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NaPoMo QOTD What's In A Name? For Me, 22 Years Of "Oh, I Thought You Were Black...Are You Jewish?"

"Old Four Eyes fled
to safety in the danger zones
Tom Swift and Kubla Khan traversed."
- Names by Robert Hayden* (PoLau '76-'78)

My name is Jerusha Isabelle Rodgers and I'm not going to say that people have certain stereotypes in their mind before they meet me, but in college I was roomed with girls named Baby Gomez and Chinesta. Hayden's poem beautifully illustrates the importance of names, not just the ones our parents give us, but the ones our peers give us, too. And as an African-American man born in 1913, I feel like Robert Hayden knows alot about that.

I must admit, though not proudly, I had a less than polite nickname for Ms. Gomez. She had this deviated septum or post-nasal drip problem or something. She snorted. And she hid candy everywhere in our room. Seriously. It was gross. In a fit of frustration I declared that she sounded like a pig searching for truffles. My brother heard Sgt. Truffles. It stuck. At first I thought it was hilarious (a part of me still does), but when I see her on campus, I feel a twinge of guilt. Of stupidity.

Be kind. Keep in mind that there's alot in a name. History and love, ignorance and hate, indifference and title.

*From The Poets Laureate Anthology, published by W.W. Norton in association with the Library of Congress. Poem copyright Robert Hayden.


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