Hi, my name is Oluwatosin Akande. Don’t worry about an easier way to say my name. Most days, I give it out, but today, I would really like to go by my whole first name. Oluwatosin. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. There is something about my name that is melodic. The soft opening of the mouth for the Oh. The tongue against the teeth for the loo. The way the mouth makes a kiss for the wah. The tuh of the teeth for toe and the vibrations of the suh for sin. Oluwatosin. Beyond the simple pronouncing of my name, is its meaning. My name was not chosen because it sounded nice nor because it was eclectic and on trend. My name serves as a banner over my life. My parents, in choosing my name, were making a statement about who I was to become.
The Lord is worthy to be served. Every time, my whole name rings out that is what you are singing over me. It is what my parents sang over me as I breathed my first cry filled breaths of the broken world. As my parents continued singing over me, the sang my child, “God will take care of you.” Oluwafunke. They continued with Dolapo and sealed me with Akande.
Oluwatosin Oluwafunke Dolapo Akande.
My name is a song that should not be shortened because someone cannot sing the lyrics. It should not be altered because the words are hard to say. It is not a joke or something to mumble through. It is a song worth learning so you can sing along because I would love to include your voice.
Part of the black identity for many African-Americans and black Americans is the dismissive nature at the onset of meeting a new person. With no attempt, people will ask is there something else I can call you? Hence, Tosin or Ola or Funke. What people don’t know as they call out my name in a mocking tribal yell, that they are just failing to sing a song with the honor it deserves. It is also the continuing dismissive nature of my name.
For many sold into slavery as they lost their lives, they lost their name. They lost a song that had probably been passed down. I am no slave, but to lose your name is to lose your identity. Who you are fades as someone else calls you what they will. It is the humiliation of Eve as Adam names her. Adam had only named animals before. Was she counted among them?
It was the months of homelessness because when a landlord is looking at a name like Oluwatosin Akande, they don’t hear the song. The smell curry odors seeping into the walls and never leaving (which is a fragrant, not odorous smell). When they receive emails from Oluwatosin with legitimate concerns my voice carries to the trash. On two occasions, I have emailed major Christian organizations with concerns about how black people were being treated and never received a response. People try to mute my song. People have muted my song.
To say no longer is to lie about the unwillingness of the tone deaf to learn to sing. However for every person who has learned to sing my name, my whole name, who has not mocked it but honored it. Thank you. My song on your lips is an invitation to harmonious hope that I matter. To every student I have who hates me for calling them by their mother-given name, I hope and pray that you realize, I was just trying to sing your song as well.