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Inspiring Names

Updated on August 11, 2011


I don't know if it's that I'm getting old and becoming stodgy, or if it's just the times wearing me to a frazzle, but children's names have become complex to the point of being almost dimensional.

There was a time when only black folk gave their children creative names, but now white folk have joined in the insanity and are naming their children incredibly “inspired” names, too. Some white parents take pride in neutralizing what used to be gender specific names by flipping the script and naming their daughters boys names. There seems to be a rash of young white males with the names of western gunslingers and European Hell raisers. To say the least, you’ll not find a black parent naming their child after a gunslinger, western or otherwise.

I've heard some truly inspired names black parents have given their children. I've also been mystified by black folk and the polysyllabic, compound consonant names. Some names I will admit are truly brilliant while others just leave me scratching my head.

Some names reflect the hopes and dreams of the parents, like Lexus, Armani, or Mercedes. Be it homage to the product itself or a high five to Madison Avenue Product loyalty reigns supreme when naming the black child. Historical or ancestral heritage is one thing, carrying the name of a car is promoting a brand.

I remember when Stevie Wonder named his new daughter Aiesha, and then penned the song Isn't She Lovelyas an homage to her birth. It set off a firestorm of black folk naming their daughters names from the Motherland. It was awesome to hear children speak on the origins and meaning of their names. During the seventies names rooted in the African diasporas were a novelty. Names like Tamika, Tamu and Aisha echoed from only a few double-dutch jump rope games.

In time, parents felt the need to be even more creative with the alphabet in the competitive name game, which came in the form of more elaborate derivations of familiar names Antwan and Keyth. The names that were staples within the black community like Tony, Bobby, and Michael were snubbed in favor of Kwame and Kesean.

We were adopting names that sounded as if they were rooted in the Motherland, the operative word being sounded. Within a generation parents went from the old standby’s like John, Michael and Tracy to DuSean, Kianna, and ShaQueeta, to name a few.

Sometimes these children’s names are so complicated and so elaborate there is no possibility two of the same spellings could be on one classroom attendance sheet.

I’d like to think it’s a sign of us embracing the roots of the land that gave us our rhythm, our unique style, and our melanin. However, I have heard of parents naming a child after a favorite alcoholic beverage. I have a niece named Brandi. I'm so glad she's a generic and not a brand name.

Giving our children names associated with Africa could give them a sense of inclusion. It links them not to a Continent not just a color and that alone could prove to be an incredible boost to their self-esteem. There is a responsibility to bestowing the names of another culture on your child. Those names are inherent of that country; they have longevity and pedigree within the culture. Those names are not just an arrangement of letters. They are relevant to a people. Odd but I don't think there are many DuSean’s or Kianna's living in The Sudan.


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