“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, because while others free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind”- Marcus Garvey. It has become necessary I quote Brother Garvey to describe my mind state during the 90’s and early 2000’s. My friends who were treated unfairly by God in general and their parents in particular because their names sounds like Ofori Kwarteng Asiamah became the laughing stalk of any group that is discussing names. The irony of the situation is these friends of mine also felt cheated by nature.
In Ghana, my friends and I think that our local names somehow is not enough but rather adopting a foreign name will make you whole. So it is normal for you to be asked ‘’you don’t have an English name?” when you introduce yourself as Kwame Boakye.
From an intellectual point of view this can be attributed to one reason, the fact that psychologically Africans in general and Ghanaians in particularly have been made to think of themselves as a lesser race who have to always seek the approval of their “superiors”.
During colonial regime, the identity of Africans as a people was at a breaking point. Western invasion had brought most of us foreign thoughts and way of life that sometimes conflicts and ignore our culture and identity as a people. This was also due to the fact that they controlled our lives literally. We attended schools to gain western knowledge which was in close connection to the western way of living. Our trade and economy was also controlled by these onetime guests, from slavery to date.
We were made to believe and accept mentally and physically that we were an inferior part of the world through the colonial system which hit most part of the black continent. After a conference held in Berlin, Germany in 1884-1885, it ushered in a period of heightened colonial activity by European powers, which eliminated or overrode most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.
During and after the invasion and colonization, some Africans adopted foreign names of religious figures in their new found ‘godly experience’. Others also picked up western names to climb the social ladder while others also happened to be victims of the situation. Kwame Boakye, after the class had made him a laughing stalk decided to call himself Francis.
It is worth mentioning that this type of thinking is gradually waning bringing forth a new generation that is learning to be proud once again about the history and the culture of its people. Some people in this new generation have taken the more radical way by dropping their foreign names, others have made the change in their seeds and of course some think it does not really matter.
Whichever way you choose to look at it, there is one thing common to the various thoughts- we as a people are now aware that our names are not derogatory or uncivilized. It is a good thing, freedom is always refreshing.
Now that I am conscious of the fact that complexion doesn’t mean a thing because it all feels the same, I can’t help but to make mockery of the times in mental slavery.
Story by : Benjamin Afful