The Right Name

The Right Name

I got a new truck. That was the fun part. The hard part was coming up with the right name for it.

The truck is a 2023 Ford Bronco Sport in a color they call Shadow Black. That’s basically black, but shiny, not matte. No blacked-out chrome or anything that would help me hide in the woods if I wanted to go off grid. This truck was built for off-roading, though, with standard four-wheel drive and adjustable G.O.A.T. modes. That stands for Get Over Any Terrain. The truck looks tough—at least tougher than my beloved 2014 Mustang GT, which is red and will never hide out, let alone go anywhere near the woods.

Whatever I called it, the right name for this truck could not be something silly or frivolous. It is not a silly, frivolous truck, although my friend Deb thinks it’s cute.

In this square montage we’ve collected five photos of G. S. Norwood’s new 2023 Ford Bronco Sport. Clockwise from top right: the Bronco from the rear, pointed toward the garage behind G.’s house. You can just see the back of “Roze,” the red Mustang GT, inside the garage. Next, the Bronco from the front, and below that the driver’s side. At the bottom is a photo of G. inside the vehicle, parked at the curb, and finally, at left, the passenger side.
Photos courtesy of G. S. Norwood.

Something of an Animist

I am something of an animist, believing that everything, including inanimate objects, has its own energy—a vibe that makes it distinctive and unique. In searching for the right name, I hoped to capture at least an image of that vibe. Maybe it would only be a reflection of the truck’s spirit, or a reflection of what I projected onto the truck, but finding the right name was important. This truck is unlike anything I have ever had to name before. It’s aggressively tough-looking, in a take-no-prisoners kind of way.

So I started with masculine names. I considered Jorrit, after a magnificent Friesian stallion I met many years ago. Jorrit was a competitive dressage horse, named USDF Horse of the Year in 2000. Since I am a fan of the television series Ted Lasso, I also toyed with the name Roy, Jr., after the character Roy Kent, played by actor and writer Brett Goldstein.

This square montage collects six photos: four of the all-black Friesian dressage horse Jorrit (performing a piaffe, as well as a rear so high he’s almost vertical, and two showy extended trots, one along a beach) and two of the actor Brett Goldstein (one as himself and one in the role of his “Ted Lasso” character, Roy Kent).
See credits below.

Sit With It

As I wrestled with finding the right name, I decided to spend a little time just sitting with the truck. On the first night I had it, I went out to the driveway long after dark and climbed into the front seat, absorbing the vehicle’s vibe. And I made an interesting discovery—more about myself than about the truck. This tough black beauty was a girl.

I was a mid-century American kid, raised in a time of more rigid gender stereotypes. I was told, growing up, that “strong = masculine/nurturing = feminine.” But let’s be honest here: women are perfectly capable of kicking butt and taking names. I know that. Heck, I’ve done that. More than once. So what would be the right name to capture that strong, assertive spirit in feminine form?

History offers up lots of kickass female role models, from Anne Bonny to Ann Richards, but there was another factor to consider in my search for the right name. My new truck is black. And, seriously, if you’re looking for strong, smart, resourceful women who can tackle tough problems and thrive, you don’t have to delve very deep into Black history to find a wealth of them. Think Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Maya Angelou. In contemporary political life we have Michelle Obama, Opal Lee, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. In my own circle of friends, you’ll find Ogechi Ukazu. All completely awesome women.

Nine women from G’s list are represented here. At center, United States Vice President Kamala Harris. Clockwise from the top: Sojourner Truth, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson (L) and Maya Angelou (R); First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and Ogechi Ukazu (R); Harriet Tubman (bottom), Opal Lee, and Ann Richards.
How many can you name on sight? See credits below.

The Right Name

But I found the right name for my new truck in the ranks of my personal heroes. Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in 1862 and liberated by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. At age 14 she became responsible for her younger brothers and sisters after both her parents died of yellow fever. She moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she took a teaching job at a school for Black children and began contributing stories and essays to local Black-owned newspapers. Before long she became co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper, where her investigative reporting focused on the rampant crime of White men lynching Black men all across the south.

