Embracing ethnic names

Photo credit: Gbekeloluwa Omodara

John, Scott, Mary, and Emily are all common names that can be given to children at birth. Yet names such as Gbekeloluwa, Khari Sekou, and Anyjah, are not names that may be familiar. These select few of students have managed to embrace their ethnic names and wear it with pride.  

Throughout their lives, they have had to correct others when their names were mispronounced. However, neither of them would ever want to change their name.  They embrace their ethnic titles and acknowledge the significance that their name holds.

Gbekeloluwa Omodara, a third year business administration student whose name means ‘trust in God, good child’, explained her gradual acceptance of her name. Omodara expounded on her childhood, and how sometimes she was ashamed of her name or tried to hide it with nicknames instead.

“People always mispronounce my name. I go by Gbeke, pronounced “BEK-eh,” and I’m constantly teased with the name Becky,” Omodara said.

Growing up with an uncommon name, many people and celebrities, such as Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black (born Uzoamaka Aduba), and English actor Ben Kingsley (born Krishna Pandit Bhanji),  alike have also admitted to shortening or ‘hiding’ their name, because of the common stereotypes attached to their real name and frequent mispronunciation.

“I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe,”Aduba recounted to The Improper Bostonian. “Nobody can pronounce it.”

Anyjah Shedric is a freshman chemistry pre-dental student, whose name means “powerful and complete.”  Although people mispronounce her name frequently, Shedric cherishes her name now more than ever. 

“When I was younger, I didn’t like my name and wanted to change it, but then I started to like my name later on in life because it’s original. People think I’m unique and I like that,” Shedric continued.

Khari Sekou Climes, a fourth year business administration student, explained that his first two names ‘Khari Sekou’ means “Kingly Fighter,” when put together. 

Photo credit: Khari Sekou Climes

“I do all in my power to live up to that name by giving my all in everything that I do. Kings make wise decisions and look out for and protect and encourage those around them and I am consistently doing things that will get me closer to my dreams [wise decisions] and for those in my circle I am always looking out for them and encouraging them to be the best version of themselves every day,” Climes said.

People with rare names often find themselves trying to break a pattern already molded for them based on their name.

“Once someone hears or sees my name it obvious that I am African-American, and with the way race relations are currently in this country, in some situations that can mean that I walk into an unfavorable situation with people outside of our community,” Climes said.

With uncommon names such as those previously mentioned, there are times where society passes judgment on their names before actually meeting them. Opportunities such as job interviews, potential internships, and partaking in regular social environments are sometimes difficult.

“Thanks to the way that I carry myself, I quickly dispel those negative connotations that are incorrectly and unfairly attributed to both myself and the African-American community,” Climes continued.

Despite their rare names, Omodara, Shedric, and Climes have learned to steadily accept their names through their life experiences.

“It was really hard growing up with my name. My name was always butchered and I was made fun of for having a ‘weird name.’ However, I learned to embrace my first name, and the meaning holds more weight,” Omodara said.

However, when asked about obstacles she may face in her future concerning her name, Omodara appeared confident of the doors it may open for her.

Photo credit: Anyjah Shedric 

“It’s unique and memorable. I have always wanted to tell an interviewer what my name means. I feel good about my name because I always have something to share with someone after we first meet. It connects me to my heritage, and I will never be ashamed to be the world’s only Gbekeloluwa Omodara.”

Embracing ethnic names has always been a taboo conversation. However, these three people, as well as many others on FAMU’s campus, embrace their name as a form of pride for their culture.