So most bloggers and news outlets have already ran with the story of Ms. Marijuana Pepsi (Jackson) Sawyer. The accomplished woman with the odd moniker. Now is my turn. In brief, Marijuana Pepsi Jackson was the name given to this woman (Sawyer was her married name), a name a police officer almost arrested her for because he thought she was trying to pull a fast one on him. Despite her name, or maybe because of its unique character, Marijuana is a bright and successful woman. Currently, she is a teacher holding a Masters degree. She is working towards a doctorate as well. I would link to a story or two about her but honestly, I feel they’re mostly written in a condescending tone. I’ll leave you to Google her.
I really like Marijuana’s story. Over the past 3 years or so, I saw a lot of blogging and messageboard posting about so-called “ghetto” names or “Black” names. People deride the parents and forecast lives of unaccomplishment and shame for the children. I have always thought that terribly unfair because I wondered who was supposed to be the arbiter of “good” names? I also take issue with the implication that names must be close to a certain European/Western origin or else they are not worthy. Even people who choose to name their children “real” African or Arab names are laughed at because after all, ain’t they just regular ol’ Black folk?
Not that I’d do it, but who am I to say that a person is wrong for naming their child after a car they like? People have been named Mercedes for years but I hardly hear anyone talking about them in a negative way. Name your child Alexxus though and we might as well call Child Protective Services! I guess your child is better off had you stuck with Alexis?
There was a time when I really disliked my name. It’s Arabic in origin, but most people don’t know or care and would correctly assume I was Black. Sometimes people incorrectly assume I’m a guy, which is not so odd as I’ve met two men with my name. I felt weird about my name as a kid even though people would tell me that it was pretty. I assumed they were saying that because they weren’t going to outright say it was fucked up. I thought my name was very childish as during the early 80s, there were no adults walking around with my name. I told myself that when I was 18, I would get my name changed, basically switching my middle and first names. I thought Denise would be more palatable and seemed mature. I didn’t do it. How weird would it be to go all of your life with one name and then switch?
Not too long ago, I was gettingbusiness cards printed and I thought long and hard about how I wanted to present myself. A lot of my professors and attorneys I’ve met opt for the first initial, middle name, last name on the card. When you do that, however, people address you always as your middle name. Many of them will never even know what that first initial stands for. I wondered if this was my opportunity to be Denise again. I kind of liked the way the first initial + middle name looked. But I thought it would be kind of like selling out. Who was I trying to appease? Trying to make it easier for people who mispronounce my name on the regular (I don’t know why, it ‘s not THAT hard)? Trying to make the people reading resumes think I was white long enough to make it to the interview? Nah, I’ll pass.
If Marijuana Pepsi can do her thing, I’m sure I can. And this is not to forget that she probably has been discounted from many things and denied opportunities because of her name. I’m sure of it. However, the important thing is that she’s still fabulous and still moving up in the world. I admire the fact that while she must have been teased mercilessly as a child and looked at sideways as an adult, she keeps it moving. Whether your name is ShaCristal Acura Jenkins, Barack Obama, or Tiffany Williamson, I bet there’s a lesson for you in there somewhere.