Every person with a difficult name knows the mental strain of introducing yourself.
Hi, My name is Ayy-Fwa. Hey Ah-fu-wa
My mind (the first time) – “That’s not my name. But you know what. I’ll give you a pass.”
Hello, remind me of your name. It’s Ayy-Fwa. Yes yes Af-wa
My mind (the second time) – “Really? I know you heard me introduce myself. How does my name sound like that?”
Verbally (every time after) – “No. My name is pronounced….”
How many of y’all has this happened to? I can already hear you screaming at the screen- ALL THE TIME. If you’re not, or if you don’t have this issue, that’s okay. Because this article is probably for you.
The title probably had you thinking I was on some Destiny’s Child vibe, but no. The point of this article is to bring awareness to how important it is to acknowledge and respect cultural differences; more importantly, this is about effort.
A couple of months ago, while mentoring through America Needs You, we had a guest speaker-Erikan Obotetukudo. She went ahead and noted that it is pronounced “air-ri-can o-boat et-ook oo-dough”. Her speech that day stuck with me. From discussing cultural pride to taking hold of your career, Erikan enlightened us that in any scenario it is necessary to have confidence in yourself. Confidence to stand up for yourself when necessary, especially with pronouncing your name, to confidence in knowing you can get the job you want.
All this to say, never shy away from owning your truth. Your name is your name. Let people know how to say it. If they choose to butcher it and not try, they are not putting in the effort. And those who will not put in the effort may not be the type of people you will want to associate with. If they are not willing to try to pronounce your name, what else are the unwilling to do? And even if you have to (as in perhaps you’re actually stuck working with this person for example), understand the type of relationship your facing. Your name is directly tied to your story and for names like mine my ethnic and cultural roots.
Names are chosen purposefully. I have six names and my parents were very intentional about each one. As a Ghanaian, the mantra of Sankofa is ingrained in me. Sankofa loosely means you have to look back to go forward. Names tell a history as well as prophesize. When my name is said incorrectly or someone says “what’s your nickname” or “I’ll just call you A”- I get LIVID. No you may not call me A- stop trying to strip my identity and my humanity.
Fight for your name – it’s your humanity. There is power in your name don’t let Steve steal your flavor. This is how you say my name. So put some respeck on it.
In the end, your name is your name and if you decide to go by another name because you don’t want people butchering it, that’s fine too- protect yourself. There will always be some people no matter how many times you phonetically spell it out, or no matter how many tutorials you give, THEY will still say “oh hi April” when you just said, “Hi, my name is Afua”.