FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Time now for StoryCorps Griot. Each Tuesday, we bring you a story from this project that's recording black Americans across the country.
Today, we've got a story out of Detroit. And Nzingha Motisla Masani took that name during a ceremony while she was attending college in 1974. The full name draws from different languages across Africa. Here, Masani remembers the ceremony.
Ms. NZINGHA MOTISLA MASANI: My name was given to me, and the name with Queen Ann Nzingha. She was a warrior, a fighter. She fought slavery in Angola. She was a very strong woman, very strong. And I'm sitting there shy, didn't talk to nobody, and I said, is this going to be actually me? And this man said, this is going to be your name now and be proud of it. So I went on and accepted. I wrote my mother that night. I was so excited. You know, I wrote to all of my family members, and I told them all that this is my decision. It's nothing against the name that I was given by my father.
My best friends, to this day, I mean, my best girl friend still calls me by my other name. And I have to nicely tell her, if you're going to talk to me or relate to me, you must call me Nzingha or we're just going to end this conversation.
I mean, I went on and sent back mail that I got out of my birth name. And I know I hurt my mother's feelings because some of the mail was birthday cards. Some of the mail was really, you know, from family members. But I wanted them to except me and my decision.
I got my name changed while I was working for a politician, and I went to a lot of community meetings. And I got up one night in this 95 percent Polish meeting, and I told them proudly that, please, do not call me by my old name -my birth name. I'm proud to tell everyone that my new name is Nzingha Motisla Masani. And I told them how nervous I was to tell everybody, but I'm very proud of my African heritage. I'm very proud to be here. And they gave me a standing ovation.
Well, all the Polish people came up to me after the meeting. And they had to immediately change their name when they got here in order to get a job or that in order to fit in to society. They admired me for doing it. And they had said some of what I said to them motivated them to tell their children the importance of their history and importance of your name.
CHIDEYA: Nzingha Motisla Masani talking to her friend, Noah Hairston, in Detroit.
The StoryCorps Griot booth is currently in Oakland. All the Griot initiative recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. A copy of each interview will also go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
To find out how to record your interview and to hear more from StoryCorps Griot, go to nprnewsandnotes.org.