Nkosi Tafari: Why I Chose to Go by My Middle Name

4.29.21 Nkosi DL

Tough are I.

Tafari is a name that I’ve had my entire life. My mother gave it to me in unison with my first name. Growing up, I kept it in the shadows because I wasn’t too proud of it. People already mispronounced Nkosi, so I thought it would be kind of easier to keep Tafari hidden. So that’s why I went by my father’s last name, Burgess.

Nkosi Tafari: Why I Chose to Go by My Middle Name -

I remember in my 7th grade social studies class. We were looking up the meanings of our names. I knew the meaning of my first name, it’s in the national anthem of South Africa and it means ruler or king. I was always really proud of that. But when we were looking up what our last names meant, I found that Burgess is of English and Scottish descent and means “freeman of a town”, which I find quite ironic. And as I got older and started to run into more people with this last name, it was never anyone else who was Black. It was only white people with the last name Burgess. There was a pattern. When I did a little more research, I figured out why my father’s family has that name, and it’s something I’m not entirely proud of. Actually, I’m not proud of it at all. It’s a name that was passed down from master to slave.

Tafari derives from Ethiopia and it means “he who inspires awe” in Amharic. In the Caribbean, and Jamaica specifically, people who go by this name say, “Tough are I”, like “I am tough”. They’re two really strong meanings. Meanings that I love a lot. Like I said, when I was a kid I wanted to keep it hidden. But now that I’m older and a more independent person, I want to get back to my own roots and be proud of being African.

And that’s why I’ve chosen to go by Tafari. When I step on the field, I want to be proud of the name on the back of my jersey. After all, it’s a name my mother gave me.

Nkosi Tafari