Our conversation began with her asking “What’s your name again?”. “It’s Takiyah”, I replied pleasantly. “Don’t you have an easier name than that?” she asked. I looked down at the egg and cheese baleada I was enjoying before she interrupted me and then upwards to the Lord for strength and tact before saying that I didn’t have a spare name to suit her needs. She went on to say more stupid things before my face betrayed the cheery tone I was forcing.
This isn’t new for me. My name is Takiyah (tuh-kee-yuh) and for as long as I have known that to be a fact, people haven’t been able to pronounce/spell it correctly. Living on an island, I get asked more often than I should, “where your mom get that one?”, during introductions. Yeah, I mean it’s different, but not that different. However, as I inch closer to thirty, the less inclined I am to give people passes for their ignorance when it comes to my name and what it means when they ask to condense it without my permission.
When I heard of Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck a few years ago, I was immediately drawn to her story about how she used her conventional name to her advantage in the classroom and later in her career. According to NPR, Dr. Vandyck’s dissertation entitled Black Names in White Classrooms: Teacher Behaviors and Student Perceptions, Vandyck interviewed students and concluded that participants “with distinctly black names” were subject to disrespect, stereotypes and low academic and behavioral expectations. This resulted in strained relationships, changes in future career choices and self-esteem issues, spelling fewer educational and economic opportunities for students of color.
My name is not as unconventional as Dr. Vandyck’s. However, I’ve sat in classrooms with teachers, both black and white and felt all of those things. I worked in offices and felt much the same way. I will also admit that I leaned into the “character” at times to appease the feelings of those around me and myself. With maturity, I’ve realised that if I could compromise on my name, I could compromise on anything.
The marketer in me saw my name as a brand for the first time when I created this blog. TakiyahChanel.com was wide open as a domain and for a reason. I am Takiyah for a purpose. Yes, it’s not conventional but it’s for a purpose. So I will not give people an easier name because this journey to develop myself into a brand, and into a person that I can be proud of has not been easy.