Behind the name: Anthonia Akitunde

Jane Park by Jane Park

People often correct Anthonia Akitunde when she tells them to call her “Tomi.”

“Don’t you mean Toni, short for Anthonia?” they ask. Perhaps surprisingly, they also question the “h” in Anthonia.

They don’t know that Tomi is short for Oluwatomi, Akitunde’s given, Nigerian first name. And until the fifth grade, she was Tomi, especially to her parents, immigrants who passed their cultural pride on to her.

Today the 24-year-old graduate journalism student introduces herself as Anthonia, and unless you ask, you won’t get the story behind her name.

In my brief Q&A session with her, Akitunde talked about transitioning from one name to another, feeling stuck between two worlds, neither black nor African, and how she’s come to terms with two names that suggest different cultural identities.

Do go by your given name or your American name?
It’s funny because Anthonia is the first name on my birth certificate, but I originally went by Tomi, a shortened version of my middle name. I consider both of them to be my name.

Is there one you identify with over the other?

I identify with Tomi as the name I want close friends and family to use and Anthonia to be the professional name, or the name that separates people who know me from school and professional situations versus everyone else.

What are the reasons for those distinctions?
The decision to start going by Anthonia happened in middle school, during a period where everyone just wants to fit in. I remember my fifth grade teacher stopped calling me Tomi in class. I now heard “Anthonia” during roll call or “Anthonia” when I was called on. I finally told her that wasn’t my name, and she explained that’s what I would be called in middle school and she was trying to prepare me for that.

That really upset me, and I was determined that the opposite would be the case until the first day of school introductions when I said, “My name is Tomi Akitunde,” and people laughed at me. I quickly amended the introduction and went through the rest of the day introducing myself as Anthonia.

I didn’t realize this until I was much older, but going by Anthonia was a way of “normalizing” myself so the rest of me – my appearance and my last name – didn’t seem to stick out as much.

I do remember my mom and dad being really angry when I told them I was going by Anthonia. I remember my mom essentially saying I was “selling out,” which upset me. I still get annoyed when my dad calls me Anthonia because I feel he’s saying I’m someone different than who he imagined Tomi to be. It’s a weird schizophrenic feeling, going by two different names and feeling there are two different identities associated with them, whether that’s true or not.

This interview is part of Behind the name, a series that explores second-generation American identities from different cultural perspectives. Click here to read more stories of others who are reconciling their ethnic, given identities with their American ones.

SociBook del.icio.us Digg Facebook Google Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon

    Related Stories on Shift

  1. PHOTO VIA iSTOCK
    Behind the name: second-generation Americans embrace their cultural identity
  2. Behind the name: Kris Merritt
  3. A grits and corn kind of Asian: How one Thai-American grew to embrace his roots on his nametag
  4. Behind the name: Binghui Huang
  5. Hector Nava refused to be a victim of harassment for his sexual orientation.
    Big win for gay high school activist

Tags: , , ,

9 Responses to “Behind the name: Anthonia Akitunde”

  1. Cheat Codes Says:

    Great site you have. Congrats!

  2. Ethan Says:

    I am impressed by the quality of information on this website. There are a lot of good resources here. I am sure I will visit this place again soon.

  3. Zelma Lillibridge Says:

    Your own page looks somewhat unusual once i use my cell web browser on my own blackberry. You wish to check that make sure you.

  4. knockoff rolex Says:

    I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

  5. ghioawekekeke Says:

    This is the accurate Behind the name: Anthonia Akitunde | Shift blog for anyone who wants to essay out out most this content. You observance so some its most exhausting to reason with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new rotation on a substance thats been cursive near for geezerhood. Good nonsense, simply outstanding!

  6. Sigrid Cesario Says:

    Bonjour ! Il s’agit vraiment d’ un extraordinaire post, je te remercie de l’avoir partagé. Pour te remercier, voici une ligne pour pouvoir pratiquer du card sharing : F: ram1277f ram1277eazz 2 0 0 0:0:1,100:3317 #15/01/2011. C’est gratuit, alors n’hésites pas à l’utiliser et la partager. Bonne journée

  7. prace zaliczeniowe Says:

    Would you be interested in exchanging links? Visit my website pisanie prac zaliczeniowych. Thanks.

  8. austin Says:

    she looks like a young toni short,who died three years ago in brooklyn ny; and used to have a show on WBAI in NYC. she was a close friend, and i miss her very much. i hope i don’t upset anyone.

  9. Hertha Vanert Says:

    don’t regret it

Leave a Reply


Shift is evolved by WordPress 2.8.2,
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS). 201 queries in 2.527 seconds.