I was about 14 when I was nominated for an award celebrating black achievers during black history month. It was a large event where young people and parents were invited from multiple schools. The R Kelly song ‘I believe I can fly’ was playing in the background and as I sat with my parents I remember feeling extremely excited and proud.
I will never forget the moment when the person giving out the awards called my full name Abigail Okunlola …….his extremely poor and stretched out attempt at pronouncing my surname which felt like it lasted about 30 seconds meant the whole crowd erupted in a fit of laughter. As I walked up to the stage to collect my award I felt anything but proud and excited, I felt ashamed and thought how could he possibly be that off the mark?
It was one of the many experiences growing up as a Black British African where I felt my heritage was made a mockery of and at worst was a barrier to me achieving my potential
Along my career journey I learnt:
- To always be proud of my heritage as my name has so much depth and meaning to it ‘Gift from God’
- That I don’t have to accept mispronunciations or shortening of my name for other peoples convenience if that’s not what I want
- That I have a voice to teach people how to pronounce my name as well as complain if I feel its being made a mockery of.
The next time you fill in that job application, go to an interview or event, say your name loud and proud! 🙂