Friday, May 27, 2011

Shaquesha's Song . . . The Politics of Naming Black Babies

As a member of the African-American community, as a former High School and Junior High teacher, and as a former civil servant, I can't tell you the times I've had roundtable discussions around the naming of our children.


That's what I used to call it.

Until I had an epiphany. Black people in the West were re-named, re-assigned, and re-categorized by European and Arabic conquerors. To seize that act of placing the energy and essence of your child, is an act of freedom. Names are linked to tones, and are linked to energy.

I am sorry, but I don't vibe to Mary. And since I was reared in SCLA where Aisha is a staple, I have a harder time remembering the Mary's and John's instead of the Shaquesha's and Dontay's.

What makes Inga, or Peter the "correct" name? This is a question I posed to myself, and discovered that many folk naming their children is their own liberation, to name, after being named by somebody else.

Naming is critical in the African-American community. And if you look at them, it is ancient.

However, a US federal judge finds some of these names, some hard to pronounce by Anglo-Caucasian-trained tongues, and has ruled that (some) mothers have lost the right to name their children.

Here is a snippet of the article, "Black Women Losing Rights to Their Children's Names" from Essence.

(DETROIT)- In a decision that’s expected to send shockwaves through the African-American community—and yet, give much relief to teachers everywhere—a federal judge ruled today that black women no longer have independent naming rights for their children. Too many black children—and many adults—bear names that border on not even being words, he said.

“I am simply tired of these ridiculous names black women are giving their children,” said U.S. Federal Judge Ryan Cabrera before rendering his decision. “Someone had to put a stop to it.”

The rule applies to all black women, but Cabrera singled out impoverished mothers.

“They are the worst perpetrators,” he said. “They put in apostrophes where none are needed. They think a ‘Q’ is a must. There was a time when Shaniqua and Tawanda were names you dreaded. Now, if you’re a black girl, you hope you get a name as sensible as one of those.”

Few stepped forward to defend black women—and black women themselves seemed relieved.

“It’s so hard to keep coming up with something unique,” said Uneeqqi Jenkins, 22, an African-American mother of seven who survives on public assistance. Her children are named Daryl, Q’Antity, Uhlleejsha, Cray-Ig, Fellisittee, Tay’Sh’awn and Day’Shawndra.
Beginning in one week, at least three white people must agree with the name before a black mother can name her child.

“Hopefully we can see a lot more black children with sensible names like Jake and Connor,” Cabrera said.

His ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a 13-year-old girl whose mother created her name using Incan hieroglyphics. For more click here.
Now if white people have to vote on an adequate name, then let me vote on the recent names I have seen in the news from these white celebs.

Bob Geldef & Paula Yates three children are named Fifi Trixibelle, Little Pixie, and Peaches Honeyblossom.

Then Paula Yates has a kid by someone else named, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily

Christie Brinkley's daughter is named Sailor Lee.

Penn & Emily Jillette named daughter, Moxie CrimeFighter.

Rachel Griffiths' kid, Banjo.

Simon Libon's daughter, Saffron Sahara.

John Cougar Mellencamp's son is named Hud.

David Reigny's son Bogart Che Peyote.

Sylvester Stallone's son is named Seargeoh and daughter Sage Moonblood.

Frank Zappa's seeds. Dweezil (son), Ahmet Emuukha Rodan (son), Moon Unit (daughter), Diva Muffin (daughter)

Bruce Willis & Demi Moore's daughter Tallulah Belle.

5 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

D W JazzLover said...

Very Thought provocing...Thank you and I hope you don't mind but I added this post to my FB page..

Eco.Soul.Intellectual said...

DW thank you for reading this post and re-posting! I don't mind at'all. Have a restful weekend.

Reggie said...

The reality is that all names are made up; whether the name is Shaquesha, Deborah or Reginald.

It is what it is.

The really sad part is the realities of that Shakespearian quote "what's in a name?"

There are people out there that look at resumes and discriminate against people with "ethnic sounding" names. I've seen it happen, no matter what the credentials.

M. Pappa said...

I agree with you that creating a new class of first names is a way to take back a sense of owned identity. But I think that the focus on western first names is a little off. Most of the traditional American first names are taken from the bible- Mary, John, and Peter, so it does not need to be looked at through a racial lens, but a religious one. If you're a black Christian, you should have no problem having your first name picked out of the Bible.
It is the last name of a person that identifies their ethnic origin to others, and the real re-categorization of American Blacks came with the stripping of their original last name. Black people in America were given names such as Wallace, Smith, Davis, and White. Black Americans have the most presidential names per capita of any group: Bush, Clinton, Carter, Jefferson, Washington, Johnson etc. This is the permanent mark that carries generation to generation and links Black Americans to an ethnic group that is not their own, one that was in fact forced upon their ancestors. That is the name that needs to change. Keep the John, change the Bush. Keep the James, change the Walker. Wouldn't changing the last names to ones selected from countries such as Gana, Nigeria, or Cameroon strengthen ethnic identity better than creating a new class of first names that are in the end, made in America?

Erica's a Blogger said...

As a teacher I do feel that some of these names are ridiculous and that some parents lack an understanding of how an inability to read or pronounce your child's name, say on a resume, may get that child's resume thrown in the trash, even if the person is highly qualified for the position -- and that happens even with black employers. I don't think a judge can really take away the right of women to name their children, particularly since he seems to be singling out one group. However, I hate that some women are putting their children at an economic disadvantage just by giving them an unreadable name.