– Thanks to Audible for supporting PBS Digital Studios.
(smooth music) Oh my gosh, y'all, thank you
so much for all these gifts. Look at these shoes! (giggles) Okay, so next, I asked all of
y'all to guess baby's name, so we're gonna read
through them now. (hums) (smooth music)
(papers rustle) Moses, okay, is my baby
gonna let our people go? Okay, roll up on Pharaoh. It's kind of a Benjamin
Button-looking name, kinda old. Keisha, okay, it's cute. It's a little 80s, 90s
for me, to be honest. My baby's gonna pop out with box braids. Aqua, wow, it's beautiful, it's pretty, but it's giving me a
little bit of a Magic City. It's giving me "working
at The Pyramid tonight," you know what I'm saying? Just leave some stuff to the imagination. Oluwatosin Akindele, that is beautiful. I'm not Nigerian though. Which one of y'all did Beyonce? – We really only have one
thing for sure in life. – I mean, besides taxes, and death, and yeah, and there's heartbreak. – Our names.
(hums) It's your sense of self and
belonging at the same time. – It's that spark I get
when I meet a fellow Evelyn. I mean, they're usually over 60 years old, but it's still exciting, or when I find my name
on a gift shop key chain. – I wonder what that's like. – Oh, yeah. Sometimes we choose our own names to align with our values or reinvent ourselves. – And be honest, we all
have preconceived notions about names and what type of
person they're attached to. Eccentric celebrity kid names, down-home country names,
and of course, black ones. – We can see you over
there trying to deny it, but tucked away in your brain are stereotypes about
black-sounding names. It's even been popularly satirized. – T'Variusness King, Marymount College. – Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace,
University of Miami. – D'Squarius Green, Jr.,
University of Notre Dame. – These assumptions are baked into our minds through the media, pop culture, our collective histories,
and personal experiences. It's not innocent, though.
– Uh-uh. – Your name is how the
world perceives you, and when jobs, education, medical care, and social status is at stake, that perception comes at a price. – So, let's explore
black naming conventions, because the difference
between Natasha and Tasha is less than you think.
(upbeat music) – Oh, you thought I wouldn't
bring it up, did you? – No, I knew it was coming. – Slavery! – When it comes to black
names in the Americas, you can't ignore the
impact of chattel slavery and how people used names
as a form of survival, and I don't know if
y'all know this by now, but Azie is a complete nerd when it comes to ancestry records of any kind, and she found some powerful stuff. – Ah, yes, I do love a good ledger. When west Africans were sold into slavery, the ability to retain their
names was largely inconsistent. There are some documents, like receipts, that show the sale of a
person just named Simon, and then there are documents
that show how misspellings of west African words became names. Someone from the Andoni tribe in Nigeria might be named Anthony. Beke from the Ibo tribe
in Nigeria becomes Becky. – Oh, tell them about the ads. – Wanted ads for runaway
slaves in South Carolina indicate that many owners
acknowledged that people weren't just going to go
by their plantation names. The ads listed the person's "proper" name and their "country" name, the African name the enslaved person maintained. – We'll link more information
on west African names that survived the Middle Passage, but over time the mixing
of cultures, languages, and environments introduced different types of names to black communities. There are biblical names. With Christianity as
the pervasive religion, it wasn't uncommon for people to choose names with religious significance. You have your Daniels and your Davids, which still sound pretty modern, but you also have Moses and Jedidiah. Moesha is a version of the Hebrew Moses. Amen, meaning drawn out of the water. – [Azie] Preach.
(baby cries) – Oh, oh my God. Hi, hi baby. Dad? – It's also important
to note that although most slave owners in
the US were Anglo-Saxon, these names were not "white." They're anglicized versions
of Hebrew and Greek names. – Oprah Winfrey's name
was originally Orpah, a woman in the Book of
Ruth, and Goliath's mom. – Speaking of Abrahamic religions, Arabic names belong to some of the most iconic figures in black culture. Due to the efforts of the Nation of Islam, Dar ul-Islam movement,
and other organizations, Islam became a well-established
force in black communities, renouncing the Christianity that had been used to legitimize American slavery. – Malcolm X is arguably the most well known black American Muslim, and the X was his way to guarantee that he didn't share a last
name with a slave owner. When he left the Nation of Islam and began to practice Sunni Islam he changed his name to
el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. – I suppose nobody in here
ever heard of Cassius Clay. – A man has the right to change his name to whatever he wants to change it to. – His mama named him
Clay, I'ma call him Clay. – Mm-hm. – [Azie] Cassius Clay,
Jr. becomes Muhammad Ali, and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. becomes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. – Then you have Arabic influence. You may not practice Islam, but it's just another
cultural bucket to draw from. Queen Latifah and her
onscreen character Khadijah, and if you know somebody named Ayesha, that ain't nothing but some Arabic. – People often combine
names with African origin with those of Arabic origin
as a way to completely renounce what some call a "slave name." – It's how you got Assata Shakur. With growing Pan-African politics, black Americans found commonality between their struggles and freedom
fighters in African nations. A Stokely Carmichael becoming a Kwame Ture was a political statement. – And if you weren't
marching in the streets, remember Roots hit televisions
across the country in 1977, and its iconic scene reawakened the desire to give children African
