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Why older Blacks must be able to pronounce Black children’s names

ROGER CALDWELL | 11/30/2017, 2:41 p.m.
There is a major gap and divide in the Black community from a generational point of view, and it starts ...
Young girl, child Samantha Sophia photo/Unsplash

There is a major gap and divide in the Black community from a generational point of view, and it starts with birth names given to Black children. Black power, Black consciousness, Afro-centric thought and the understanding that all Black people are Africans have radically changed the way we see and view ourselves.

In the 1960s and ’70s, there was a shift in the naming of our children, and it was a reflection of our thinking and the greatness of our past. Many parents only changed the first name of their children, but others changed both names.

Many elders were upset, and refused to accept the transition and change. They felt these parents were disrespectful to their family’s legacy and ancestors, even though the name was given to them by their former slave owners.

There is obvious confusion about naming Black children. Some think it does not make a difference if the name is of European origin, whereas others believe slave names keep us enslaved in the eyes of the civilized world and within our own mentality. The Black community struggles with this argument because whereas some think it has no significance, others believe a name represents one’s purpose and meaning on Earth.

But in 2017, as I struggle with remembering our children’s names, and the correct syntax and pronunciation, I now understand the beauty inherent in their names. I have a responsibility to remember our children’s names and bridge the gap between the older generation and the younger generation. When I look at the creativity and intelligence in our young adults and children’s names, all I see is a reflection of our greatness.

Many times the white establishment and the older Black generation tease, ridicule and laugh at the names given to Black children. Others are embarrassed by many of the children’s names and refuse to try and pronounce or remember their names.

But our Black children remember their friends’ names and they also remember how to pronounce them, and they are proud of what they represent. Names show the beauty and intelligence prevalent in our community every day, and they are a part of our culture that we must protect.

As Black families spend time with each other during this holiday season, it is time to bridge the gaps among all generations, and we must make an effort to talk to each other. It is truly incredible how Black parents have passed pride to our children and young adults, and now we must honor our gifts.

Respect is something that is earned and if our children can remember their friends’ names, the older generations must remember their nieces, nephews and children’s friends’ names with work and effort. For too long the older generation has dismissed the younger generation, but this disrespect must change.

Our children and young adults are our future, and everyone in the Black community has something to give and contribute. Talk with young people in your family and learn how to pronounce their names and the gaps will begin to close and disappear.

Maybe the older generation is still struggling with a slave mentality, but our children understand something deeper than we care to remember. It is possible that many of these names originated from our history and come from a time when we were kings and queens.

Dance with our children’s names and learn to love them, because we must be proud of our culture and who we are. We must stop asking the white/European establishment to confirm our existence, and Blacks/Africans must confirm our own identity and reality.