My name is a rather touchy subject for me.
And when I say “touchy” I mean “poke it with a stick and I will annihilate you.”
I really don’t like my name.
Over the years people have complimented me on it, told me it was extremely original, and said things like, “Oh that’s so pretty! I bet you’ve never met anyone else with that name!”
And I haven’t.
Because my name sucks. I’ve noticed that everyone who compliments me on my name is called something like “Mary,” “Martha,” or “Jean.” No one with a name like “Latisha” or “Bon-qui-qui” ever tells me my name is “original” or “unique.” They just shake their head and say, “Girl, I understand.”
Something strange happens when brown folk name their children. They could have been living in these here United States since the 1700s, but as soon as they produce progeny, you would think they just stepped off the boat into the new world. They may be more American than they are African, but they WILL name their child an “African” name just to prove that they are in fact black.
Unfortunately, they are so far removed from the continent that they end up naming their children things like “Shaneequa” or “Dekwan.”
I went to Kenya. I did not meet any Africans with a “la”, “sha”, or “da” at the beginning of their name.
I had two legitimately African friends as a child and their names were Bamakole and Tawakalitu.
Those are African names.
Barack is another African name.
Shatifa not so much.
I say all this to say that when my brown parents named me, they felt as though they had to pay homage to their African roots. Mind you our family has been living in the West Indies for quite some time. We’re more West Indian than we are African now. However, my parents, Herman and Carol aka He-Man and Chi-chi felt that they should give their children names that reflected their heritage.
So they named us Timothy, Akira, and Gyasi.
Tim lucked out.
Me and Kira not so much.
For those of you that have studied Japanese culture or watched any anime in the last twenty years, you’ll notice that “Akira” is actually a Japanese boys’ name.
According to He-Man “Akira” is Chi-chi’s fault.
He-Man: I wanted to name her ‘Kira’! I was all ready to name her ‘Kira’! That’s a good, strong African name. Then your mother added the ‘A’ and made her Japanese.
At least Kira has the option of going by “Kira”. That’s a nice silver lining to have at your disposal.
I was not so fortunate.
When I tell people that my name is “Gyasi” they hear “Jaycee” which is fine. However, as soon as they see my name on paper all hell breaks loose.
Person #1: Who is this “JAH-see” person I keep seeing copied on our emails? I’ve never seen him or heard of him. Is he new to the program?
Me: Actually that’s me.
Person #1: Really? That’s how you spell your name?
Person #1: How do you pronounce that?
Person #1: No really how do you pronounce that?
I know this post sounds incredibly bitter, so let me clarify: the name “Gyasi” in and of itself does not suck. What is sucky is the fact that I’m named “Gyasi”.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, “Gyasi” is actually an African boys’ name that means “wonderful child.” Why on earth would you choose to name your obviously female child “Gyasi”? Because you’re my mother and you apparently want to teach her at an early age that life’s not fair.
When I interrogated Chi-chi yet again about my name this is what happened:
Me: Out of all of the names on earth, why did you choose “JAH-see”?
Chi-chi: I didn’t name you “JAH-see” I named you “Jaycee”.
Me: What put the name “Jaycee” in your head?
Chi-chi: At one of my old jobs there was a man named “John Cacamo” and he went by “J.C.” He was really nice, so then I started to like the name “J.C.”
Me: So why didn’t you just name me “Jaycee” or two names that made “J.C.”
Uncle Nigel: (on his iPhone) I checked out this website and it says “Gyasi” is a very popular name in Maryland.
Chi-chi: Your father wanted you to have a unique name.
Me: So you chose “JAH-see.”
Chi-chi: I named you “Jaycee.”
Me: You gave me a boys’ name.
Uncle Nigel: According to Google there are 28,000 people in the United States named “Gyasi.”
Chi-chi: That’s a lot of people!
Uncle Nigel: That wouldn’t even fill a football stadium.
Me: How many of those “Gyasis” are women?
Uncle Nigel: Two.
Me: And I’m one of them.
Uncle Nigel: The other woman is called “Stephanie Gyasi.”
Me: So it’s not even her first name.
Uncle Nigel: Nope.
Chi-chi: You’re not helping.
Uncle Nigel: I wasn’t trying to.
Me: You gave me a boys’ name.
Chi-chi: The book where I found your name said it was a unisex name from Indonesia.
Uncle Nigel: This website says it’s African.
Me: You gave me an African boys’ name.
Chi-chi: Indonesia’s in Africa?