The first day of school was always a struggle for Shartelius Jackson. Teachers stumbled over his name’s pronunciation – and then again over its spelling. Despite the struggle, there was something he loved about his name.
Like so many other Black names, his was given to him out of love. It was an homage to both sets of grandparents, who died before he was born: Sharon, Torrence, Shelly, and Cornelius.
But Shartelius’ name – and the side eyes he’d get from Black and white teachers alike – is also evidence of something more sinister.
As long as Black people have been in the United States, white supremacy has ostracized, discounted, or outright erased our names. The true names of the enslaved may have been stripped from them, but the ability to honor family history through naming was not!
There’s something else important, too.
So-called “Black Names” may seem like a new thing, but there are names that have always resonated with us – and no matter what names we’ve chosen, whites have always looked down on them. We can’t let white peoples’ biased opinions control the names we choose – they’re a vital part of OUR culture!