My mother wanted to name me Nina.

The dreamer.

Talented, highly flavored and strong.

A woman whose voice spanned generations.

A woman whose octaves shook foundations and sensibilities.

A woman whose complexion challenged common colors, her tone an offering to forgotten gods.


Too dark, too dark.

Too loud.

Too colored.

Not acquiescing our assaulting assimilation.

Not a name for a baby lighter than a brown paper bag.

Not a name for a little girl conforming to the structures of script.

Not a name for a girl cowering in dank shadows nursing bruises like a wounded animal.

Not a name for a young woman violently rejecting her being

as if she could extract blood from stone.


A name for a woman come into her own like a prodigal sun.

Rough. Shining. Soft. Blinding.

A name for a woman that knows what she is.

A name for a woman who sang light into darkness.


This is not what they call me.


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