In this touching and well-written story, Ahamefule J. Oluo, a man of African descent, discovers the power of a name to shape — or distort — a life’s destiny. A clip:
When my father abandoned us, he left very little behind: a few photos, an empty storage chest, a copy of his doctoral thesis on the Biafran War… and the name he had given me, Ahamefule J. Oluo.*** Ahamefule is a very uncommon Nigerian name that literally translates to “let my name not be forgotten,” a rather ironic meaning for a five-syllable first name. In fact, most people I meet find it absolutely impossible to remember.****
“LET MY NAME NOT BE FORGOTTEN.” For my entire life, I had viewed my name as a mandate handed down from the larger-than-life, Mufasa-esque vision of my father that had been growing in my head for as long as I could remember. “MAKE YOUR MARK! BE SPECTACULAR! DON’T LET ANYONE FORGET THE DAY THAT THEY MET THE ONE AND ONLY AHAMEFULE J. OLUO!”
“Yes, cloud-dad. I won’t let you down.”
It is the name of a legend, it is the name of a star, it is the name of an artist. It is not the name of an accountant. So why did he give me this name if he had hoped I would do something sensible with my life? Ahamefule is not the name of a sensible man.
The question haunted me for years, and I had always thought that someday I would have the courage and the opportunity to ask my father about it, once and for all, face-to-face. But on the evening of February 21, 2006, I received a call from a Nigerian half-brother I had never met, informing me that our father had passed away at the age of 76 due to complications from diabetes.
For the whole piece, including a twisty discovery regarding the name Ahamefule, see The Stranger’s “My Father Is an African Immigrant and My Mother Is a White Girl from Kansas and I Am Not the President of the United States.”