When I was 10 years old, I asked my mom if I could change my name to "Kristy". Partly because I loved The Babysitter's Club, and partly because I was tired of being different. (Who the hell spells their name K-R-I-S-H-T-I-N-E?) Needless to say, she said no, and I was forced to correct everyone, every year after that: school administrators, pastry chefs, condescending adults who would cock their heads to one side and say, "Hmmm that's an unusual spelling."
In high school, I told everyone the "H" was silent and kept it moving. Even my own grandmother calls me "Krrrristina!" and every year at Christmas, I'd be lucky to get a card that had the correct spelling.
But when I got to college and found myself in the same circle as two other "Christines", the "H" finally came into play. People called me "Ish", and I reveled in this distinction where the "H" was silent no longer. And as I grew older and learned to appreciate being different, I saw how extraordinary my namesake was and what a revolutionary act my father engaged in in a country where a vast majority of the population was finding leadership in the Lord. Guilt spared, I finally began to let that define my identity.
I took on the MC moniker "EyeASage" as an appendage to "ISH" (I-S-H...get it?) and aspired to be A Sage:
1. a profoundly wise person; a person famed for wisdom.
2. someone venerated for the possession of wisdom, judgment, and experience.
And like many other post adolescent yout, reggae music defined my identity in college where it was the only medium of music that had a powerful message along with all the booty-poppin'. The term "I and I" represented an identity that was connected to the people.
I and I is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. Rastafari scholar E. E. Cashmore: "I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we're one people in fact. The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God, of man. But man itself needs a head and the head of man is His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I (always pronounced as the letter 'I,' never as the number one or 'the first') of Ethiopia." The term is often used in place of "you and I" or "we" among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.
But after doing a mixtape and many, many shows under that moniker, I learned that Hip-Hop, my chosen medium, was not that deep and I was, once again, at the mercy of a complicated spelling, this time, deliberately welcoming another lifetime of corrected pronunciations.
So this year, I made another choice: to become ROCKY RIVERA. This other namesake of mine is actually a character in Jessica Hagedorn's book "The Gangster of Love", and thematically, it just made sense. I based an entire album on the concept: love, war, the rules, the casualties, the high points and the person - one who embraced the contradiction in being a warrior of love, and as a woman, ready to defend the battlefield that is her body and her personal integrity.
And as the last chapter of my identity closes and ushers in a new one, I still cannot guarantee that one moniker (other than "Krish") would encompass all of my progress in the years to come (c'mon y'all it IS Hip-Hop).
But for now, I'd like to formally introduce you to Rocky Rivera, a portrait of the artist as a young woman, right here, right now. Glad to meet you.
(P.S. It's my birthday, biaaatch!)