Yes, despite the constant ramblings of confused souls in Youtube videos, without question, we descend from Africa. And one of the countless measures of proof we can evaluate to substantiate that reality are the names African people living in the Western Hemisphere possess. If you query 99.9% of us, including those who claim no ties to Africa, you will find us wearing European names. That's right, names like Smith, Jackson, Johnson, Henderson, Jones, etc. British, German, French names, etc. The common denominator? We hold the names of those who enslaved our ancestors. Like the method in which you select a dog and name them, our former owners did that to our ancestors. Consequently, today, we have no idea what our real names are. All we know is our European slave names. My former slave name was Dewhart, or actually Duhart; pronounced Da-hort. Its a French name which makes sense because my family came to California from Louisiana and the French had a strong colonial history in Louisiana. Somewhere between my grandfather and my father, the spelling of that name got changed. My father never said anything about it so I have no idea why or how that happened, but it makes perfect sense. The concept of us having our identities stolen and then us making every attempt to try and adjust our slave identity to be a better fit in this slave society is a defining characteristic of our existence for the last 500+ years.
Many of us have taken the time to study and properly understand our history. Consequently, we have made the mature decision to not perpetuate the identities of those who subjugated us. Instead, we choose to empower ourselves by claiming our actual identities as African people. And for most of us, since Africa's colonization means we could have come from literally anywhere in Africa, it doesn't matter much to us which ethnic group we choose when we change our names. We claim all of Africa. This is especially true for those of us who are actively involved in the struggle for Pan-Africanism or the fight to liberate all of Africa. What's more important to us is what our names mean. Most of us want them to mean something that describes what we represent as human beings. Ahjamu is Yoruba for "he fights for what he wants." Umi is Yao (Malawi) and means "life" or "life giving." Together, my names mean I fight for life. People who know me now, people who knew me before I changed my name, all of them quickly acknowledge that the person I am today is much better represented by Ahjamu Umi than Richard Darrell Dewhart. And, that's by no means any disrespect to the legacy of my experience before I became Ahjamu. There are some people who believe that we disrespect or disregard this legacy by changing our names, but that thinking is motivated by an emotional reaction e.g. having no knowledge of Africa, not a rational and logical analysis. A clear perspective has to acknowledge that we were violently and illegally stolen from Africa. In the course of that horrific tragedy, we fought back. And, as that great African revolutionary Sekou Ture taught us, the definition of a people's culture is the method in which they assert their humanity in the face of oppression. For us, that assertion is responding to the efforts of our colonizers and enslavers to dehumanize us by forcing their reality onto us by rejecting their reality and reclaiming our own. That's what I did and that's what millions of us have done when we changed our names to African names. We reclaimed our dignity to determine who we are which is a major step in diminishing the power of colonialism over our thinking and our spiritual well being. My daughter has an African name and she understands why I did it so well that she took initiative not to long ago to inform me that when she decides to get married, if the man of her life doesn't have an African name, she will decide to keep our name.
That explains in specific detail why we change our names. If you still don't understand why it can only be because you don't want to understand it. And if that's who you are, we couldn't care less. In fact, you should ascertain by the foundation of this argument that we are not the people who need your validation or approval for anything. That's why we will close out this discussion by chastising those, specifically among our own people, who chose to remain lazy and continue to call Africans who have clearly named their names, their previous slave names. Examples? Sanyika Shakur, formally Cody Scott from the best selling autobiography "Monster" about his life as an Eight-tray gangster Crip. Or even Europeans like Yusef Islam who people probably know from his previous entertainer name of Cat Stevens. I can go on and on, but I'll focus on Kwame Ture (of course) who was more famously known as Stokely Carmichael. I get that most people don't do much serious study so they know him mostly by the name that grabbed the most headlines, but just because people may be a little intellectually lazy, that doesn't mean we should just submit to that laziness. The man changed his name to Kwame Ture in 1977. He lived a full 21 years after that as Kwame Ture and it has now been 41 years since he changed his name, yet most of the time, he is presented as Stokely Carmichael. This is true even from people like Peniel Joseph who wrote a biography on Kwame in 2014 entitled "Stokely - A Life." Even someone like hip/hop artist Talib Kweli, who has a "cultural" name, repeatedly and consistently referred to Kwame by his slave name while Kweli narrated the shameful documentary "The Black Power Mixtape." When an African changes their name to an African name and you, for whatever reason, refuse to recognize that, what you are saying, whether you mean to or not, is that their European slave identity is most important. What you are saying is you are choosing to acknowledge slavery and oppression over freedom and self-determination. What you are doing is insisting that this African submit to the master.
It takes little effort to be respectful. Do as I do, and I write about Kwame much more than most people. Say Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) the first time and then you can say Kwame Ture every time after that and people will know who you are talking about. Problem solved. Respect in tact. If you refuse to do this and respect and acknowledge who we are defining ourselves as, you are on the side of the enemy. And, when people approach me with any scent of disrespect to my free and African name, I'm going to let you know about it in a way you aren't going to like. We are free thinking people. If you can respect Christopher Wallace aka the Notorious B.I.G. when he instructed you to "say my name right!" (and his name was a clown slave name) then you better respect and say our names right.