|Ms. "Jordan" Ladd|
Now, The Niagara Falls Reporter printed, and I quote, "Allah is a convert to Islam and changed his name as is customary for Muslims converts."
I am not sure where they got this from. I never spoke to anyone from The Niagara Falls Reporter about the weather let alone religion. I never said that, it's not in my press release, it's not in anything I've published online, and it is completely inaccurate. I am not Muslim nor was my name change for religious reasons. The Niagara Falls Reporter did accurately state, "Allah says his ancestor was Rev. Josiah Henson, who is said to be the inspiration for the fugitive slave in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'." Yet it's this very part of my ancestry that would have given them more insight about me, my family background, and my name change if they asked me. Since they didn't, I can tell you directly.
|Article in the Niagara Gazette about my Grandmother Inez Frank (1986)|
When some of my ancestors were brought to America during the trans-atlantic slave trade, they were enslaved and forced to give up their cultural identity, regardless of their religious ideology. They no longer were allowed to speak their own language, use their own names, maintain the same diet, or even establish stable family units. This process continued, by law, for approximately nine generations or three hundred and ten years. So while some people of Italian descent can trace their last name to an actual village in modern day Italy, or others can trace their lineage to a Family Crest or Coat of Arms, tracing my lineage has consisted of looking at cargo logs for ships or doing DNA tracking to find out the geographic location of my ancestors. The trans-atlantic slave trade, and slavery, interrupted the cultural identity and arrested the development of an entire group people. It interrupted the cultural identity and arrested the development of the people enslaved and the slave holders.
In indigenous societies of the past and today, our birth names where a central part of our cultural identity and role we played within our societies. For example, when a child was born a name would be given to them, usually by our elders, to communicate a part of that child's purpose and destiny. This was sacred and ceremonial, not done without consideration. If the child's name meant "sincere counsel", that was an important role our elders knew our society needed to birth and cultivate. It's no different than people giving birth to a child and providing them with all the support and resources they need to become a productive member of society. Many of our ancestors wisely took it a step further by making sure this support was reinforced by a person's actual name. So instead of simply providing a child with the resources to become sincere counsel, we gave them that name to live up to as an attribute. During slavery this cultural tradition was interrupted. Slaves who were bred to produce children for labor no longer had the power to name them. These children were sold off to other plantations and given names to identify them as a master's property. So a slave named "Smith" was identified as Master Smith's slave. "Walking Henson" was known as Henson's slave who walked alot. Not only was this naming method used to track the slave masters property, but it was also used for insurance purposes. There are many wealthy companies and families today, that accumulated their wealth, from Slave Insurance.
Many present day African-Americans can trace the last names we currently have, whether it's English, French, or etc. directly to the slave masters who once owned our ancestors. Again, regardless of our ancestors religious views or how we chose to worship, this slavery system legally interrupted our cultural identity and arrested the development of us all.
|Article in the Buffalo News and letter from African Ancestry Inc.|
about my International Family Tree Project (2005)
The reason I legally changed my name was to reconnect to my ancestors cultural identity, and build upon this rich legacy that was almost entirely destroyed. In 2005 I received a grant for my L.I.F.E. Afterschool Program and partnered with the Washington DC based genetics company African Ancestry Inc. to create an International Family Tree Project. With this Project I was able to provide twenty DNA Kits, free of charge, to families in our Community, Pittsburgh, Missouri, and Canada who were interested in finding out where their maternal ancestry came from. I found out my maternal ancestors came from Cameroon and my tribal affiliation is the Tikar Tribe. Saladin, pronounced Sa-la-dean means "Honor or Righteousness of the faith". A great Muslim King popularized this Arabic name, yet the name is Arabic, not Muslim. Arabic does not equal Muslim and to assume that would be no different than assuming my nephew plays basketball just because he has the name "Jordan." My middle name Quanaah, pronounced Kwa-ni-ah means "fragrant". In honor of my indigenous american (native american) ancestry, I chose this name. It's Quahadi in origin and comes from the Last Comanche Chief Quanah Parker; who successfully made the transition from Chief to Statesman and was responsible for founding The Native American Church. My last name, Allah, is also Arabic which means "The God." Again, Arabic does not equal Muslim. There are many arabic speaking Christians and other Religions who refer to God as Allah, simply because they speak the arabic language. So my name, Saladin Quanaah Allah, means "The honorable faith and fragrance of the God." Since taking this step to change my name in 1999, I have since published a book entitled 'How To Change Your Name Without A Lawyer' and have assisted many others change their name for various reasons (cultural, religious, stage name, immigrants, and etc.)
In closing, I didn't appreciate the Niagara Falls Reporter for even citing what they believe my religion to be, making an assumption about what it is, and then printing misinformation without even asking me about my worldview or my reasoning for changing my name. That was poor reporting and prejudiced. I am a scientist of life and study all religions. I am just as much Muslim as our Commander and Chief, President Barack Hussein Obama. My perspective about any religion is that people should strive to have a personal relationship with who they worship. A relationship that's so personal, that they strive to live in such a way that others can see their creator within them.