I’m thinking about asking you a bunch of questions you’ve probably answered in other interviews. Can you just point me to those instead?
My name is based on the Yoruba name “Babatunde” from Nigeria. According to Wikipedia:
Babatunde is a male given name. In the Yoruba language, it means Father Returns, or a Father has Returned. This generally refers to a male ancestor such as a deceased father, grandfather, or great grandfather.
My parents found the name “Baratunde” (not Babatunde) in a book of African names. They were 60s revolutionary types and wanted their son to have an African name. My mother was a special fan of her grandfather and wanted to invoke his spirit in my life, so in a way, I was named for my great grandfather, Benjamin Lonesome.
According to the book,
a) a more colloquial translation of Babatunde is “one who is chosen.”
This was important to my mother because she had suffered a series of miscarriages prior to my arrival. When I finally showed up, it was kind of a big deal. Some people find this out and say, “Ohhh, wow. You're the chosen one.” To that I respond, “The order of words matters. The Chosen One has a lot of stress associated with it. There can only be one. Too much pressure. Meanwhile ‘one who is chosen’ could be one among millions, so let's all relax.”
b) “Baratunde” was merely a different way to spell “Babatunde.”
It’s like Jon vs John! Or so the book implied. However, after meeting several (hundred) Nigerians throughout my life, I have been reminded that “Bara” and “Baba” are not the same. More aggressive Nigerians inform me that my name actually means nothing. Others have defended my parents’ afrocentrism and given me hugs.
Finally, my middle name is Rafiq which is Arabic for “friend or companion.” The combination “Baratunde Rafiq” was meant to mean “Kingly Companion.”
And that’s the story of Slavery In America!
I attended Sidwell Friends School from 7th grade through 12th grade, entering in 1989 and exiting, on schedule, in 1995. Chelsea Clinton was two grades behind me and joined the school after I was already enrolled. So, technically, she went to high school with me.
You mean like How To Be Blacker?
I haven't made any plans for a followup to my 2012 book. I do have ideas, but I'm full of ideas. Like I think we could empty out one American city at a time for like a year-and-a-half just to upgrade the infrastructure and clean it. That's an idea I have, but I haven't done anything about it.
There are certainly more stories to be told that align with the spirit of How To Be Black. If I take that one, you'll be the nth person to know!