Photo by Katrin Hauf on Unsplash

This is penned with all sincerity and concern for the advancement of Black people in America. There have been a lot of complaints across the nation with regards to statues, schools, hospitals and monuments that bear the name of notorious slave owners. 

In turning a new page to reflect the conscience of the American people, statues of Confederate soldiers have been removed. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), 94 Confederate monuments were removed nationwide in 2020. The Confederate flag has also been removed from several state buildings in the South, including from South Carolina’s statehouse in 2015.

Although slavery was abolished in 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment, chains still restrict the mind of my people. You will never be free, my brothers and sisters, as long as you carry the last name of your oppressor. 

Every Black man and woman who has never removed this conspicuous identification mark of chattel slavery must act now. Your last name identifies your slave owner — and you in a perverse way. Until you sever the connection, you are still in bondage.

Removing every statue, school or monument that celebrates the oppression of Black people is pointless as long as Black men and women continue to blindly carry the slave master’s last name. It is in my opinion that this month we should begin to fully reclaim our identity and choose a noble name that expresses our strengths. 

As America attempts to reshape the image and history of this country, it’s important to not overlook the seemingly indelible stain that marks many of our names. Free yourself, my brothers and sisters. Change your last name!

(Additional reporting by Annabelle Wang)

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Abdur Rahman Malik

Abdur Rahman Malik is a writer from San Diego whose passion is uplifting the Black community. He wrote and published much of his work on PJP while incarcerated in California.