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Tichaona M Chinyelu

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Blogs by Tichaona M Chinyelu

A Rose by any Other Name
7/6/2010 1:20:36 PM
I do not possess the name I was given at birth.

Reposted from

Recently, I came across a site called NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I was immediately inspired by the suggestion for today’s blog post: How Do You Feel About the Name given to you at birth?

I do not possess the name I was given at birth. We parted ways, legally, over a decade ago. Since assuming my true name my life has changed in fundamental ways. I have gotten married and divorced. I had a child and he’ll be entering first grade in September. I have written and published three books. I have published the work of three other authors. However, the change that underlines and informs all other changes is that I am more myself.

My mother let my father name me and he named me according to naming practices which also decided his name. I was the first daughter of my mother so my name was ordained. Apparently, it wasn't significant that my dad had two older daughters; one of whom happened to be the first daughter of her mother. Therefore she and I shared the same name. With the hindsight of 20/20, it seemed as if I was designed to fit into a construct; one which didn’t fit. As a result, I was Toby with his foot cut off, not Kunta who had a penchant for running from slavery.

When I learned about freedom, I wanted to be free and freedom meant a new name. Frederick Douglass, not Frederick Bailey. Harriet Tubman, not Araminta Ross. Assata Shakur, not JoAnne Cheismard. In other words, I wanted the freedom that comes with self-naming. However, ironies of ironies, in obtaining that freedom, I became more bound to my family, more my mother’s daughter, more decidedly African than I had been under my birth name. To quote a Bessie Head character, “I [was] just an African”.


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More Blogs by Tichaona M Chinyelu
•  A Rose by any Other Name - Tuesday, July 06, 2010  
• This is where I'm at? - Saturday, August 11, 2007
• Harlem Book Fair - Boston - Sunday, July 01, 2007

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