What’s on Miles’ Mind? POWER XIII: SONS IV – “What’s in a Name” By Miles Jaye

Who can forget the iconic scene from “Roots” and the powerful affirmation spoken by the proud
Mandinka father, Omoro Kinte, in naming his son, Kunte Kinte? He held the child upward to a clear, black, star-filled sky and proclaimed, “Kunta Kinte, behold, the only thing greater than yourself!”

What’s in a name? Power! Embedded in your name is identity and embedded in that identity is the power of generations. Alex Haley, the author of “Roots” is quoted: “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”

Sons carry forward a family’s name. When he is married, his bride takes his name and their children carry on that name along with the tradition, history and legacy associated with it. That is powerful and with that power comes the responsibility of protecting the honor of that name.

Most cultures take the family name very seriously and can account for many generations of the family tree. For them the family name is a source of pride, which comes with an awareness of self, as well as a sense of belonging—a connection to something greater than oneself.

What was meant by something greater than yourself? Some say Omoro was alluding to God in Heaven. Others suggest he was referring to the Galaxies– the Universe. But, just perhaps he was reflecting back to the spirits of countless ancestors in that starry night sky where billions of stars shone brightly. Perhaps he was saying to his infant son, behold, you are but a part of this great and majestic whole.

Our sons possess power in their names that they may take for granted. Do they know who they really are? Do we really need Ancestry.com to discover our identities or simply a clear night and a star-lit sky? The thought of gazing upward, witnessing the shimmers of the night, knowing that a human being, kin to me, stood beneath that same starry canopy hundreds, thousands of years ago, blows my mind. The thought of it is emotional and the notion that one day we will all be stars is truly humbling.

Back in the day “go make a name for yourself” was a common phrase intended to challenge and inspire. “Don’t shame the family name” was another. In the name is power and every son must bear the responsibility and, in some cases, the burden of carrying on the family name with honor.

Do your sons know who they are? Hip-hop stars build their success on catchy handles, but always seem to revert back to the family name: Carter, Jackson, Combs, Miller to name a few. Legacy, heritage, birthright, all require a predecessor. It’s all about connectivity. Does your son know who he is?

Does he know his daddy? Does he know who his grandfathers are? This will most likely be my final essay on sons, so allow me to stress, this whole son thing is no joke— it’s serious business and not something to be taken lightly. Kingdoms throughout history have always
taken sons seriously, some have feared first born sons. Sons became merchants, statesmen, scholars, warriors. Mob bosses feared the avenging sons of their enemies. Marriages were once arranged between the daughters and sons of royalty to end or prevent war and to create binding alliances.

Do we ask too much or too little of our sons? Do you know who your son is? What quality of man have you raised or are you raising? Did you name him after your favorite singer, point guard, or actor, or after his dad, grandfather or a formidable figure from the scriptures? I was named after a great jazz trumpet player, but I don’t know the names of my grandfathers.

What do our communities demand or require of our sons? What do our churches demand or require of our sons and what are they teaching them? Who is telling them what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable? Who is teaching them about the whole man, mind, body, spirit, and that the true measure of a man is not money, possessions or status? Who is telling them about greatness off the court, the field or a stage? Who is pointing them to the stars? Who is lifting them up to the stars, reminding them that only there, amongst the vastness of that celestial body, lies that which is greater than he.

That’s what’s on my mind!

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