Just call me Sheila Hussein Bernus Dowd
February 15th was International Stand Up to Bullying day. Over 90,000 kids world wide signed agreements to say NO to bullies and bring awareness that this happens world wide and it is NOT ok! As someone who has taught anti-bully workshops, I find that often bullying behavior is learned from adults/parents. Hmmm…
Driving this point home, the Momocrats have coined Just Call Me Hussein Day, which was started in response to adult bullies/fools like Bill Cunningham who is obviously still seven years old. Contributors today will write their name stories. Here is my story and that of my families.
Both of my parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1970 from the Philippines, joining my 3 of my aunts, 10 cousins and other extended family. I remember clearly the day, my parents and I became citizens in 1979. While I got a new outfit, of course, and got to miss school, the day seemed extra special because it was also the day my father officially changed his name -From Epifanio to Edgar. I remember asking him why and his response was, "To sound American". That was the day that I realized that to most of the the U.S., names like Mary and John were "American" and Epifanio, Cherry and Elnora (very typical Filipino names) were not. To my father, having a name like that would always make you an outsider.
He also recounted how he and my mother came up with my name – "Sheila Jane". Well we got it out of this baby book. The choice was "Sheila Jane" or "Cherry Lynn", Sheila sounded more American, "Cherry Lynn", sounded too Filipino. Hmmm… Being 10, I bought it and went along my merry way.
Well I got married and kept my maiden name "Bernus: and added my husband’s last name "Dowd". I am now "Sheila Bernus Dowd". "Sheila" and "Dowd" are strong Irish names. So often, when if I have been chatting with clients on the phone only or via email, they are usually surprised to find me and not a white woman.
Names say so much to me about our history. My father wanted to sound "more American", but I miss "Epifanio" for the distinction it brought and its connection to the other Epifanios in our family. Sheila has been an easy name to have – short of the whole "sheila Bedila" or "Bernus Furnace" thing. It was a result of an immigrant wanting his child to fit in – to be seen as the American that she is. There were times I wished I had been named "Cherry Lynn", but know that I am more than my name. I am born of Emily and Epifanio and are raising Caden and Kiley – who are all Filipino and 100% American.
Bill Cunningham should be ashamed of himself to negate the history "Barack Hussein Obama" has in his name. Your mama should be yelling at YOU for being unkind, unitelligent and unAmerican. And for implying simply by one’s name that he is Un-American or a terrorist – running for president seems to be a pretty darn patriotic act in and of itself, doesn’t it? Bill is no better than a school yard bully and I’m proud to be part of the Mamas on Momocrats who are standing up against it.
Join us over at Momocrats!
Sheila Hussein Bernus Dowd