Twelve African-Americans, exploring their ancestry in West Africa, have been given native Nigerian names in commemoration of the four centuries of the first Africans slaves to arrive in Virginia, United States.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Americans were christened local Igbo names at a ceremony on Tuesday night, organised by the Global Institute of Diversity and Change and the Igbo Community in Abuja.
The naming rite was conducted by a traditional chief from the South-East amidst cheers and celebrations of a cultural festivity as the African-Americans identified with their roots.
Some of the names for the Americans are Okechukwu, Ifunnaya, Adaeze, Ijeoma, Chukwuma and Obinna.
Other included Ikechukwu, Ugochukwu, Obioma, Onyemaechi, Chinwe and Ozioma.
Dr Yewande Austin, President of Global Institute of Diversity and Change and an African -American herself, said the christening was an indication that African-Americans were proud of Africa as their historical ancestry home.
“This year marks the 400 years that the first Africans from the transatlantic slave trade arrived Virginia, and this event is to ignite our sense of connection with Africa.
“It is very important to know that Africans worked tirelessly in building the United States, and we are very proud of that.
“Hundreds of African-Americans see Virginia as their home, and there is an Igbo Village in Virginia today,” she said.
Prof. Chinwe Obaji, a former Minister of Education and host of the naming ceremony, said the historic slavery migration was an indication that Africans paid huge prices in the development of America.
She noted that the christening would be made recipients of the names see Nigeria as their home and contribute towards its advancement.
“United States and Nigeria have come a long way in working together, and this naming occasion is very significant because these Americans will see themselves as Nigerians.
“As you can see, they are proud to identify with their ancestry home and this will inspire them to contribute towards its good.”
Obaji noted that recipients of the names would proceed to Obosi in the South-East to receive traditional tittles from the traditional ruler during the month.
Dr Ogbonna Onoh, Minister of Science and Technology, who chaired the occasion, congratulated the recipients of the new names and expressed appreciation to the organisers of the event.
He noted that the event was significant in the history of the United States and Nigeria, and would foster bilateral relations between the two countries and promote harmony between their citizens.
NAN reports that on August 1619, an English ship landed on the shores of Virginia with some 20 African captives aboard.
Their arrival 400 years ago began the history of slavery in English-speaking America and the date is being commemorated as the beginning of the age of slavery in North America.