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Updated on October 22, 2016


Recently, I attended a family reunion meeting. One of the older family members became upset when the reunion committee opted to use a spelling of a last name that he deemed incorrect. As feathers began to be ruffled, the chairman of the committee asked, "What's in a name?" Jokingly, I replied "There is a whole lot in a name." I don't know how closely any other ethnic group guards its names but African Americans are sensitive about their names. Perhaps, it is because African American Blacks are aware that they bare the names of their former owners. For many of them, those European names are the only tangible linkage that they have to their ancestors. It is therefore understandable why some African Americans are touchy about the spelling and the pronunciation of their last names.


Do you remember the names Cassius Clay, Malcolm Little, or Louis Eugene Wolcott? When these African American men became socially aware of their racial environment they overtly refused to wear their slave-inherited last names. For most of the 20th century, the vast majority of African Americans distanced themselves from their African sisters and brothers. They did not want to look like the indigenous people of Africa and they did not want to dress like the indigenous people of Africa. Believing that their European acquired culture was superior to the culture of their African decent; African Americans disassociated themselves from indigenous African people. But with the onset of the 21st century; African Americans have began a perceptible shift away from some of their European traditions. Now, on any day of the week, it is a common sight to see young, middle-aged and even older African Americans proudly wearing locks, braids, afros, full-faced beards and sporting afrocentric attire. As African Americans make these exterior steps toward redefining who they are; they are discovering that in spite of the brutality of slavery and in spite of the psychological damage caused by centuries of racial discrimination, as a race of people, they still maintain elements of their original culture.


In Christian theology, theologians enunciate a theological proposition known as the Image of God. Supposedly, when Adam and Eve fell from God's grace and were subsequently expelled from the Garden of Eden, the Image of God, while distorted, was not completely destroyed. Borrowing from the proposition of the indestructibility of the original, I propose that one's name contains the history of one's past; a connection to one's present and a blueprint for one's tomorrow. I contend that as a race of people, African Americans are not consciously aware that they are being culturally, intellectually, politically and financially grafted back into their original image. Yes, it is true that many African Americans are emotionally stimulated by the sights and sounds of their new cultural identity. Consequentially, some have jumped onboard the cultural bandwagon, but in spite of this, I believe that the current image association is more than an emotional awakening. In my opinion, it is the call of fate. The same power that prevented the complete destruction of the Image of God within the consciousness of Adam and Eve has awakening the spirit of African American Blacks. These newly awakening African American Blacks are not ashamed to wear their hair nappy, kinky, straight, short, weeded or braided. They are not ashamed of their lips, their hips and their nostrils. They are not ashamed to embrace their African roots, but more importantly, they have ceased allowing someone else the privilege of dictating who they are, how they should look, and what they shall be. African American Blacks have something uniquely their own to be proud of, and thus, they demand that their names be correctly spelled and correctly pronounced.


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