Penda is a much better name for Uhura when you realize that Nyota means 'Flowers' and Penda means 'Love'. Penda Uhura then means "Love of Freedom", while Nyota Uhura means "Flowers Freedom". Which do you think GR would want as a name for a character like her?
"Nyota" = "star".
GR and NN were sought for approval for both "Penda" (at one of the early 70s conventions) and "Nyota" (see below).
I thought Nyota meant "star."
It does. Created with Nichelle Nichols' approval for the book, "Star Trek II Biographies" by William Rotsler.
Later explained as a crucial part of the plot in the novel "Uhura's Song" by Janet Kagan.