I like my name. My parents named me after David in the Bible. Me and biblical David have a lot of things in common: We’re both poetic, musically inclined and are brave enough to try and tackle problems (and people) that are twice our size.
I prefer David over Dave, though my late Nana would often call me Davey Poo. She’s the only one who called me that.
Names are important for many reasons. They suggest human characteristics like assigned genders and cultural heritage. Unique names may imply that your parents wanted you to be a one-of-a-kind star (Beyoncé, anyone?). And culturally classic names could mean that they wanted you to be a part of a well-respected lineage. Think: Lincoln, or Harriet.
Above all, names are important because they humanize us. They give people a way to address us and know us. Everyone must have a name. If they don’t, we give them one. Jane Doe or John Doe – even those names suggest a story.
This week, two names entered our collective conscience and made many people hurt: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. These two men likely did not know each other, but they shared a few things in common: They were black and they were killed by police officers.
Their names are important. They’re actually quite beautiful, unique and strong. I like them a lot.
A few weeks ago, I found a vintage rubber stamp kit in my local thrift store. I had a sneaking suspicion that all of the letters wouldn’t be inside, but I bought it anyway. When I got home, I was sad to discover that I was right. Luckily, the letters “ALTON” and “PHILANDO” were there.
This week, I pressed the stamp on a piece of paper to see the names of these two men. It did nothing for the pain, confusion and grief over the fact that they were more names added to the long list of black lives murdered by police officers. Pressing the stamp harder didn’t suppress the hurt. But their names were there, on that paper, and they looked beautiful.
Yes, they were men. Yes, they were black men. But, first and foremost, they were Alton and Philando. They had names. And they didn’t deserve to be killed.
Remember their names.
David Leon Morgan is a Bronx-based creative storyteller and crafter. He loves to crochet, sing extremely loudly in the shower and help others share their story in creative ways. Learn more about him and his work at http://davidleonmorgan.com
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