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So What's In His Name

Arinzechukwu Eliezar Odunukwe, my son turns 11 today! You are probably thinking that is one heck of a name, and a lot of modern day birth certificates are still not formatted to fit his full name. Ndigbo (the Igbo people) undoubtedly believe in preserving culture to include when naming children. A child is not given a name because it sounds cool, but the name is the vision and expectations you have for a child.

For this reason, my former husband and I never thought to give our son a name that was ambiguous where one wouldn’t know his ethnicity/race. Our son’s name would be a blessing we desire on his life. So what’s in his name when it comes to my son.

Arinzechukwu means thanks be to God or But for God’s favor in the Igbo language. I found out I was pregnant with Arinzechukwu two days after I received an email that I was being assigned a year tour in Afghanistan. I remember reading that email as I sat with my almost ten month old daughter who was latched on my nipple as my eyes begin to water. The email detailed that I was to leave for Afghanistan in February. The Navy cannot deploy you for one year after birth of your child, and February would have been two months past my deployment exemption. All I could think about was would my daughter remember me when I came back. However, two days after that crushing email I would have God’s favor to be pregnant with my son. Also,I knew Arinzechukwu was the name for my son when my in-laws unknowingly recommended the same name. Therefore, Arinzechukwu embodies God’s favor on my family, but also His favor I pray for in my son’s life.

Eliezar is actually Hebrew, and means God is my help. With my daughter her middle name honored one of my ancestors so we wanted to do the same with our son. We chose to honor my son’s great, great-grandfather whose name was Eliezar. I pray that my son at all times knows God is his help, and also to honor his ancestors.

Odunukwe is his last name obviously. Odunukwe is an Igbo last name and specifically the Nnewi people. As an African-American woman, descendant of slaves I have no clue what specific African countries my people came from, but I know West Africa especially because my mom’s Gullah Geechee heritage (another post). However, I remind my children to take pride in the fact that they can trace back to the exact place their ancestors are from in Nigeria. My son has traveled to Nigeria and walked in Nnewi on the very land of his ancestors.

So that is what’s in my son’s name. As I celebrate his birth today, I pray he continues to be proud of his Nigerian and African-American heritage. Also I pray that he boldly speaks his name never ashamed of its uniqueness, but rather proud of it and honors it through the life he lives. As I celebrate my son’s birth I especially ask for God’s favor and protection because he is maturing into a man, and as a black man in America he needs it because even doing something as simple as jogging or playing in the park is a risk of me joining the black mothers whose sons and daughters names are called because their Black Life Didn’t Matter.

Check out my other blog post on Raising Boys!

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