Name Change Story: Nzingha

Nzingha Motisla Masani was given her African name at a naming ceremony in 1974. Many friends and family members disapproved of (or simply didn’t acknowledge) her name change, but some of the people she encountered strongly approved:

I got my name changed while I was working for a politician, and I went to a lot of community meetings. And I got up one night at this ninety-five percent Polish meeting. I told them proudly that, “Please do not call me by my old name, my birth name. I’m proud to tell everyone that my new name is Nzinga Motisla Masani.” […] And they gave me a standing ovation. Well a lot of the Polish people came up to me after the meeting and they had to immediately change their name when they got here in order to get a job, or in order to fit into society. They admired me for doing it and they said that some of what I said to them motivated them to tell their children the importance of their history and the importance of your name.

Sources: Nzingha Masani and Noah Hairston – StoryCorps, StoryCorps Griot: Back to Her Roots

Runner Has Middle Name “Running”

While researching the name Deneen, I happened upon a 1997 article from University of Minnesota campus newspaper The Minnesota Daily about hurdler Niles Running Deneen.

Ironically, but his middle name wasn’t inspired by sports:

“My mother had an art professor in college named Orville Running,” Deneen said. “She really admired him and was a very influential person in her experience in art. She wanted to pass that name on, and she gave it to me, not thinking I was going to be a runner or something.”

Do you think the middle name “Running” made it more likely that Niles would become a runner?

(Nowadays, Niles Running Deneen is running his family’s pottery business.)

Source: Deneen makes good on unique middle name with U men’s track

Vietnamese Refugee Baby Named for Rescue Ship

At the end of the Vietnam War, tens of thousands fled Saigon by sea.

One Vietnamese ship, the Truong Xuan, was packed with nearly four thousand refugees. When it began taking on water in the South China Sea, it sent out a distress call.

The S.O.S. was heard by Capt. Anton M. Olsen of the Danish freighter the Clara Mærsk.

Clara Maersk, ship

Olsen turned the Clara around and, after searching for several hours, found the distressed vessel. All the refugees were taken on board in a 6-hour rescue operation on May 2, 1975.

Two days later, the Clara Mærsk arrived in Hong Kong, where the refugees were dropped off.

At least 2 babies were born on the Clara en route to Hong Kong, and one of those babies was named Clara after the ship.

In a blog post about the Clara Mærsk, the Maersk Line itself called the Clara Mærsk rescue story “the most extraordinary story in the history of our company.”

Source: “More Refugees Reach Hong Kong.” Lewiston Daily Sun 5 May 1975: 15.
Image: Clara Mærsk in the Panama Canal by Maersk Line

Vietnamese Refugee Baby Named for USS Kirk

Tran-Nguyen Kirk Giang-Tien
Lan Tran holding
Tien Kirk, 1975
The Vietnam War ended with the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

After the South Vietnamese government surrendered, a handful of U.S. Navy ships went back to Vietnam to rescue the remaining members of the South Vietnamese Navy and their families. One of these boats was the USS Kirk, which rescued between 20,000 and 30,000 South Vietnamese refugees, most of whom ended up emigrating to the United States.

Among the refugees were several pregnant women, including 17-year-old Lan Tran. The USS Kirk brought Lan to a refugee camp in Guam where she gave birth to a baby girl in mid-May. Here’s what Lan had to say about chooing her daughter’s name:

I remembered that Capt. Jacobs had said he wanted to put the name of the ship for the baby. But because I have a baby girl I cannot put first name Kirk for the baby girl. So her middle name is Kirk. My husband’s last name is Tran and my maiden name is Nguyen. And then her middle name is Kirk, and her first name is Giang Tien, which means “angel from the sky,” So my child’s name is Tran-Nguyen Kirk Giang-Tien.

Lan Tran and Tien Kirk with
USS Kirk captain Paul Jacobs, 2010
© David Deal for NPR
Lan’s husband, a pilot in the South Vietnemese Air Force, was left behind but eventually made it to the U.S. as well. The couple decided to settle in California with their baby girl.

After a search for the “Kirk baby,” Capt. Paul Jacobs and other sailors and officers from the USS Kirk were finally reunited with Lan Tran and Tien Kirk in 2005.

P.S. How did the USS Kirk get its name? The ship was named in honor of Admiral Alan Goodrich Kirk (1888-1963).


Baby Named Antares After Lunar Module

Last month’s test launch of the Antares rocket — designed to deliver cargo to the International Space Station — was a success. The first real launch may take place this summer.

This news reminded of a baby girl named Antares, who happened to be in the news a few decades ago.

Antares June Davis was born on January 25, 1971, to Richard and June Davis of Palm Beach.

She was born a week before the start of the Apollo 14 mission, which blasted off on January 31, 1971.

Her parents were close friends with one of the mission’s three astronauts, Edgar Mitchell, who was the pilot of the Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. So that’s what they named their daughter.

The lunar module was named after the star Antares, a red supergiant and one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. The name Antares probably comes from the ancient Greek word antares, meaning “anti-Ares,” or “rival of Mars,” a reference to its Mars-like reddish color. Alternatively, some believe the star was named after the Arab warrior-hero Antar.

Antares Davis is now an actress. Her IMDB page states that astronaut Edgar Mitchell is her godfather.

Do you like the name Antares?

P.S. Here are a few more Apollo-inspired names.