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Thursday, November 20, 2014


Last year when I traveled to Ghana, West Africa I received something really special...a name.  At the Creating Change! Equity and Inclusion Workshop, led by Carmen Morgan, the first exercise we did was one about the history of our name.  We were tasked with answering four questions.  What is your full name?  Who named you?  What is the significance or meaning of your name?  Would you change your name if you could?  

During the workshop I answered these questions using the name on my birth certificate.  As others shared the vast histories of their first and surnames, I felt some type of way.  I didn't have the full break down of my surname because it does not belong to me.  It is a place holder and a reminder of my stolen status.  I do have another name though.  One that I had to travel to the Motherland to receive.  

Equity and Inclusion 

My name is Tsotsoo.  A Chief of the Ga Tribe in Ghana, West Africa sanctified the name I had chosen for my naming ceremony.  The women dressed me as a Ga Queen with brightly colored kenti cloth.  I had a much deeper appreciation of the craftmanship because I had a weaving lesson from a master weaver the day before.  They danced for me and with me.  I felt so deeply honored.  

The men who were drumming composed a song for me with my namesake.  I can still hear the tune in my head.  A friend of my host stood close by and translated the Chief's words.  He told me that my name meant one should not take my kindness for weakness and that I fear no one but The Most High.  The ceremony seemed to morph into something that was not just about receiving a name.  I stood there with bare feet on the red clay soil, embracing the inherent equity of the moment.  This was an Equity and Inclusion ceremony.

31at31 Equity and Inclusion in a Naming Ceremony in Ghana with Ga Tribe Chief
My head is bent as I receive a black and white beaded
necklace from the Chief to remind me of my new name. 

My Equity and Inclusion Ceremony filled my spirit to overflowing.  It was actually a surprise because I thought it was taking place later in my trip.  Those present thought I must be extremely special and important because the Chief was supposed to be gone.  He didn't even know there was a ceremony going on at that time.  For some reason he came back from his trip.  I like to think he came back because he sensed the implications of naming, thereby reclaiming a stolen one.  

When you sit and think about it, it is so fundamentally unfair that so many others know their name on a generational level.  Something as basic as a name is taken for granted.  Names have ancestral ties and significance.  But the stolen ones are excluded from possessing this basic piece of knowledge.  I am forever grateful for the gift the Chief gave me.  

Would I change this name? No.  It is only fair that I am allowed some time to get acquainted with Tsotsoo.  The more I reflect on this experience, the more I start to feel a deeper sense of belonging.  

Share the history of your name in the comments using the four questions above.  I would love to hear the significance of your name.



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