or African-sounding names. – Your name is Toby.
(breathes heavily) I want to hear you say it. You're going to learn to say your name. Let me hear you say it. What's your name? – Kunta. (papers rustle)
(smooth music) – Oh! Anansi Assad, I can dig it. Oh, Malik Said Akan, that's powerful, giving me black, melanated king. Amala Anaya, giving me regal African princess vibes, Wakanda forever. What's always been interesting
to me is how Swahili has been incorporated into black culture. While East African
nations were not involved in the transatlantic slave trade, Pan-African politics gave
the gift of even more names. Every Imani, Jabari, and Nia, Swahili. – Then you just have names
that are black, literally. Ebony. – But let's be real,
there are certain names you perceive to be blacker than others, and that ain't nothing
but some Creolization. – Some what? (speaks Creole) – Who? – Vibrant Creole culture in
Louisiana introduced French into black naming trends, and it spread. We don't know how or why,
but by the 1960s French names were so commonly used in black communities that it's almost impossible
for me to imagine a white Monique, or like a white Antoine. – Nope, I tried, drawing a blank. – You have your typical
French names like Andre, but black folks would add prefixes using pieces of the French language like "le," "la," "de," and voila, Deandre. You can even sprinkle
it on non-French names. LaWanda, LaSondra, DeMarcus, DeShawn. – Ah, now things get interesting, because while it's cool to understand the other cultures and
languages names come from, there's also beauty in
making something up. – It's the ultimate expression of freedom. – Your dad's name is Raymond,
your mom's name is Yvonne, so boom, happy birthday Rayvonne. There's Tyrese, which
is a completely unique creation with no historical origin, and perfect for singing
slow jams in the rain. – Shaquille, as in O'Neal, is a creative respelling
of an Arabic name. His mama probably just wanted to be a little bit different, you know? Sometimes you want to stand out. – And who gets to decide how this is spelled in our alphabet, anyway? Societies look down on some
spellings, but not others, when really it's just
creative use of English. Like Metta World Peace, born Ron Artest. Sometimes what's in a name
is just your imagination. – So, where does Azie come from? – Well, my father was inspired
by the Pan-African movement in South Africa, where the people wanted to rename South Africa Azania, but he was reading it in a magazine, so he didn't know how to
say it, so he said Azaynia, and then my mom heard that and said, "Nah, sounds like a flower."
– Okay. – So, then they went with Azaneea, and then when they told
my grandparents, like, "This is her name," they
were like, "That's a big name "for a little baby," so they
started calling me Azie, and that's how I got the nickname Azie. Then as I got older people didn't really want to learn my name. They acted like it was kind of a hassle, so I just started going by my nickname. – Well, okay, so I'm not
really tied to like the origin, like etymology of my name. Don't really know much about that. All I know is that my
mom used to be a teacher and I am named after her favorite student, so shout out to you,
Evelyn, the original Evelyn. It's a lifestyle, I turned out great. – And now for a rapid-fire list of names you thought were super
black, because stereotypes. – We forgive you. – [Azie] Quintrell, an 11th century name from Cornwall, England. – Oh, all right, what is this? – [Azie] Terrell.
– Hut, hut. Performs masculinity.
– [Azie] It's French. – You call this football? (spits) – Back in my day, hm.
– [Azie] Darnell. Not just for uncles at the cookout, but also a group of people
in the medieval ages who grew a plant called Darnel. Natasha, it's Slavic. – Is this vodka? – [Azie] Yeah, Tyrone was a
kingdom in Gaelic Ireland. – No, really? – Really? – And we haven't even scratched
the surface of nicknames, which has an even richer history. We'll link more information
in the show notes. – But why does any of this matter? For the same reasons some people cringe at the fact that her name is Hennessy. There are real and
perceived negative impacts associated with names that
don't fit the dominant culture, which can create academic, professional, social, and cultural disadvantages. – Researches understand that
we are imaginative people, and names send a signal that makes us imagine people before we ever meet them. There have been studies that
explore how racism and classism combine to encourage hiring
bias in the workplace, and if people in positions of power won't even look past your name to learn how much experience you have and the value you could add to the
company, that's a problem. – While we want to debunk the myth that most black names are "made-up," we also deserve to
celebrate the creativity that is a completely unique name. At the very least we deserve to have our names deemed unusual or uncommon, versus bound for dysfunction
and economic disadvantage. – We choose to celebrate
black culture by acknowledging and respecting where we come from, and the regional, cultural, historical, and political reasons we are who we are. – [Azie] So, tell us a
story behind your name. Share this video with your uncle Darnell. – We'd like to thank
Audible for supporting PBS. Audible's selection of audiobooks
include Audible Originals, audio titles created by storytellers from around the literary world, for example Genius Dialogues, a conversation with the country's most compelling scientists,
educators, and artists. Visit audible.com/sayitloud, or text sayitloud to
500 500 to learn more. Members own their books and
can access them at any time, so to learn more visit
audible.com/sayitloud or text sayitloud to 500 500. Click here to watch previous
episodes of Say It Loud. Click here to watch our friend Danielle over at Origin of Everything
explain why middle names exist, and we'll see you next time. – Bye.
– Bye. (soft music) (smooth music)

