When missionaries came to Africa, they knew exactly what they came for. They even gave an African child a European name, a slave name. They did not want anything that would remind them that this is not their land, but it’s the land of a black child. Calling you by your African name was going to remind them that they did not belong here.
And so they gave our ancestors European names.
Missionaries came to Africa with a clear mind; they had all the information they needed. They did their homework thoroughly and found that in Africa we were not affected by poverty and we were standing firm to what we believe in; African traditional beliefs, which now I call African Spirituality.
They then sat down and thought about how they could conquer us. Their answer was to start by destroying our spirituality, for it is our source of strength. It was what kept us united and it was what fed us. They wanted to make us bow, submit and depend on them by introducing Jesus. Not just any Jesus, but a white one, which is the same as them. And in the Bible there is a verse that says, “Slaves obey your masters”.
They came with the mission of destroying what our ancestors worked for. When they introduced white Jesus, they knew that people would lose confidence in another black people and follow a white person. Then what happened to our culture, customs and traditions? This was something our ancestors valued. Something that kept us together.
Your name tells you about your identity, so when you are using a European name as an African, are you not lost? Which identity are you cherishing?
Africans were given names like John, Smith, Jones and so on. Those names are European surnames, but when they arrived here they were given to blacks as their first names. Using your name means holding and cherishing your identity and it shows that you adore your identity. So when your name is John, which identity are you cherishing?
Each and every African name has a meaning in an African language. The names were given to Africans during slavery as a way of showing that the African continent was owned by the Europeans. But now Africans are no longer owned, but they kept their European names. That is where the problem is.
Why are Africans using the names given to them by Europeans, when they are no longer enslaved? And they continue to give them to their kids.
Give your kids names that relate to their Africanness, something that is common to them. So they can hold and fully cherish their identity and be proud of being Africans.
Religion plays an important role in many people’s lives and we can’t decolonise religion without stating what happened for us to find ourselves in this mess. It will always go back to the way missionaries came to Africa. The technique that they used to conquer blacks. I know this can create conflict between a white and a black person, but someone has to say it anyway. We cannot pretend as if nothing happened.
This has been trending on the internet for quite some time and I don’t know how true it is. But what I do know is that Africans have been robbed of their spirituality, their source of strength and we need to get it back.
Tell us: Do you agree with the writer that black people must not chose European names?