I never liked my name as a little boy. The big boys in the neighborhood would ask me my name and I’d give them my nickname, Stuffy. They’d say, ‘What?’ Then I’d keep it simple and say ‘Stuff.’ Frustrated, they’d ask me my real name and I finally had to give in and say ‘Stefan.’
There’s still a few of those old heads around that still call me ‘Stuff Stefan Eric Roots.’ It always brings a laugh.
Three things happen as the guy named Stefan. 1. It’s often mispronounced. 2. It’s even more often misspelled. 3. There’s the comment, ‘What kinda of name is that for a black guy?’ The other unique quality of that name for the longest time was seemingly being the only one with the name.
A funny thing happened on the way to salt water taffy in Rehoboth last summer. I got to chatting with the teen clerk figuring she was from somewhere foreign working for the summer at the beach. She had a beautiful Jamaican name and then she asked me mine. I said, Stefan. She looked shocked then said that I had a young person’s name. As I thought about it, there are a lot more Stefan sounding names now then there were when I was a little guy.
Leading up to today, in the late 80s the TV show ‘Family Matters’ main character, Steve Urkel, had an alter ego of Stefan Urquelle. Stephon Marbury played in the NBA and sometimes Stephen Curry is called Stefan. Bill Hadar’s alter ego on Saturday Night Live was Stefan. Stefon Diggs’ name comes up when the Minnesota Vikings are playing.
Whenever I hear the name Stefan my ears perk up because I still don’t hear it too much. Imagine what I’m going through now when every time I turn on the TV or radio I hear Stefon over and over again.
Stefon Clark is one of the latest unarmed black men shot and killed by frightened police officers.
It’s never been easy being a Stefan and there’s no joy in hearing my name out loud right about now.