Over the next few days, I am going to provide a little food for thought about the loss of cultural identity that has profoundly impacted Africans across the Diaspora. Remember that the descendants of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that live off of the Continent, are perhaps the only collective in the world that does not know their origin. We are African, but Africa is a continent of fifty-two countries with thousands of different cultures and dialects. Today’s micro-discussion is on names.
As the monuments tumble, I hear a lot of talk about remembering the past to prevent making the same mistakes in the future. But, what happens when your past is connected to chattel slavery and the very name which determines your identity is the name of the people who owned, tortured, mutilated, raped, separated, and enslaved your ancestors? How do you negotiate your self-worth when everytime you say your name you imprint your essence and the world with being the property of others? Do we really need anymore reminders?
Almost every descendant of slavery living in America carries the name of slave masters; this includes immigrants from the Caribbean. I’ve spent hours and hours trying to find the exact numbers to no avail. But every African American Jackson, Johnson, Jefferson, Smith, Adams, Jones, Murray, Flowers, Williams, Cooke, Brown, Miller, Davis, Thomas, Anderson, Taylor, Moore, Robinson, James, Brooks etc carries the name of the Europeans who owned their ancestors. Most of us don’t know the names of our ancestors prior to being bought and sold. How has that impacted our self-worth and ability to be resilient?
Beyond the importance of a family name, in many West African cultures it is very important for a child to receive a name from the ancestors and deities. The naming ceremony is a process of determining the entire destiny of that child, since it is believed that a child eventually lives out the meaning of his or her names. Names are important to indigenous people. With this in mind, in the near future, I will create an opportunity for people to return to the Motherland and receive their birthright; a name that encompasses all of their potential and gives direction for their journey in the physical world. In traditional ceremony, I was bestowed the title Iya, which means Holy Mother, and given the name Wekenon, which means Mother of the Universe. I am a mother.
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