By Erickka Sy Savané
“My name is Shaniqua,” said a blogger I met at a luncheon in mid-town Manhattan. Shaniqua? I did a double take. She gave me her card. As soon
as I got home, I was all over my computer, genuinely curious to see
what a “ghetto” website looked like. Hmm…it was
nice…and there was even a picture of her and Oprah Winfrey…
A few weeks later, I’m on the phone with my old roommate from
college. We hadn’t spoken for a few months so it was time to catch up.
She told me she was launching a dessert business and I was thrilled. But there was an underlying anxiety in her voice.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m stuck. I don’t know whether to use my name or my initials for my business,” she responded.
“I’d go for your name all day,” I answered. “People with initials
seem shady. Look at O.J. Simpson, and who is T.I., really? 10 reality shows later, and I’m still lost.”
“Yea, but my name is Shi-kwan-da.”
“Okay, I get it,” I say, suddenly remembering Shaniqua, and how quick
I was to throw her under the ghetto bus…only to find out that she’s
doing better than a lot of us.
“Wait, I think I have an answer,” I say, telling her about Shaniqua and how she’s embracing her name, and using it for her business. It’s really smart too, because people are curious enough to go to her website to learn more, and by that time she’s already got you. There’s no better advertising than a unique name!
“I never thought about it like that,” says Shikwanda.
And we know why. There’s no denying that distinctly Black names get a bad rap. Just last year Raven-Symone
publicly apologized for saying on ‘The View’ that she wouldn’t hire someone with a
“ghetto name” and who can forget the famous study
that found when applying for jobs, names that sound white receive 50
percent more callbacks than names that sound distinctly African
American. But at the same time, a Black man with a Muslim name became
President of the United States. Twice. If 69 million Americans can get over
any hangups they might’ve had regarding the name Barack Hussein Obama, surely
Shaniqua and Shikwanda can carve out a space for themselves in their
It’s catch up time with Shikwanda again. I find her in the middle of making
vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for a birthday event. I
guess she’s in business, which reminds me that I never found out what
name she decided to use.
“I went with Shikwanda,” she tells me, with a smile in her voice so bright I can see it through the phone. “ I realized that Shikwanda is who I am,
take it or leave it, and I needed to stop focusing so much energy on my
name, and put it into my business. At the end of the day, your name doesn’t make you, you make your name.”
Amen to that.
This article first appeared on Madamenoire.com