By Erickka Sy Savané

Back in the day, naming your son after his father was an honored family tradition. You’d have Eddie and Lil’ Eddie. No one questioned whether it was a good idea, and when you spent 20 minutes on the phone talking to Bobby Sr. instead of Junior you laughed and kept on going.
Today, however, people are breaking with tradition and stepping out on their own for many reasons. In fact, some people love nothing better than giving a son his own unique name. Had you ever heard of the name Shemar before actor Shemar Moore? Probably not, since his name is a combo of his mom and dad. Now boys named Shemar are common…
But really, there are pros and cons to naming a son after his dad, so if you're currently struggling with what to do, hopefully this list can help!

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REASONS TO NAME YOUR SON AFTER HIS FATHER

1. A 1940’s study showed that III’s, IV’s and V’s don’t have as many mental health issues as the general population. So the peace of mind that comes from having a family name can increase your chances of birthing the next Bill Gates III or Tom Cruise IV.

2. A 1980 study showed that sons named after their dad had fewer behavioral problems, which makes sense because a kid is constantly aware that he is carrying that name. It’s like having dad breathing down your neck 24/7.

3. It’s the ultimate family bond. Dad’s with a namesake are more aware that the child is representing him in the world.

4. It gives your son something to live into. George Bush Jr. Definitely followed in the footsteps of George Bush Sr.

5. When dad has a fancy name like Sammy Davis Jr. It’s like automatic PR.

6. A family name is handy when you just don’t want to spend countless hours coming up with a new name. Just name him after his or your dad already!

7. It can encourage a 'wandering' dad to stick around. Can Ronald Sr. just turn his back on Ron Jr. so easily?


REASONS NOT TO NAME YOUR SON AFTER HIS FATHER

1. You’re pregnant by someone with a name like Charles Manson. Probably not a good name to pass on.

2. You don’t want him being called "Jr." and you hate the word Lil’ on a grown ass man.

3. You don’t want your son getting used to being II or III. It’s not his lot in life to follow any man, not even his dad, and his dad's dad.

4. There are ten people in the family with the same name. Talk about a chip off the old block!

5. You’re stealing his identity. Did George Bush Jr. really want to become President or did he want to be an artist? (Seen any of his paintings?)

6. You’re not really sure he’s the father. Maybe you should wait for Maury and the results of the DNA test.

7. His name is Djakarakabeebojalagyshu. It’s got to be pronounceable.

8. Dad hasn't been paying his bills so creditors are constantly calling you. 

So what do you think? Yay or Nay to naming a son after dad?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com

By Erickka Sy Savané

Back in the day, naming your son after his father was an honored family tradition. You’d have Eddie and Lil’ Eddie. No one questioned whether it was a good idea, and when you spent 20 minutes on the phone talking to Bobby Sr. instead of Junior you laughed and kept on going.
Today, however, people are breaking with tradition and stepping out on their own for many reasons. In fact, some people love nothing better than giving a son his own unique name. Had you ever heard of the name Shemar before actor Shemar Moore? Probably not, since his name is a combo of his mom and dad. Now boys named Shemar are common…
But really, there are pros and cons to naming a son after his dad, so if you're currently struggling with what to do, hopefully this list can help!

Continue


REASONS TO NAME YOUR SON AFTER HIS FATHER

1. A 1940’s study showed that III’s, IV’s and V’s don’t have as many mental health issues as the general population. So the peace of mind that comes from having a family name can increase your chances of birthing the next Bill Gates III or Tom Cruise IV.

2. A 1980 study showed that sons named after their dad had fewer behavioral problems, which makes sense because a kid is constantly aware that he is carrying that name. It’s like having dad breathing down your neck 24/7.

3. It’s the ultimate family bond. Dad’s with a namesake are more aware that the child is representing him in the world.

4. It gives your son something to live into. George Bush Jr. Definitely followed in the footsteps of George Bush Sr.

5. When dad has a fancy name like Sammy Davis Jr. It’s like automatic PR.

6. A family name is handy when you just don’t want to spend countless hours coming up with a new name. Just name him after his or your dad already!

