Happy Fourth!  The one commonality which all immigrants to America share is that either they or their ancestors all came from another country, in search of a dream; and that includes the very first settlers to the U.S.  According to Wikipedia, the Pilgrims arrived in the United States in the early 1600s, in search of religious freedom, while other arrivals sought economic opportunity.  Whether you came to the U.S. through Ellis Island, J.F. Kennedy Airport, Miami International, Dulles International, Los Angeles International or swam or walked across the border, you or your ancestors came with a purpose.  According to the American Library, more than 12 million people entered the United States through the Ellis Island Immigration Center from 1892 to 1954.

America’s Independence Day, more commonly referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth is observed as a Federal holiday in the United States.  Although today is associated with fireworks, family reunions, concerts, parades, carnivals, barbeques, etc. the day actually commemorates the signing of the declaration of independence.  Two Hundred and Forty-One (241) years ago on this day, thirteen colonies (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island) decided they no longer wanted to be a part of the British Empire, declared themselves a nation of the United States of America.

As immigrants arrived in the United States, they brought with them traditions and cultures. Some of those traditions brought by the early settlers are what are known today as the American traditions and culture, such as blue jeans and plaid shirts or turkey at Thanksgiving.  Immigrants tend to bring with them what they know, and it is what they practice, regardless of where they settle.  As time progressed, the faces of immigrants changed from the look of the early settlers to Africans, Asians and Middle Easterners.  The faces are not the only thing that changed; those more recent immigrants brought their influence of music, foods, dances, clothing, etc.  However the traditions were not all music and clothing or dances.

We should be mindful that the early settlers practiced certain traditions which were later banned and lawfully discontinued.  Some of those traditions helped to spawn the American Civil War between the North and the South, such as slavery.  The settlers declared their independence from the British Empire in 1776.  According to Webster, the meaning of independence is sovereignty, liberty and freedom.  It is what Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the other signatories of the Declaration of Independence had in mind; sovereignty and freedom for all immigrants, regardless of their place of origin.  Although some despicable practices happened during slavery and the civil war, it is doubtful that Jefferson and Franklin would have condoned the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) in this country.  They wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Notice the line, “That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.  All girls and young women in these fifty states are entitled to those unalienable rights, and that includes the immigrant women and girls of immigrant parents.

America is 241 years old today, and we celebrate it in many ways.  The practice of FGM/C is more than 5,000 years old, and we need to continue to criminalize it, and make those who practice it accountable.  Only two days ago, the Virginia law, criminalizing FGM/C went into effect.  Culture and traditions are poor excuses for this outrageous practice.  This afternoon while Americans fire up their grills and load them up with hotdogs, hamburgers and skewered seafood, they will not think about the thousands of girls that are subjected to the wrath of the exciser’s vicious blade, daily around the world.  We must hope that here in the U.S. excisers and parents of little girls will pause from their cutting to observe the Declaration of Independence.  We hope that the parents and excisers will remember the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”  They must remember that the little girls are indeed entitled to unalienable rights, to not have any parts of their bodies altered, cut, or mutilated in any way whatsoever.  It is something to ponder and consider while you relax at your barbeques this afternoon.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation wishes you a Happy and Safe Fourth!  Remember, the campaign continues against FGM/C.

Send all comments and questions about the preceding article to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org or call (703) 818-3787.