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Goodbye Slave Names!

   I decided to go to Service Canada last week to begin the legalized change of my French slave name to a West African name. I searched long and hard and found new African names for me and my 2 year old son who is of African-Iranian descent.

  I chose Nomolanga Achieng Eksenwe for myself because Nomolanga Achieng because it is Zulu for “sunny” and I’m an optimistic, cheery person born in the middle of summer. I also chose it because “Achieng” which means “sunlit” is reminiscent of the warm, chocolate brown skin I have. I chose the last name Eksenwe, which is a well known last name.

    My son’s new name Chilongola means “firstborn son” and his middle name Masego means “blessings”. I feel our African names are not just a powerful way of reclaiming our African identity that was stolen away, but of defying the racist social control that exists today. It is a constant reminder of our Blackness, our heritage and history. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone we encounter from colleagues, school peers and strangers.

    I have rid ourselves of the continuity of the Blanchette, Riviere and Dangleben slaveholding families that held dominance over my family for over a century by their French names. Therefore, what we achieve will be Black excellency, not that of our oppressors. They cannot bind us with their stamp no more.

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I Ni Ce!

I ni ce! I ni ce means “hello” in the  Bambara language of Africa, spoken primarily by Malians (people of Mali). My paternal family that was enslaved and brought to Roseau, Dominica in the West Indies comes from Mali. Many people from Dominica (the original name of the  isle being Wai’tukubuli’ meaning “long is her body” in Kalinago” come from Mali, Guinea and Senegal in West Africa.
Since deciding to legally change my slave name to Nomolanga Achieng Eksenwe and my son’s French name to Chilongola Masego Eksenwe, I’ve begun to learn more about the rich history of Mali from the Mali Empire to present day traditions and customs. I know I cannot continue the African legacy of my ancestors “Davis and Celestine” without acquiring the knowledge to teach myself and my son Malian culture including the Bambara language, which is surprisingly easy to learn.

Just as Chinese-Canadians or Indian-Canadians practice some cultural aspects of their native heritage (as well as aspects of Western culture, inevitably); I too, want to teach my son about the rich ancient history of Africa from Menes and Thebes to Queen Candace of Ethiopia and Queen Tye.

   My family has ridiculed me about my newfound Black consciousness which begun ironically, in a rural White town I moved to where I clung to a wise, white Rastafarian woman with boundless knowledge of African and Black culture as well as four, beautiful Black Rastafarian children she has that are homeschooled and taught real Black history and critical thinking. It was her who lent me books on ancient Africa and encouraged me to change stubborn Westernized views about myself and my people. In the process, though I have much to learn, I have learned to be even prouder of being African.

   With the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which, with a Black son, has sparked my interest and who I hold solidarity with, I began to read the works of Angela Y. Davis, Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton, bell hooks, Frederick Douglass and others. This furthered my knowledge in racism and sexism and also helped me to see that my people are not just oppressed and without hope. We have fought long and hard since we were removed from Mother Africa. We did not readily accept slavery, we brave men and women and we continue to fight oppression and systemic racism today. So, I say, hello, to all my African brothers and sisters and to all our brothers and sisters because we are of one race: the human race. Unity and peace is what I strive the world, and self-acceptance and self-love of my Blackness is what I strive for in this blog.

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