7. It can encourage a 'wandering' dad to stick around. Can Ronald Sr. just turn his back on Ron Jr. so easily?


REASONS NOT TO NAME YOUR SON AFTER HIS FATHER

1. You’re pregnant by someone with a name like Charles Manson. Probably not a good name to pass on.

2. You don’t want him being called "Jr." and you hate the word Lil’ on a grown ass man.

3. You don’t want your son getting used to being II or III. It’s not his lot in life to follow any man, not even his dad, and his dad's dad.

4. There are ten people in the family with the same name. Talk about a chip off the old block!

5. You’re stealing his identity. Did George Bush Jr. really want to become President or did he want to be an artist? (Seen any of his paintings?)

6. You’re not really sure he’s the father. Maybe you should wait for Maury and the results of the DNA test.

7. His name is Djakarakabeebojalagyshu. It’s got to be pronounceable.

8. Dad hasn't been paying his bills so creditors are constantly calling you. 

So what do you think? Yay or Nay to naming a son after dad?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com
LaVerne Knighten & Son Willie Knighten
By Erickka Sy Savané

African Americans are only 13% of the American population but make up the majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated, according to a study conducted by the National Registry of Exonerations on race and wrongful convictions. Blacks constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the Registry (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.” This racial disparity exist for all major crime categories, but the report focused on the three types of crimes producing the largest numbers of exonerations in the Registry: murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes.

This, however, was not on Laverne Knighten's mind in 1996, when her oldest son, Willie Knighten, was issed a life sentence in connection with a drive-by murder in Toledo, Ohio. For any mom this would be devastating news, but what made it even worse was the she knew deep in her heart that her son was innocent.
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Her first reaction was to blame herself, perhaps if she and her husband hadn’t both worked full-time time jobs she could have stayed home and things might have turned out different. Or maybe she should have been stricter when she realized that he was going astray. Eventually, she was able to see that she had a choice in how she was going to deal with his life sentence and it was a series of choices that kept her sane throughout the years he served in prison, leading to the day he was released.

The first choice that 50-something year-old Laverne made following the sentencing of her son was deciding to end the pity party that had been going full-blast since the moment he was convicted. It was a co-worker at the factory where she worked, who was relentless in getting Laverne to see that blaming herself for what happened was ultimately going to destroy her. She says,
“In time, I was able to accept what happened and let God take care of the things that I could not change. I knew that Willie didn’t kill that man, but I had to look at some of the things that he did do. I knew that he was running the streets and doing drugs, so I realized that it could be much worse. At least in prison, I wouldn’t have to worry about a phone call in the middle of the night telling me that I would have to go identify my son.”
Now that Laverne had accepted the situation for what it was, she was able to take the next step. She became ‘Little Willie’s’ biggest supporter, along with her husband of 47 years, Pastor Willie Knighten, and tons of church members and friends. They wrote letters to the judge, signed petitions and showed up to one of Little Willie’s hearings via chartered bus, determined to do whatever it would take to free Willie.

Laverne and her crew were no joke. But still, the years passed, each one packed with holidays, special moments, and the two toddlers that Willie left behind growing up fast. What does that do to mother’s  faith? For Laverne, the passing years brought with it the opportunity to make another choice.

“I told myself that God may not always be there right when you want him, but he’s always on time. I believed everyday that went by, we were getting closer to the time when he’d be coming home.”

About six years into Willie’s sentence, Laverne received an unexpected phone call from the mother of the man Willie was convicted of murdering. She told Laverne that she didn’t believe that her son had killed her son and it had been weighing heavily on her mind. She was sorry, and wanted to arrange a meeting with the Judge.

For Laverne this looked like a turning point. Was it the answer to her prayers? With a mix of anticipation and excitement they met with the Judge, armed with information that the victim’s mom had never presented before. However, things didn’t go quite as planned. The Judge had doubts. Why hadn’t she presented this information earlier? For now, Willie would remain behind bars. Laverne was devastated again. But again she had a choice to make.

So she dug her heels in deeper, throwing even more love and support behind Willie, making sure that she and her husband were there for every single visit, whether he was at a facility right in Toledo where they lived, or moved to a prison a few hours away. It was during those visits that she became aware that many of the inmates didn’t have the support that she was giving Willie. In fact, Willie told her that some inmates were committing suicide from being abandoned by friends and family. LaVerne wasn’t having any of that, and became a surrogate mother to some of Willie’s friends.

