hard to recover (as a collective, individuals may have an easier time identifying their purpose).
The next time you encounter someone with a name different than what your used to, you might want to take the time to get some context on what the name means, & why they changed it. Instead of perceiving it as a joke, look at it as another person looking to reclaim a healthy sense of self through cultural means.

* It must be noted that names such as Malcom, Marcus, & the like do have a signifigance due to the legacy that those men established in fighting for the freedom of our people

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