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Thank you to everyone correcting our Arabic font in the comments! We're sorry we got that wrong and will make sure that doesn't happen again in the future. – Hallease

  2. I enjoyed this. Thanks. Esther – no, I’m not over 90, or Jewish, or Amish- just a White girl from the 70s who often had to use Sanford & Son’s “Aunt Esther” as a reference to help people remember my name. 😉

  3. Zakia….From what I've read its origin is Arabic. I've seen two different meanings which are pure and intelligent.

  4. As a white guy who never understood black names, I found this video incredibly enlightening. Thanks for uploading it.

  5. I have a French name with the French spelling and have problems with people giving it American spellings or calling me Janet or Jean. It's Jeanette.

  6. if someone wrote a book or made a movie about people who lived in Africa, 4,000 years ago, to give them names that are alredy exist or give them those hybred names like those S'amiqua

    Islam made Africa a lot better right? The African Muslums even made Europe better, bringing them medicine and bathing.

    should they really give "South Africa" an Arabic name? think of how terrible it is if I say "Egypt is so much better now that it's an Arab Muslim based

  7. I'm white, so I really feel like I learned a lot about this topic. It was something that I enjoyed learning too! Thank you for such an informative video!

  8. Thanks. I don't know when this channel was created but it brought me back to PBS content after I gave up on Idea Channel, which was interesting, but a little too white dude centered.

  9. One thing I know I didn't understand, at 11:03: what is the difference between real and imagined negative impacts?
    Btw, "Azania", love the history of your name and the way it sounds!

  10. Hattie McDaniel Gone with the wind. That's who you look like. As you can see my name is Sonja….It's just like you see it.

  11. Demaris (de MARE iss), never found a keychain with my name 😢. But people always assumed I would be black, for better or worse, and often that I would be a guy. (Alternatively, I am perhaps the palest woman around. ) I have heard a lot of, ' oh, I thought you would be' and a lot of confused and disappointed looks. It is only a tiny glimpse of what people of color must feel, but it is more than I ever want to experience again. It is hard to see disappointment in people's faces when you aren't the image of the person they had expected.

  12. My name is Heidi which comes from my mom's love of the German book as a kid. My middle name is Lynette which is a shout out to my dad whose middle name was Lynn (his brother's is Gene. The deep South is interesting.)

  13. It’s not overly interesting, but I’m Amy. I was adopted and they didn’t know what I’d look like. They decided if I had dark hair, I’d be Sarah. If I had blonde or red hair id be Amy. My mom liked the Little Women book. 😊👍
    And thanks for all the wonderful and historical information on these names! I never knew all that! I’m always interested to learn about cultures and origins!! ♥️

  14. I make up words all the time, I agree… who's to say. All words were once, "not a word".

  15. I've never heard of an Oprah outside of Winfrey though, so I don't get how it's Anglo… is it?… That one has me confused. Anyone know any Oprah's?

  16. I'm white but, reading the highlighted part @ 3:34… gave me icky chills 😣 .

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