I lost the use of my legs when I was fourteen. Being disabled was devastating because in Guinea people with disabilities are thought to bring shame and bad luck upon their family and village. To protect the larger group, disabled people are sent away from their homes, cut off from the ritual and daily lives of the community. My case was no different. After my paralysis, I was taken out of school and sent to live in my grandfather’s village deep in the forest. After several years in the village, the time came for the coming-of-age ceremony when the young men dance the traditional steps into manhood.
I knew if I did not participate in this ceremony ~ if I did not dance ~ I would forever remain separate and cut off from my community. I reconstructed the traditional steps dancing on my hands instead of my feet. I found a way of moving that was true to the traditional rhythms and steps while also being true to the capacities of my body. I sang and danced at the coming-of-age ceremony and reconnected with my community and my culture. I continue dancing and singing to reaffirm that connection.
My music brought me to America, where I continue to reach people with my message of hope and inclusion and brings happiness especially to those audiences who have felt separated from life by misfortune.