Habari Gani?


Today, on the second day of Kwanzaa we celebrate Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) which is to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, & speak for ourselves.

Today’s reflection on Kujichagulia comes from our Education Coordinator, Summer. Here’s what Summer is reflecting on about the power of naming ourselves for ourselves.

What’s in a name? One of the first pieces of information people usually learn about us is our name. Some of us give no thought to our names and simply accept them as our primary lifelong identifier. Others may spend their entire lives trying to avoid pain associated with their names. Although we are so much more than our names, having a moniker that truly reflects who we are, honors our family and ancestors, and affirms our greatest desires can be transformative in ways we’ve never imagined. I never considered my own name that exciting. I especially avoided sharing my middle name with anyone who wasn’t related to me. I grew up hiding my middle name because I didn’t like the way it sounded and because, ironically, I found out that it wasn’t actually being pronounced correctly. I intentionally left it out of my signature and would avoid telling anyone my whole government name. I always knew the history of my name, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel that it reflected me or who I aspire to be. I was named after Milcah, daughter of Haran and niece of Abraham from the book of Genesis. Knowing the history wasn’t enough to make me feel connected or courageous. I searched for other ways to build my self esteem and identity cause I knew my name was not going to be where I found it. That is, until I learned the actual meaning of my name which happens to be QUEEN. Yass, queen! Royalty, honor, confidence, and leadership – my definition of a true queen. 

Our names can guide us through open doors of opportunity or make us question if the creativity or cultural connection of our name will prevent an application from getting a second look. I didn’t care for my middle name, felt no connection to it, and basically pretended like I didn’t have one until I found meaning in it, and now I’m ready to tattoo it on my body as a reminder of my royal status bestowed upon me by my grandmother who blessed me with the name Milcah (pronounced MIHL-kah). As we focus on Kujichagulia and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be self-determined, we can start in the simplest place…our name.

Summer McBride


Ask yourself:

  • Does your name define you?
  • Does it reflect your ambitions?
  • Does it conflict with who you are as a person?
  • Are gender norms strongly reflected in a way that makes you feel misrepresented?
  • Does it connect you to a past you’d rather forget or propel you towards dreams you’re working to make a reality?

There are so many other questions you can pose and ponder to decide if your name fills you with joy or not. 


Practice Kujichagulia by naming yourself! Look up Swahili names and their meanings. Find a name that resonates with who you are and who you are becoming.