********** CORRECTION MAY 5, 2000
Jameela Afi-Leigh said her dauthter's name, Chinyere, means "God's gift" in Ibo. Because of a reporter's error, a story on Page C-1 Monday had the wrong meaning.
Naseema Maat's intellectual journey to learn about Africa influenced her life -- even how she named her children.
"I wanted to give my children a piece of their history by naming them an African name," said Maat, mother of three.
Each of her sons bear Swahili names she researched: 5-year-old Nyjah, which means warrior; 3-year-old Malik, meaning king; and infant Nyair, which means blessing.
"When you give yourself an African name, you reclaim who you are. You're acknowledging the African part of who you are," she said.
Maat is among African-Americans who are choosing names of African origin for their children.
Some black Americans also change their own birth names to African names because they say it connects them to their ancestry. Names can be chosen from Swahili or Arabic languages. Some choose names from tribes, such as the Ibo in Nigeria, or other ethnic groups such as the Akan in Ghana. Darlene Hill, who gave her children African and Arabic names, said she's noticed more African-Americans choosing ethnic names for their children because it's powerful.
"People are reaching into something that has some meaning to it," she said.