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Brazilian Couple Denied the Right to Give Child an African-Inspired Name


Cizinho Afreeka, wife Jéssica Juliana, and child Makeda

Brazilian officials have denied a couple requesting to register their newborn with an African-inspired name because they fear the name could be embarrassing in the future.

A Black Brazilian couple gave birth to a baby girl on March 16 in the western zone of Rio de Janeiro. Since the child’s birth, the country’s registry has denied Cizinho Afreeka and his wife Jéssica Juliana the chance to name their child Makeda Foluke — meaning “grandiose that is at the care of God.”

The name cannot be placed on the birth certificate due to concerns raised from country officials, reports Brazilian TV network R7.

The parents say the name is a combination of East and West African languages. Makeda originates from what Ethiopians have called the rainha de Sabá, or Queen of Sheba. Foluke is a west African Yoruba name.

The local registry of the 2nd district of São João de Meriti claim the name would bring the child future distress and hardships because her name is foreign sounding.

“It’s a form of racism that takes place in Brazil: the racism of subtleties. It should be very natural a man and a Black woman adopting an African name, as the country is made up of three races. It is difficult to prove. Only those in this skin is knows,” said 44-year-old Cizinho Afreeka.

According to the Brazilian Internal Affairs Division of the Court of Rio, the registration office submitted a charge of procedure of doubt to a judge. This means that the registration office believed that the parents were not making a sound decision that would best suit the child. So they took matters into their own hands. The registration office recommended that the parents add a Portuguese name to the first name in order to make her life easier.

“We decided together quite in early in the pregnancy and we came to call her Makeda. Family and friends already speak naturally because we were inserting this. What’s the problem with naming her Makeda if they register so many European names,” said Jéssica Juliana.

The Internal Affairs Division concluded that the pronunciation was the main factor. According to them the name makes no sense in Portuguese which “could provide possible future racism and bullying for the person in social life.” They suggested changing the name to Ana Maria Makeda or something along the lines of that.

Luiz Fernando, a civil registration official, said, “The procedure is necessary with any name that can be used to leave the child in a vexatious situation or bullying. You have to filter. These procedures are normal, no one refused to do the registration.”

This event is one of many where Black people in the country have been denied access to their African roots.

360 Nobs reported that the family is taking legal action. At the moment the child’s parents have appealed to a judge to see if they can officially give her the African name they intended.

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