The producer/director/writer, Vonnia Harris Davis, offers an unflinching look at the worlds greatest boxer Muhammad Ali, who changed his name during the heat of America’s Black Revolution. His aggressive verbal delivery, physical style of boxing, and showmanship redefined what America came to expect from a Black Man. This new negro or "Afro American" fought, not only for civil rights, but for the right to self-identify in America. ‘What’s My Name! Say It!!, is the story of Black people who intellectually and physically confronted the entire American Jim Crowe system while the world watched the greatest revolution of all time unfold before their eyes. Activists, visionaries and others sacrificed it all in the face of insurmountable obstacles as seen in this historical footage that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Includes post-film conversation with Producer/Director Vonnia Harris Davis and critics after private viewings. This documentary introduces the audience to the evolution of the African American's revolution during the tumultuous 1960's and juxtapose to current public lynchings of African American men, women and children by those who carry a deep rooted hate and dishonoring of their Black bodies. Also, the African tradition of calling the names of the ancestors and the power of that tradition. Historical footage, photos, new reels and interviews reveal the 'NEW NEGRO' and how the culture is forced to move in mass numbers against the systematic destruction of their own and still, somehow, they repeatedly rise, undeniably challenging the system, toe-to-toe and with dangerous outcomes. The honored tradition of naming children as a right of passage was directly and indirectly addressed as evident with many Afro Americans changing the names to reflect a more Afrocentric version of themselves. Afro American's fought relentlessly In the 1960's for their civil and human rights. An often overlooked part of the struggle was the need to reclaim, not only freedom, but the stolen identities. African American dropped their assigned 'slave names' and adopted names associated wit their native African culture. This fight for cultural identity was complicated and was to be defined by those within the cultures. The creator of this documentary brings forth additional tension by comparing current events and the tradition of calling the names of slain African American's who have lost their lives because of racial injustices in America.

  • Vonnia Harris Davis
    Mojo Risin' (documentary short) ; Keep On Pushing (short)
  • Vonnia Harris Davis
    What's My Name! Say It!
  • Vonnia Harris Davis, Black Mountain Girls, Patrick Keorin Wooten
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature, Other
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Social & Emotional Training, Social, Justice, Racial, CRT
  • Runtime:
    1 hour
  • Completion Date:
    May 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Vonnia Harris Davis

Vonnia (Vonn) Harris Davis is an Affrolachian, AFRICAN AMERICAN from APPALACHIA, born in South Carolina, raised in West Virginia, strongly rooted in Virginia and Kentucky, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies in North Carolina and graduated with a certificate in Documentary Arts. Her Master's degree is in Speech Language Pathology, undergraduate, West Virginia University & masters degree from Valdosta State University. The goal is to marry the two fields focused on how images impact the brain for retention of information for a more inclusive and diverse world. Vonnia (Vonn), moved by the power of images and words, tells an unforgettable story. (Photography & Film) Trademark for Affrolachia (V.Harris Davis-2018)

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

This documentary is a cognitively and culturally diverse film (feast) and curriculum for social and emotional awareness, development & equity.

Department of Diversity,

I am Vonnia Harris Davis, a documentary filmmaker—specifically the creator of “What’s My Name Say It!”, the film, once described as drinking fire from a water hose,” journeys through the evolution and revolution of African American names since the induction of chattel slavery in North America. Historical footage, photos, and interviews explain the systematic destruction of a culture’s birth names and the loss of human rights to name their children, using as a backdrop the 1967 fight that took place in Houston, Texas, between Muhammad Ali and Ernie Terrell, who refused to respect Ali’s newly chosen name after he was inducted into the Nation of Islam.

The film does not showcase a cast of fictional characters, rather opting to highlight the influence of Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Robert Williams, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, Alprentice Bunchy Carter, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Lorraine Hansberry, and others—all of whom were activists in their own unique ways—on black culture. It juxtaposes the African tradition of calling the names of ancestors and today’s brutal murders of Black boys, men, women, and children. It also embraces the three-, four-, and five-syllable modern day names that are popular and common naming traditions in the Black community.

My work has been accepted into the Appalachia Studies Conference and has screened at Duke University, the University of Kentucky and Ohio University. My goal is to share this documentary as a class project that focuses on the history of the African American naming tradition and using the film as the core resource for the forum.

Currently, I am working with the West Virginia Department of Highways as the primary advocate to stop the displacement of an entire, once vibrant community by replacing the historic Grant Street Bridge, which connects the East End to the northside of Bluefield, West Virginia. The bridge, along with an African American historical tour, is set to be completed in 2022.

In 2018, I trademarked the phrase Affrolachia and launched a social media campaign to increase the awareness of black people and culture throughout Appalachia, with an emphasis on West Virginia. She also established a nonprofit, Blueprint 2022, which advocates for the vanishing black communities, culture, and narrative of Appalachia to serve as a blueprint for other vanishing and endangered marginalized and disenfranchised minority communities.

It is my privilege to share what I have learned in the making of the film and in the other endeavors I have undertaken. I am particularly interested in opportunities to share these revelations other institutions of higher learning, particularly HBCUs.

If there are opportunities within your institution to share What’s My Name? Say It!, I would like to discuss them with you. I can be reached via phone at (404) 291-3269 or via email at vonniadavis@mac.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Vonnia Davis