Unison: Teachers used to say,
Speaker 1: “Your behavior is just like your last name… “
Speaker 1: In school, I learned a lot more about other people’s names rather than the one closer to my own, as if Matam
Speaker 2: Yamazawa
Speaker 3: Acevedo
Speaker 1: Were so much harder to say than
Unison: Tchaikovsky, Michelangelo, Eisenhower. Like our last names were made of barbed wire, stripping the flesh of those trying to conquer the meanings in their mouths.
Speaker 2: See, my parents names be George, but honestly, I always hated the name George. It reminds me of some
Unison: Old, dead, white guy.
Speaker 2: Being a young, alive, Asian boy, it was hard for me to make the connection.
Unison: I realized my first name didn’t match my background before I knew how to spell assimilation.
Speaker 3: I always wanted a name that set the bar high. That tumbled out of mouths. Somersaulted into a room and split the air. A name like Xochi, or Anacaona, but although I must have punched inside the placenta, my parents decided on something placid.
Speaker 3: A name for princesses, pampered women, and perfume. A name full of grace.
Unison: A name easily washed down with milk.
Speaker 1: Patrick, meaning “leader.” Etymology: Irish, and although I speak French, I am from Cameroon. (Parmis lesquelles est toi là, un lion indomptable*) I would rather a name that would make a throat swell into a song, rather than a sigh.
Unison: Your name is a song!
Speaker 1: Now, I call myself Pages so I can write my own story. It is the only name that I have ever owned.
Speaker 3: I wanted a name of Dominican hills rising, and campesinos uprising, instead of “Long-live the Queen,” but shortened my name to Liz so colonizers had less to hold onto.
Speaker 2: In Japan, your last name comes first. There’s an emphasis on family.
Unison: But in America,
Speaker 2: Your nickname comes first, because there’s an emphasis on accessibility.
Unison: Our parents had to dumb down their identity so our family could fit into a straight-jacket society.
Speaker 2: On countless occasions, I’ve introduced myself, and people would say shit like:
Unison: “But what’s your real name though? That don’t sound very ethnic.”
Speaker 2: You don’t look like a “George.”
Speaker 1: Or a “Patrick.”
Speaker 3: An “Elizabeth.”
Unison: That’s because my name wasn’t given to me. It was given to the rest of the country.
Speaker 1: Because when they hear names like George, Patrick, Elizabeth, what they hear is power, class, intellect. But names like Pedamante, Quvenzhané, Tatsunokochi sound like
Unison: Foreign. Impoverished. Illegal. What they hear is, “GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!”
Speaker 3: Your name is a dirt pit. It is a black hole, but what they don’t know is that black holes be the brightest source of light.
Unison: I’ve always wished my name was dressed in chain mail, that it was a heavy name, a thick-thigh syllable, shot down with short blades, so when I have my own children, I’m going to name them something special.
Speaker 3: Something to make people stumble on, and guilt-trip over.
Speaker 1: Something to make their skin a little thicker than mine.
Speaker 2: Something to remind their classmates of the last samurai instead of the first president.
Unison: Something powerful. Something real, real ethnic. Something unforgettable.
* A lion that can’t be tamed