Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley understands all too well that each of us is given a name at birth. Some of us ask and some never do, but we wonder. “Why?” “Why was this name chosen?” We ask our parents. Did you anticipate that my life would be better? I would be stronger or did you just settle for a name you read or heard in passing. Perhaps, my name was your own creation, an artistic expression? Oh there are so many questions.
Does my moniker have a history? That forever may be a mystery — For Little Black girls, especially. Was it an agnomen? A cognomen? Had it been in the family for generations? Please tell me it has meaning beyond social conventions? I want to know that you named me after someone or some event that was vital — after a God, a Goddess, or just a goodness that exists?
Perhaps, I was named to be free of all that confines us. Some people grow into their names. Some choose new ones, solely with thoughts of a hopeful fame or is it to avoid the shame. But me, my name allows me to be!
“Sha-Con-dri-a”! Sing it loud, preferably with a Southern accent — “It just sounds so much sweeter that way.”
If you are a little Black Girl with a Big Name when next someone asks you What does everyone need to know? Tell them, “They need to know how to say my name.”
I usually never have an answer.
I remember looking for it once
at a shopping mall kiosk
where the meanings of names are saved
then engraved into keepsakes,
thinking all the while that the chances of me finding my name
would be like the odds of winning the sweepstakes.
(You know, slim to none.)
I got tired of people mispronounced it
so I shortened it to Con,
but they still got it wrong.
They kept confusing me with the lady who once sang that song,
“Tell me something good…”
And tell them something I feel I should,
So I correct them.
It’s pronounced “Sha-Con-dri-a”.
No silent letters.
Preferably pronounced with the drawl of a Southern accent.
(It just sounds so much sweeter that way.)
I remember there once was a day
when I wished my mother would’ve stuck to something simple and pretty and majestic
like Tiffany or maybe even Alexis.
But my fate was sealed by signatures on my birth certificate,
granting me the right to forever bear the shame of having been given a ghetto a** name.
So this here poem is for all the little Black girls with big names.
For the “sha”‘s and “isha”‘s, the “ana”‘s and “iqua”‘s
who were told never to write their names on applications,
for fear of experiencing discrimination,
because we live in a nation where your name
can tell someone your race or even your social status.
Because some people only think dumb, ghetto folk overuse the alphabet.
They chalk it up to illiteracy.
Or maybe even history.
And I wonder…
If those who assume ever stop to think that maybe…
Transatlantic submerged native tongues
have reemerged in the form of ghetto monikers.
Like my little cousin whose name is Tynishia,
sounds a lot like Tinashe,
a name from the Shona tribe meaning “God is with us”,
because when her mother died, He was all she had.
Or maybe like my friend, Lakisha,
whose name sounds a lot like the Bantu name Wekesa,
meaning “born during the harvest”.
Now on her way to becoming an attorney,
reaping from sowing seeds of working the hardest.
Or maybe like me…
My mother knew that I would be a fighter,
so she named me Sha’Condria,
which sounds a lot like Shaka, the great Zulu warrior.
See this here poem is for every daughter,
who ever became a professional only to shorten her name to a letter and a period
just so phone calls would be returned or higher pay earned,
because we all know
don’t nobody want an “isha” or an “iqua” to operate on them.
But you see a book can’t be judged by its cover
nor its title.
And the story beneath your name can’t be contained beneath the tide,
so sisters, let them rise
and take their rightful places
on your applications and business cards
desk placards and uniforms
until one day ghetto ass names become the norm.
But for right now, we’re special you see,
and there ain’t another girl in the world with a name like you or me.
So go forth,
and rep proudly for allt he ghetto named girls,
and if someone happens to mispronounce your name,
make sure you give your neck a swirl.
Look them dead in the eye and correct them…
It’s pronounced “Sha-Con-dri-a”.
Say it right.
Or don’t say it
© 2012. Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley
Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley…By definition, an “icon” is usually a symbol or an image that stands for or represents something other than itself. As an artist, Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley has made a choice to represent the loving-kindness, creativity, and power of God through her gifts and talents.
As a founding member of the “Mighty, Mighty” Team SNO (Slam New Orleans), iCon has helped to lead the team where no other New Orleans slam team has gone before—consecutively winning the Battle of the Boot (2009-12), 2nd place at Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam (2010, 2012), National Poetry Slam Group Piece Finals (2010), and the coveted National Poetry Slam Championship (2012). | Follow her at Twitter @icontheartist
This piece was reprinted by EmpathyEducates with permission or license. We thank the Poet and Author, Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley for her kindness, for sharing her sensitive soul and awareness. May we all be grateful for “All the Little Black Girls With Big Names.”