What's in a name? A personal Juneteenth story shows history's impact on the present

Doyin Richards's name has more of a story than most.

The writer, speaker and social media influencer shared a bit of his family's history that ties directly into the Juneteenth holiday and gives us a glimpse of how that history still directly impacts present generations.

He wrote on Facebook:


Doyin Richards/Facebook

"Here's my personal Juneteenth story/history lesson.

When slavery was abolished, newly-freed slaves had the choice of making a life for themselves in America or going back home to Africa. Many of my ancestors chose the latter option and moved to a place aptly named 'Freetown' which to this day is the largest city in Sierra Leone (a West African country).

As you probably would assume, slaves had their names taken from them and changed to something 'more American', like Stephen, Michael, or Daniel - because if slave owners forcibly took them from their homelands, they sure as hell weren't going to have the courtesy of learning how to pronounce their birth names.

Because of that, many newly-freed slaves in Freetown changed their names back to common surnames from the Yoruba language - like 'Adewole' for example. But here's the interesting thing - my ancestors chose to keep their slave owners' last name of Richards. But why? Nobody knows for sure, but many in my family's lineage believes it's because we had benevolent slave owners (that's the leader in the 'oxymoron hall of fame') and decided to keep it.

Fast-forward to the time when me and my two brothers showed up on earth, my dad (who was born and raised in Freetown) insisted that we have Yoruba first names to offset the slave owners' legacy that would always follow us. And with that, my full Yoruba name of Adedoyin means 'royalty' or 'son of the king.' As you know by now, I just go by Doyin.

But because I wanted to fit in so badly in my predominately white Massachusetts hometown as a kid, I let people call me 'Dwayne' instead of the proper pronunciation of 'doe-ween' because it was easier *for them*. Then I watched the classic movie 'Roots' and saw Kunta Kinte getting the shit kicked out of him by his white owners when he refused to change his name to 'Toby' and it changed everything for me. Then I knew changing my name and the pronunciation of it would be a disgrace to my ancestors who were raped, beaten and killed to keep their names just because I wanted to make some white people feel comfortable.

But to even to this day, I carry the burden of white supremacy in my own last name. Somewhere in the Deep South, there could be a racist Richards who hates everything about me, but we're considered 'family' because of our history. That's a tough pill to swallow.

I often wonder what my dad (who passed away last year) would think of what's happening right now. He would probably say something to the effect of, 'You are a leader, and leaders will be remembered by how they show up.' So I'm here, Adedoyin Richards, showing up to fight for equality - because that's what he and my ancestors would've wanted and expected. Happy Juneteenth, and I hope you continue to fight for equality in your own way today and every day. #juneteenth"

It's easy to think the history of slavery and emancipation in abstract, long-ago terms when it's not your personal family's history. Seeing how Richards' lineage has played out on two continents and how much meaning his first and last name hold is a good reminder that Juneteenth isn't just a part of our nation's story, but a deeply personal story for many Black Americans as well.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."