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My name is my identity. It’s a name that I’ve learned to embrace over the years, a name that I’ve grown to love and appreciate. But once upon a time I did experience intolerable levels of hardship because of my name.

You see in life when you have the wrong crowd pointing at you, and not more of the right crowd walking with you, you will begin to doubt yourself. When you’re given a name that’s uncommon, you’re intrigued to find out how your parents came about this name.

Some people are made to feel bad about their name, but I believe that all names carry purposeful meanings and no matter how common/uncommon the name is, you cannot devalue its importance simply because you feel that the name is nothing but ordinary/unordinary.

When I was young I felt unfortunate at times because I wasn’t always made to feel comfortable about my own name. Just reflecting back and thinking about my peers with common/popular names, I saw how comfortable and carefree they were. The grass was much greener on their side.

Whereas I experienced, several times, someone picking on my name. Few were in a joking manner, others not. The point is that as a boy I couldn’t be as carefree as others because I was made to believe that not only did my name carry meaning, it also carried a heavy burden.

For me it was the experience of peers laughing at my name, because it was unheard of, that made me feel a type of way. A mixture of sadness, fear and anger, boiling inside of me, which paved the way for me to encounter insecurity.

Many will not know how it feels for your heart to start beating faster than usual because a supply teacher has just walked into the classroom. Because of this encounter, I started to memorise the name that came before mine in the class register, so that I can say my name out loud in case a supply teacher struggles with pronouncing my name.

Many will not know how it feels to constantly pluck up the courage to say your name one more time because the teacher didn’t quite catch it the first time. It’s demoralising, especially when you can hear sniggering in the background from your peers.

Am I going to fight the whole class? Am I going to get verbal with the whole class? No I wasn’t going to, some things are better left unsaid. And not everything was to be taken to heart. I was teaching myself that although it’s not funny to me, my peers found it funny either because of how teachers mispronounced my name or the unnecessary pauses as if they’re trying to solve a math equation.

I’ve been through a lot mentally and emotionally because of my name. I’ve spoken to others who have walked in my shoes and some of them felt like their parents punished them because they didn’t think of the impact that their African names would have on them growing up in England.

It’s the fact that as kids, we’re all ready calculated. We are thinking of all possible scenarios and then we’re doing all that we can to prevent/minimise the humiliation that we feel is imminent due to the mispronunciation of our names.

My parents left Congo and settled in London, England. So it’s funny how a multicultural society like that will view a unique name, the rarity of a name, as strange, unheard of, weird, suspicious instead of compliments or being intrigued to know more behind the meaning.

Because you never know, you might like the meaning behind a name and then name your child it. I only started to embrace my name once I became a young adult, by then I was keen on getting to know my roots, background, bloodline and I used my initiative to get in touch with family back home without the guidance of my parents.

On that note I’m so proud of myself, although I’m not happy with what I endured during my adolescent years, I’m proud that I came out stronger. I think it’s very important that parents understand to be mindful when naming their newborns.

I say mindful because if they understand that the country (and its society) they reside in isn’t of their origin, then they should make sure that they teach their children on the importance of their name.

To encourage them to believe that they are strong and courageous, they are not inferior and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of their name or roots. To teach them everyday to embrace their name and show them how to wear their name with pride.

I feel that the advice I’ve just given, had my parents done the same for me then a lot of things I went through wouldn’t have turned out that bad and I would’ve probably handled things a lot better. This world is wicked for different reasons.

Copyright © Jeadi N’Silu, 2021


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