So, I am finding myself smack dab in a conversation that centers around baby names. It is an exciting conversation; but also an intensely provocative one. “Provocative” because without one doubt, the naming of a baby is fraught with just toooooooooooooooo much emotion and imposed obligation. There is the desire to stroke the father’s ego by making him a ‘JR’ (as if he hasn’t already been “stroked” enough. That IS how we have all gotten to this point, isn’t it?!). Then, there are those who feel names should carry some fascinating or deep-seated meaning, in the hope the baby lives up to same. There’s the desire to be original; evidenced by the Blue, Sir, Chicago, True and Stormi of late. And then, there is the insistence that one’s heritage must shine bright and scream loud in that name; this is where I get good and scared. My fine folk at times hail their blackness by combining first three letters of mother’s name with last three of baby-daddy’s name and saddle the poor child with a name no one can pronounce (not even the damn child!). Or, we get real creative and decide to announce to the world just-what-we-were-doing-when-we-oops’d and Voila! Here come Hennessy, Alize and Chardonnay. When we get dreamy and dare to “speak it into existence” we give birth to, Diamond, Sparkle, Sapphire, Garnet and Barack. And in all of this potential wreckage, we forget two very important things: (1) the reality of the world we live in and (2) you are choosing names that are exclusionary, not inclusionary.
Now, before you “I am black and proud!” folks try to rise up, remain seated, massage your bellies and give me a minute. Truly. Chill. And, let’s address this…
This is not a knock against black pride; I too am quite black and very proud. What this is is a conversation that will hopefully bring awareness to those of us currently expecting and those planning to be so in the future. The awareness that pride and wisdom do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is absofuckinglutely possible for them to play very well together. One can (and should) be quite proud of one’s heritage (regardless of that heritage) while also being fully cognizant that it is not [always] necessary to place those jarring markers along the way. I know some of you may object to that statement; let me be clear.
I am black. All day. Every day. And sometimes I have found, twice on Sundays (I go to a black church… they get the ‘good’ black me and at times it is necessary to introduce them to the ‘badass’ black me!). No matter where I go, city, state or country, this fact will never change. In fact, it is so much a part of me, so ingrained in me, so intrinsically me, so much the best and most effortless accessory I carry, that I am often surprised when someone points it out. Truly. Because you see, it is not something I don for effect, or because it is trending, I cannot take it off or put it on at will, it stays with me. My blackness shows up long I do and it announces my heritage, my legacies, my strength, my purpose, my will and my scars. Long before I open my mouth to introduce myself, the beauty of my color has heralded my existence.
And then I say my name. My given name is Diane. Yes, some may find it nondescript; I do too at times. But, I answer to it proudly to my family as it too is part of my heritage. However, you all know I was given the moniker, Fury and at this stage in my life, it is the name that embodies more of whom I have become and it demonstrates, well… Let’s go back to Diane. Could my name have been something more ‘black’? Yes. It many ways is it quite bland and easily straddling of the black or white fence? Yes. Could my parents have incorporated one of the notable options in the opening paragraph and come up with something that denoted their pride in their reality or their Africanness? Yes. I, ladies and gentlemen, could have been named Carib, after the most popular Trinidad beer; that would have shown the world!
But show what? Name aside, I am still black. But the difference between Diane and Carib is profound. Diane gets all doors open to her. Carib, well… I am able, because of parents that understood that first we had to be included before we could be instrumental. Understood that if our desire was to dance, we would have to be invited to the party. Parents who recognized that there was not one damned thing we could do about the color of our skins and that despite the reality of the world, every morning we wake up, get up, go out, show up and show out, we do it black. But we do it from the inside… of boardrooms, classrooms and hospitals. Neither our blackness nor our names got in the way of our goals.
Listen, I am not saying that meaning and significance matter not. Not at all. I am saying, be wise. I am saying that as a black woman in the position of authority to interview and hire, names matter. Every once in a while I drink Chardonnay; at no time do I want to work with one. I just feel that in naming a baby, as in all things, we should do so responsibly. And that means remembering that at one point, that baby will grow up and step outside of your home and run smack dab into this great big world that is still being run by those determined to stifle as much of our voices as they possibly can and leave us outside standing on the doorstep begging to come in. Do not help them.
Understand that the choices we make can silence the voices of those we love long before those who hate us do.