On one of my recent guest appearances on CNN, we discussed the case of “Baby Messiah.”

This is the little Tennessee boy whose mother, Jaleesa Martin, took the father, Jawaan P. McCullough, to court in order to establish paternity and set child support. The parents are not married and had been arguing about the baby’s last name.

The father wanted to name the boy Jawaan P. McCullough Jr., as is tradition for many fathers who have a son. The mother wanted to name the boy Messiah DeShawn. At the conclusion of the Aug. 8 hearing, the father no longer objected to calling the boy Messiah Deshawn, but wanted to add McCullough as the last name for a complete name of Messiah Deshawn McCullough.

Nevertheless, the judge – who did not agree with the first name of Messiah – decided to give the baby a total name makeover and changed the baby’s name to Martin Deshawn McCullough.

Clearly, the judge’s decision was out of line and an unnecessary breach of the parents’ right to name their child whatever they please.

Enter the ACLU of Tennessee, which will follow the case and support the parents in their appeal of the court decision. And rightly so.

But – while I understand a parent’s right to name their child whatever they want to because we live in this free United States of America that allows us to do all kinds of crazy, weird and hurtful things in the name of our First Amendment rights, don’t we need to examine the idea of how we name our children and whether it’s in THEIR best interest to have names that may cause teasing, bullying, misunderstanding, stereotypes, hinder their social development and ability to become gainfully employed?


Names like Stripper, Killer, Hooker, Lexus, Cadillac, Adolf Hitler and Delicious can’t possibly be a good idea.

In fact, some states have set rules on names, prohibiting ideograms, pictograms or marks. Other states have limited the amount of characters in a name, while some have ban obscenities all together.

Theres’s nothing worse than putting two names together that should not be combined and giving your baby that name. I’m not talking about putting Keisha and Donna together and naming the baby “Keisha Donna Johnson.” I’m talking about calling her “KeishDonna” – which sounds crazy.

We love to do that in our community.

Remember the story (many say urban legend) about the Louisiana twins named OrangeJello and LemonJello? Really? Where are they applying to work? What are the folks reading their resumes going to think before they even walk throughout the door?

And if those twins actually exist, is it fair that they will be stereotyped for their mama’s creative (or not so creative) choice of names?

Let’s pray these type names won’t affect them at all; but I am a realist. I really believe that African-Americans are judged differently in this country when it comes to jobs, education, law enforcement and overall access to opportunities.

Let’s not voluntarily add to the barriers that already exist.


(Or until they are 18 and they can change it themselves!)

Mo Ivory, CBS Local


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