Grateful for Strength

It was Dr. John Henrik Clarke that said, “People’s names must relate to land, history, and culture.  We have overused the word Black, because Black tells you how you look, not who you are.  We are the only people who have lost that trait of geographical and historical reference.”  What he is saying here has a twofold meaning.  Firstly, American citizens of African descent should have a more fitting name than ‘Black’ or ‘Negro’, which is only Spanish for ‘Black’.  Secondly, that as individuals, these citizens should rename their selves based on their land, history, and culture, rather than the name that has been passed down from the last family that owned their ancestors as slaves. 

With this concept in mind, let’s take a walk down my personal journey of renaming self.  My birth name is Courtney Wyatt, Wyatt being a name of European descent, inherited from slavery.  When my ancestors were brought over to America, they were given the names of the family who purchased them from the auction block because their African names were too hard to pronounce and they were not considered human anyway by many, just as property.  Africans were considered to have no souls; therefore, we were labeled an infidel people that were outside of the grace of God.  In fact, when the original sanction was given to slavery before the first captured Africans were brought to America on the ‘Good Ship Jesus’, that is exactly what was said, “You are authorized to reduce to servitude all infidel people.” 

Now, I personally have no problem with that.  Reason being, there are insane and inane people all over this world and that does not affect my purpose or character.  I am not going to become what someone else is, and with that in mind, I do not want to bear their name either.  My name should signify my land, history, and culture, and remind me of my reason for being here on earth each day.  Because of that, at the end of 2008, I decided on the name Nikala Asante, which means grateful for strength.  The origin of the name has roots with my ancestry and the definition is a constant reminder of who I am.


6 Responses to “Grateful for Strength”

  1. September 18, 2010 at 5:22 am

    I have a different opinion. I keep what is given to me and move on. I was born in Europe, lived in the US and now Africa for the past 15 years. This African ancestry is lost and pure utopia for me. Foremost, do not forget that Africa sold Africans into slavery.
    Why should I honor the one who booted out my ancestors?
    I rather put an X for my name instead of choosing an African sounding one.


    • September 18, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      Greetings Patrick-Bernard. Thank you for stopping in and leaving your feedback. While I understand your point, the heart of the matter here for me is to choose a name that represents you, both presently and historically. While it is true that some Africans sold their fellow Africans into slavery, that is not the case widespread as some historians would like to perpetuate. There were also some Africans who worked for the Europeans to capture other Africans, whether voluntary or by force. So, yes, we can grant some of our ancestors a little bit of the blame in that situation.

      However, chattel slavery was not instituted prior to its initiation by European society historically, first with the Greeks, and then with America. Chattel slavery is the form we often refer to as “brutal”, because the enslaved are treated more as animals or objects than as humans, they are often raped and/or abused, and any children born to them during enslavement are also made slaves. With this is mind, whether or not our ancestors participated once this form of slavery was enacted, they did not institute it, so their legacy prior these travesties should no be forsaken, nor the legacy during of the hundreds of millions who died to not be enslaved either in war, suicide on the banks, or jumping off the ship as it sailed towards America rather than live their lives as an animal.

      While there is much to explore on this topic matter, I want you to understand that I understand your point. Malik Hajj-El Shabazz, or “Malcolm X” as we more commonly know him, chose to put an X behind his name as well. I would hope that you would not just choose an “African sounding name”, nor that anyone would. If you should choose a name of African ancestry, I hope that it would be well researched both in line with your ancestry and personal purpose.

      Peace and Blessings,

      Nikala A.

  2. September 20, 2010 at 9:04 am

    The second paragraph of your answer is an interesting concept. I guess we read different histories about African slavery. However, I regret to inform you that I absolutely do not agree.

    • 4 Nikala Asante
      September 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      And that’s part of the beauty of life – introducing new concepts to each other. I extend my gratitude to you for taking the time to introduce yours and hear mine out. Come back anytime.


      Nikala A.

  3. September 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    In our eternal search for truth, it is always beneficial to explore new resources. In that light, when you have time and inclination, take a look at, Introduction to Black Studies, by Maulana Karenga(Second Edition) pg.116-118 “Misconceptions”. This will present the points we discussed on African history from a different perspective. We must keep in mind the source of our resources.

    “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.”

    Ewe-mina (Benin, Ghana, and Togo) Proverb


    Nikala A.

  4. September 21, 2010 at 3:59 am

    I like to hear different opinions. I believe in the individualism in each of us. I am a black man of slave ancestry and live in Africa. I learned one thing, my colour in Africa may look the part but I don’t belong. Actually, I should say that people like me are not accepted.
    Believe me, I know Africa and its culture pretty well, I have lived in Rwanda, Uganda, Southern Sudan and now Kenya. I have been to Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the bush of Zaire, and probably other places which I forgot.
    Interesting enough, as a black man, I have found more racism in Africa than in Europe or the US.
    I am a black man and to have more insight about my thinking read on my blog “To the Black on Black racist.”
    Believe me, I have met other people like me living in Africa and strange enough we all agree.
    My colour is from Africa and my culture is from other places.


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