“My husband and I sent packages and little things to the inmates that didn’t have anyone. Sometimes we sent money. One of his friend’s mom had died was while he was locked up, so I adopted him as my son. If you got a loving heart you know that God is going to bless you regardless. It seemed like every time we reached out to them God blessed us more.”

Lifted by his mom’s unwavering support, Willie joined in on the fight, writing letters to the judge, re-proclaiming his innocence, presenting him with new evidence whenever there was a change to the story, which by that time, was happening with greater frequency. More witnesses began coming forward, changing their testimonies, at one point the judge ordered Willie to take a polygraph (lie detector) test, which he passed three times. Even though polygraph tests results aren’t admissible in court, they did however, place doubt in the judge’s mind. Had he unfairly convicted Willie?

Twelve years into Willie’s life sentence, the Judge was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before dying, he wrote a heartfelt letter to the Ohio Parole Board stating that he believed he was wrong in convicting Willie of murder, and in good conscious he could not leave this earth without informing them. Shortly after he died, and sure enough the Governor of Ohio granted Willie Executive Clemency. After serving almost 13 years, Willie was free.

And what did it mean to his mother?

“It meant a new beginning for the whole family, and more importantly for Willie, as I was able to share with him what I learned during those 13 years. He could be anything that he wanted to be; it’s all a matter of choice. ”

This month marks the six-year anniversary that Willie was released from prison. As of today, he is an anti-gang activist who mentors at-risk youth, he sits on the board of directors for the Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio, and serves as a member of the African American Leadership Caucus (AALC). To hear more about his story, check out his Toledo TedX Talk.

This article appeared on Madamenoire.com

Do you know someone wrongly imprisoned?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com
Michelle Obama
By Mwabi Kaira

Michelle Obama was recently interviewed by poet Elizabeth Alexander at the first annual Obama Foundation Summit.  What she said about parenting is not a new sentiment.  Michelle said, "It's like the problem in the world today is we love our boys, and we raise our girls. We raise them to be strong, and sometimes we take care not to hurt men and I think we pay for that a little bit and that's a 'we' thing because we raise them.  It's powerful to have strong men but what does that strength mean?" she asked. "You know, does it mean respect? Does it mean responsibility? Does it mean compassion? Or are we protecting our men too much so they feel a little entitled and a little, you know, a little self-righteous sometimes? But, that’s kind of on us too as women and mothers, you know, as we nurture men and push girls to be perfect."

Here's why Michelle's words gave me pause.

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She doesn’t have sons.

Yes, I realize this was a general statement but had she related it back to growing up with a brother and the apparent different treatment they received with being nurtured versus being pushed to be perfect, pause would not have been necessary. Actress Gabourey Sidibe took to Instagram with Michelle’s clip and captioned it, “I love her so much. I say this all the time! Even my brother will tell you that we basically lived in completely different households, even though we were under the same roof.  Can we start raising these boys to be strong black women cuz I’m very tired.”

Gabourey Sidibe's instagram
Maybe I’m overly sensitive when anyone speaks about the shortcomings of boys because I am a mother of two teenage sons who has gone out of her way to raise my boys and not just love them.  Add raising them in this climate where we have seen Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Mike Brown be killed just because they are boys who happen to be black, and this mothering black sons thing takes on a whole different turn.  I know nothing about raising daughters and would never speak on it.  I have lived long enough to know that being vocal about a subject is completely different from actually living it.

Michelle Obama said what I have heard since I was a young girl.  Because I heard and saw it, I made a conscious decision to work extremely hard to raise my sons to become strong, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, feminist men.  I have taught my sons accountability since they were toddlers and I challenge them on not only being responsible for the parts they play in situations but to own them as well.  I encourage them to treat everyone the same from the janitor to the CEO. I have taught them to show respect to everyone and to handle adversity with grace.  I have taught them that rejection is redirection to better things and to not take it so hard.  My sons are not perfect and I wish they were better cleaners when it comes to their rooms but overall they are on the right path and I am proud of them.  I am trying my best to love and raise them and I know I’m not the only mother of sons who feels this way.

Should a mom without sons speak on how they're being raised?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her athttp://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/