“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once wrote. Well, if your name is Marijuana Pepsi, a PhD certainly is.
Classical literature references aside, a Wisconsin woman whose married name is Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck has earned her doctorate in higher education leadership from Cardinal Stritch University, after completing a dissertation entitled, “Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.”
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Marijuana Pepsi said classmates made fun of her name & teachers & bosses tried to urge her to get it changed but she refused: 'I've grown into my name because I am a strong woman.' Now she's Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck! If this ain't #BlackExcellence then what is? #BlackHistory pic.twitter.com/NpVw86NRr1
— Tyra Jackson (@IamTyraJackson) June 20, 2019
“People make such a big deal out of it, I couldn’t get away from it,” she recalls. She also went on to explain how often others blamed her mother for burdening her with such a divisive moniker. But the the 46-year-old holds no ill will and actually credits her mom for turning her into the woman she is today.
Her mother, Maggie (Brandy) Johnson, who lives in Beloit, Wisc., picked out her name, believing it would take her ‘around the world,’ the Journal-Sentinel reports.
She also refuses to let people give her a nickname. Although many have attempted to call her “Mary” instead, she always pushes back and insists to be called by her full name Marijuana. In fact, the only time she’s ever opted to alter her title was when she was working as a real estate agent. During that time she went by her initials “MP” so that cannabis enthusiasts wouldn’t steal her realtor signs.
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During her research for her dissertation, Vandyck found it cathartic interviewing students who had similar experiences, such as teachers openly making fun of them and/or hyper-focusing on them due to their names.
“Regardless of what they do, say or what they’re trying to put in place, you still have to move forward and succeed,” she tells students. “That’s my big thing. Don’t use that as an excuse. Use that as a stepping stone to keep on going. Leave those people behind and then you reach back. Each one reach one. Reach back and pull somebody else up.”