She Refused to Change Her Name: Introducing Dr. Marijuana Pepsi

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I’m sure being African American or growing up Black, many of us have heard of some unusually unique names given to our brown-skinned brothers and sisters.

For example, I grew up knowing someone named Cappuccino (yes, like the beverage).
How about another person named Crobar. No, seriously, his name was Crobar.
I’ve even heard ones like Ashinkashe’, Toiletta, and even Brinashante (combination of parents “Brian” and “Ashante”).

With ethnic names, there’s much debate about changing your name to a racially-ambiguous name like “John” or “Hope” or even “Mary.” There are many who argue that having a non-ethnic names opens the door for you in business and in the corporate world. What do you think?

Well, one woman thought that if her parents named her, then she was going to keep her name and achieve success no matter what her name is.

That person is Marijuana Pepsi. Yes, you read that right.

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Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck completed her dissertation and received a Ph.D. from Cardinal Stritch University in May. She kept her birth name of Marijuana Pepsi to prove to herself and others that you can overcome any obstacles in life and achieve your dreams.

Not only does Dr. Vandyck work full time at Beloit College as director of a program that serves students who are first generation enrollees, come from low-income families, or have learning or physical disabilities, She also owns Action as Empowerment, a performance coaching business that runs retreats and workshops for people looking to change their lives. Plus, she’s a real estate agent.

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Her last name, originally Jackson and later Sawyer, is now Vandyck. She married Fredrick Vandyck in 2017 and they live on a 3-acre hobby farm with pigs and chickens and such in Pecatonica, Illinois, near Rockford.

According to The Journal Sentinel, teachers, classmates, bosses and other people in Marijuana’s life pushed back against her name and teased her. Some suggested she go to court and change it. Some flat out refused to call her that or insisted on Mary, which she rejected.

As much as people blamed and judged her mother for the name, Marijuana credits her mom with making her the strong, balanced, entrepreneurial woman she is today. Her father, Aaron Jackson, lives with his wife in Chicago and is a devout Jehovah’s Witness.

Her parents were of the post-Woodstock era, when cannabis use was rampant. “And they would cool off with a Pepsi,” Marijuana’s aunt, Mayetta Jackson, told the Journal-Sentinel in 2009. “I thought it was crazy, but they were such fun-loving people that it suited them.” Marijuana’s sisters have relatively common names, Kimberly and Robin

So what was her dissertation topic you ask? It was “Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.”

Marijuana interviewed black students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she received her bachelor’s…

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