As a child growing up in Virginia Beach, VA, I never really thought about my name, it was essentially just how people identified me. In the A.M.E. church my family attended and raised me in, there were several other girls that had the same name as me spelled differently, or a name similar to mine arranged differently.
My first true impact with my name and its importance to me was during my first day of school in my 7th grade Honors English class. My teacher mispronounced my name as she read the class roster. I was shocked; I did not quite understand how or why she would mispronounce "Tameka".
My name is "phonetically" spelled correctly (I also didn't really know what "phonetically" meant in 7th grade, but I heard my mother who is an educator say it often". My name is also familiar although it is unique. Either way, none of that changed that my 7th grade Honors English teacher pronounced my name "tam-UH-kuh" instead of "ta-ME-kuh". Of course, I immediately corrected her. She self-corrected and continued until she came to "My name" again, but it was another girl with the same name, spelled differently. She pronounced her name correctly, but then made a disclaimer to us "I will identify you all as Tamika with an "i" or Tameka with an "e". We looked at each other with confused smiles. This was our first time meeting each other and it was clear that this was also our first time having the same name as someone else in our class.
In high school I had the same encounter when I cheered, but my coach referred to us by nicknames. Though my name had an impact throughout my childhood, it was not until I was a sophomore in college that my name influenced me. I was enrolled in an African-American Studies course at a predominantly white school taught by a professor from and educated in the Caribbean. She brought up the topic, “The Identity of African-Americans in the American culture”. As a class, we had to brainstorm different sub-topics that impacted the identity of African-Americans in American culture. "Names" was one of those topics. We begin to discuss how the identity of individuals is assumed based on their name especially in America.
Although my eyes were not shut, they were opened a whole lot wider and my brain begin to make some major correlations regarding "My name" and my identity. It was then, that I realized when I wrote my name in the "real world" it would speak my identity before individuals even met me. "My name" classifies my race and ethnicity.
This new exposure and acquisition of information had a major influence on my identity by my name. I began to search the meaning of my name and how it even came about. I learned a lot, but the most important thing I learned was that "My name" had meaning. I developed a genuine love for my name and learned to embrace that my name was distinct and unique and although it could speak my race and ethnicity, my name was not my identity.
You see my name was given to me by my parents and was written in The Book of Life before I was placed in my mother's womb. My name though unique and different was known before time and distinctly identifies me in The Lord's eyes as His child. Knowing my first and most important identity and classification in this universe not just America is "A Daughter of The King," placed a new prospective on "My name" to me. Although I am mindful of my name in "America," I try to teach and encourage others to not make assumptions or classifications about others based on their given or acquired name. Give an individual an opportunity to reveal their identity to you and give yourself the opportunity to learn. There is only one name that I am aware of that has power and it is not yours or mine. That Name is Jesus and I am so glad that He knows my name.
Tameka F. Burroughs is an inspirational speaker, author, and educator. She has a genuine love for The Word of God and is passionate about strengthening and inspiring others through His Word. She is the author of “Just One Drop” A 21-day encouraging devotional to quench your thirsty soul. Tameka resides in the DC Metropolitan area where her and her husband pastor at The WELL Worship Center in Alexandria, VA. Pastors Derrick and Tameka are the blessed and proud parents of two children. Visit womanbyfaith.com for more information.