Note: My intentions in this blog is to publicly announce my name change and to ask that no one assume any motive I have not personally given for it. In this blog, I have provided a brief summary of my motives. My family should continue to expect the same energy I have always demonstrated and call me what they always have, I actually prefer that. I recommend the same for childhood friends and any elder who had a hand in raising me. But for everyone else, regardless of how long I’ve known you; my legal name is Quavi Ogbar. Pronunciation: “Kway-VEE_ OG-BA”.
I was about 8 or 9 years old the first time I saw Alex Haley’s TV series “Roots”. I remember how amazed I was that Haley knew the name of one of his own African ancestors. I thought he was so lucky, and truthfully, he was. It is not debated that the vast majority of Black Americans have no knowledge of their African ancestors’ names, histories, or cultures. This is one of the many ways slavery in this country disadvantaged us. The knowledge of our African ancestors name’s, in a very real sense, was stolen from us. And I always thought that if I ever had an opportunity to restore what was stolen, that I would. This is one of the most important reasons I decided to change my name. Due to the various systems of oppression and terror that followed emancipation, black people all over the south had neither the time nor proper resources to help them decide what they wanted to be called after the end of slavery. When United States Census takers visited the homes of newly freed black folk in 1870, asking who they were, the vast majority decided to retain the European surnames they were formerly enslaved under. I have found this to be true in several branches of my family and I expect to continue finding more evidence of it.
My new legal name is Quavi Casey Ogbar. In some West African traditions, the son’s surname is the father’s first name, and this is one reason I have decided to take “Ogbar” as my new surname rather than “Ogumba”. Admittedly, I am following this name order after another cousin who was the first to reclaim our African ancestor’s name. My son also is now Quavi Ogbar, and my wife Davida is now Davida Ogbar.
There are a couple things I’m afraid of occurring as a result of sharing this news. I never assumed that all the people who knew me would react the same to the news of my name change. Over the past 3 months, I’ve observed various reactions, and I expect to continue experiencing new ones. Some people may find it perplexing that I would change my name at all. They may think the change is dramatic and unnecessary. Others may think I’m trying too hard to reach for an African identity that appears to them to be inauthentic, seeing that I am a “Black American”. And others may not even have the words to describe their perplexity, they just know they don’t like it. Whatever the thoughts may be, they are truly just assumptions until the noted people talked to me personally. However, I plead that anyone who may feel perplexed about my name change not jump to any assumptions. It took me nearly 2 years to come to grips with all the information and experiences that led to me changing my name. And if it took me nearly 2 years, how much more should I allow others to come to grips with it! I have shared some of my journey on social media, but personally experiencing the journey played a huge role in my understanding, and I can’t assume all people will have the time to do the same. So I would strongly caution that no one assumes anything. For those who are perplexed about my name change, it is necessary to make the intellectual commitment to find out from me why I did so. If a person skips that process, then they’re unfairly deeming to me motives I may not have.
Why am I changing my name? The Short Answer
I started seriously researching several branches of my family’s ancestry about three years ago. It has been a good journey for me as a side hobby and it continues to reward me with valuable information about my family’s historical experiences. The biggest reward so far, was coming across the research that identified an known African ancestor through my daddy’s maternal line. A typewritten document of family oral history from the 1970’s, records the origins of one particular branch of my family. The bulk of the research for this oral history has already been contributed by another family member, from whom I learned this historical narrative. The typewritten oral history reveals that my African ancestor was purchased by a white slave owner named William Edwards, who renamed him Luke. However, his real name was “Ogbar Ogumba”. “Ogbar Ogumba” is my 7x great-grandfather, born in West Africa around 1790. He was purchased in the United States by William Edwards and enslaved in Panola County, Mississippi. I have studied the resources that contributed to this historical narrative by other family members. I’ve made multiple trips to Panola County, Mississippi to review related records within the courthouse. I have held the original will of the slave owner in my hands. The inventory list of the slave owner’s will lists the names of all his slaves, including my African ancestor. My family has personally walked the grounds of the former plantation. We have even visited the grave-sites of the slave owner and my enslaved ancestors.
My wife and son holding the original will that lists the names of our ancestors
The main reason I decided to change my name was because of the existence of the family’s typewritten document based on oral history. Because of this document, I now have the privilege of thinking critically about an oral history of my African ancestor. Many Black Americans don’t have a family document in their possession to do this. The vast majority of us have nothing to help us identify who our ancestors were and where they came from. All black victims of the transatlantic slave trade have the right to know their ancestral history, but too many generations of white Americans have collectively forced that right away from us, leaving us in the dark. But because of the existence of my family’s oral history, I have the privilege of personally restoring a name that rightly reflects the origins of my genetic DNA – Africa.
A part of the two page typewritten oral history by Sidney D Edwards (b.1913)
I have many privileges because of this oral history. I can participate in something so basic as thinking about the lived experiences of my ancestors. I’m capable of having conversations about various probabilities that are not based on some vague idea “of an ancestor”, but an actual known ancestor that I can trace through my ancestry. I can do research and travel to the places my ancestors might have been. I can debate with different family members who may have a different opinion of our oral history (while we agree on the patriarch, we differ on origin: one branch speculates that our African father was born in present day Ghana and another Nigeria). In doing this, we’re not exchanging ideas about white people, but rather exchanging ideas about our own people! I have the option of doing DNA analysis with a sharper focus. I can learn languages, cultures, and histories of specific regions of West Africa with a renewed rigor and skin in the game. I can re-associate myself with something other than an African American identity that finds its origins in 1619. Now I can explore what my humanness looked like before 1619! It is a huge privilege having this oral history, and I am indebted to the scribe-like actions of my distant cousin Sidney D Edwards (b. 1913-1986) for having the desire to write our history down in his lifetime!
In my next blog, I will share more of my family’s historical narrative in detail. Readers will have the opportunity to see more of the facts, limitations, and even some inaccuracies within the narrative itself. So, something to keep an eye out for. My intentions in this blog was to publicly announce my name change and to ask that no one assume any motive I have not personally given for it. I have provided a brief summary of my motives, as well as two critical reasons for why I changed my name. And my words truly are as I have said. My family should continue to expect the same energy I have always demonstrated. I also expect my family to call me what they always have, I actually prefer that. I recommend the same for childhood friends and any elder who had a hand in raising me. But for everyone else, regardless of how long I’ve known you; my legal name is Quavi Ogbar. Pronunciation: “Kway-VEE_ OG-BA”.