Why did you name me Hannah?

Let’s play a game. If you had to guess my name (having never known it or having never met me) what do I look like? An Ashley? Melody? Ciara? Shannell?

Growing up I hated my name. Not because I didn’t necessarily like it, but because it was so popular where I grew up. Lancaster county is a largely Christian region (especially due to Amish, Mennonite roots) so a biblical name like Hannah is very popular.

I had at least four other Hannah is my graduating class. And although that doesn’t seem like much—in a small town that means there are often two Hannahs in one class at a time.

Later on, in high school and college, I hated my name because I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like it because it isn’t a “black girl name”. For example, I ran track in highschool. One of my teammates names was Tinesha. Tinesha (forgive me if I’m misspelling) was white. When we went to get our times at the end of the 200 meter, I got Tinesha’s times and Tinesha’s got Hannah’s times. We used to joke about it.

My adoptive parents named me—let the record show—my birth mother wanted them to name me. She chose them when she was expecting me. Therefore, they named their baby when I was born.

Even now there are times where I think —really mom? Hannah?!! Of all the names?! It doesn’t get much whiter than Hannah. Maybe Molly—but that’s got to be it. Molly first then Hannah.

It’s been a journey. But I’ve grown to like it. I wouldn’t say love it because that’d be a lie, but I definitely can say I’ve grown to like it. First, it’s unique just like me. I mean I’d put money on the fact that I’m one of the four black Hannahs worldwide. It means “graceful”. I am in no way graceful —but I would say my life has been full of grace.

I do want to say this about names though. White parents: 1. If you’re adopting children who were already named by their first family—Do not rename them. 2. Think about the significance of culture and history when naming your non-white children.

As much as I’ve grown to accept my name as my own. That’s all it is. I wish I felt more of a sense of significance behind my name.

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