On June 25, 2019, 40 men, women, children, friends of the Kingsessing Library, residents of West and Southwest Philadelphia flocked the spacious Community Room of Kingsessing Library. Flyers distributed on social media invited them to hear and learn about the empowering journey of an African immigrant in Philadelphia.
The occasion was perfect. June is Immigrant Heritage Month. The Coalition of African Communities (AFRICOM) and the Kingsessing Library partnered to host a cultural event, which would break barriers, raise awareness, and foster intercultural and intergenerational conversations specifically on “the Cut,” also known as Female Genital Mutilation. For this topic, Musu Kamara, the guest speaker of the night was the right choice. 20 years ago, Musu left her native land Sierra Leone, West Africa, to settle in Southwest Philadelphia. She is an immigrant, a mother, a community leader, a teacher, a fashion designer, a performer, and most importantly a survivor of “he cut.”
When Musu marched into the room ready to perform at the sound of the traditional “shegureh” with her raffia wrapped around her waist, the audience could not wait to have their questions answered. For many, it was the first time they met a person who underwent the “cut.” Curiosity and empowerment filled the room. “Is she normal?” “Did the “cut” impact her ability to have a normal life, children, etc.? “Did she have a chance to refuse it?” “Do all girls and women have to undergo the cut?” “What part of the body is cut?” So many questions, myths, and facts that Musu addressed through her song, dance, and story. For an hour and a half, the audience enjoyed a program that included a meal from Diop Small Pot Restaurant (65 & Woodland Avenue), a mini fashion show, a performance from Musu, and a poem from Samuel Cole, Africom’s Youth coordinator. However, the highlight was when Musu recounted to the captivated audience how she was initiated into womanhood in the sacred forest. “It is not just about the cut. The initiation is about how to be a woman, how to clean, raise children and a family, societal and work ethics,” she exclaimed. Although she still cherished her tradition, Musu speaks against forceful “cut,” and raises awareness about a practice, which does not make any difference in how women behave in society. During the night, Musu talked about aspects of the “cut” that are often ignored. K. Williams, of the Free Library Division of Civic Engagement satisfactorily commented that she never heard such an interesting African perspective on “the cut” before.