Her reporting drew national attention to the epidemic of lynching and, although she endured death threats and survived the firebombing of her newspaper’s headquarters, she forged a new career for herself, speaking out for civil rights and women’s rights in the United States and in England. At age 34 she married civil rights attorney Ferdinand L. Barnett and had four children with him, balancing her career as a reformer with the work of home and family. She reportedly formed a genuine partnership with Barnett, the two of them working together to campaign for the causes they both believed in.

You can’t get more kickass than that.

Which is why, in the years to come, as I cruise the highways of life, I’ll be happy to rely on my strong, resourceful, versatile, and beautiful new truck, Ida B. Here’s hoping, in the words of Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keene, the road goes on forever and the party never ends.

This square image centers on a photo of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a serious-looking young Black woman (she was 31 when this photo was taken). Her hair pulled up and secured with an ornate pin. She wears a black lace dress with an abundant lace collar anchored at about collarbone level with a silver or gold pin and beautiful, intricate beaded floral designs on the bodice. She gazes to the viewer’s left with an alert, penetrating gaze. The words under the photo read, “Ida B. Wells-Barnett, c. 1893, photo by Mary Garrity.”
See credits below.

Some Notes about the Author

This article was written by G. S. Norwood. There’s another mention of her Mustang and more about her friend Deb, in last month’s post Good Friend/Bad Influence. For more on Opal Lee, see last summer’s post, Juneteenth. And for more about Associate Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, see last year’s The First!

IMAGE CREDITS

The photos of newly-christened Ida B (with her stablemate Roze) are courtesy of G. S. Norwood.

Photos of Friesian stallion Jorrit are from Design Syndicate.com’s “Proud Meadows” client site. Photographers were Daisuke Schneider, who has since moved on to horse-centered fine art, Larry Riggs, one of the owners of Proud Meadows, and Cindy Serine (Grissom). We also appreciate the two photos of Brett Goldstein as himself from the “My Cast” website, and as the character Roy Kent from “Ted Lasso Fandom” website.

Awesome Women

Most of our thanks for the photos in the “Awesome Women” montage are due to Wikimedia Commons. The exception is the extraordinary portrait of the amazing Opal Lee, for which we thank Southern Living (photo by Elizabeth Lavin). In the center of that montage, Jan placed Kamala Harris’ official portrait, 2021, by White House photographer Lawrence Jackson.

For the rest, the list goes clockwise from the top. First comes Sojourner Truth, 1870, by the Randall Studio of Detroit, MI. This version has been restored by “Coffeeandcrumbs.” The original includes the cutline, “I sell the shadow to support the substance. Sojourner Truth.” Next come side-by-side portraits, listed L-R. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s official portrait, 2022, was taken by Supreme Court photographer Fred Schilling. Maya Angelou recites her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning,” January 20, 1993 at the first Bill Clinton Inauguration in a photo courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Below those comes another L-R pairing. First Lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait, 2013, was taken by White House photographer Chuck Kennedy. Conductor Ogechi Ukazu’s portrait, by an uncredited photographer, was provided by G. S. Norwood. G. met Ogechi when she conducted the Dallas Winds several times. Harriet Tubman’s photo (bottom) was taken January 1, 1895, by Horatio Seymour Squyer. The photo of Ann Richards was taken October 18, 1992 in Raleigh, NC by Kenneth C. Zirkel, while she was Governor of Texas. She had come to Raleigh to campaign for fellow Democrat Jim Hunt’s candidacy for Governor.

Finally, many thanks to Blackpast .org for the great 1893 portrait of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, taken by photographer Mary Garrity. Blackpast is an excellent resource for both articles and historical photography. We recommend them! All montages are the work of Jan S. Gephardt.

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