The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Renaming Myself
Christina Whitmore

My name is Christina Whitmore. What do you think I look like? You’re probably wrong. My father’s father is African-American and Guyanese and his mother is Dominican. On my mother’s side, my grandmother is Puerto Rican and my grandfather is German and Italian. So I am a Hispanic, Caucasian, African-American female.

My father’s last name is Whitmore, which people say sounds English. I learned why an African-American might have a British name in U.S. history in 10th grade. When the teacher showed us a TV show called Roots, which traces one black man’s ancestry, I learned that slaves were given their slave masters’ names. Until then, I had always thought of names like Smith, Johnson, White, Parker, and Whitmore as black last names because most of the people I knew with those names were black.

I realized my ancestors were probably slaves and kept the last name Whitmore even after they were free. I wondered where I’d be and what my last name would be if Europeans hadn’t started kidnapping and enslaving Africans. It changed the way I thought about my name. “Whitmore” sounds fancy, but I dislike it because I know it came from a heartless money-hungry jack-a#s who didn’t want to pay employees.

My mother’s last name is Rutigliano: that’s Italian. When my mother named me and my sisters she gave us Christian names. My older sister Angela’s name came from “angel.” My name has “Christ” in it, and my younger sister Gabrielle was named after the messenger angel Gabriel.

After my little sister was born, my mother got a tattoo of Winnie-the-Pooh holding three balloons. Each balloon has a letter: A, then C, then G. When I was 15, I teased my mother that she had the name of a boot company (Nike ACG) on her arm, but she explained it was for the three of us.

That may seem like a nice gesture, but the tattoo on her arm is meaningless to me. I feel she uses it to make me feel like she cares about me, when her actions suggest that she doesn’t.

I Dont Want Their Names

I never knew my father and my mother was on drugs, so I went into foster care when I was 12. I started to dislike my name when I was 14 because I had so much anger for my mother.

I have my father’s last name because that’s how it works—kids and sometimes wives get the man’s name. But my father was never around my whole life, so why should I have his name? I don’t like any part of “Christina Whitmore.”

I’d like to change my name but I don’t know who I am yet. I’ve been traumatized and bounced around from placement to placement. I never got a chance to figure out what I’m meant to have, and I don’t have a stable personality. When I do have stability, then I will choose a name that fits my personality and my ethnic background. I also need a job, because a name change costs $65 in New York.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with a couple of possibilities. Gabonnah Tyenna Rivera fits my background because it’s both Italian and Hispanic. I used to hang around with my friend Jolissa so much that people called us Dolce and Gabanna (I know I spelled it wrong. I like it that way). Rivera is my big sister’s last name (we have different fathers), and I’d like to be more like her.

Another name I like is Summer Princess Figueroa, which is all of my ethnicities: Summer is Caucasian; Princess is black or Hispanic; and Figueroa is Hispanic or Italian. Summer is my favorite season and it fits me because I’m happy. Some of my friends call me Princess.

I don’t know if either of these names is right for me yet, so I will keep writing names in my notebook until I find one that makes me feel free.

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