Sister Cities in Maine And Tuskegee, Alabama, Heal the Racial Divide Between Their White And Black Towns
Two American towns, one white and one black, became sister cities in 2017 and continue to celebrate racial healing, new friendships, and the growing understanding and kinship between the two vastly different communities.
The effort began in 2016 when residents of South Berwick, Maine, searched for a way to play a role in the racial problems that ravaged the nation.
“We knew that relying on the media, movies and stereotypes was not a good way to broaden our understanding of African Americans or heal the divisions of the 400 years,” Amy Miller told GNN.
Four years ago, South Berwick residents searched Wikipedia for a city of similar size that was predominantly African American.
“We were thrilled when we found Tuskegee, Alabama on the list, aware of its rich history that includes the pride of the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Millar. “This story, which also includes being a launch pad for the advancement of voting rights and civil rights, provided students and adults in Maine the opportunity to learn about our nation’s history from the people who lived it.” .
They hoped, but weren’t sure, that Tuskegee would say yes. In April 2017, its city council unanimously adopted the sister city relationship.
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The following year, nine Maine residents traveled to Tuskegee to initiate the relationship and give it real person-to-person meaning.
“They gave us the red carpet treatment by listening to concerts and doing personal tours. We also participate in rich but tough discussions about race in this country. “
Maine people who have never really spent time with black people in their entire lives now have black friends whom they have hosted in their homes. Women whose husbands were concerned about being unsafe on a visit to Tuskegee spent four days there, making friends, breaking bread, visiting schools and overcoming fears.
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In the spring of 2018, the mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, and eight other residents of his city traveled north to eat lobsters, see the rugged Atlantic coastline and spend four nights in strangers’ homes in South Berwick.
“Although we are still a city of white people who have only a small idea of what it means to be black in America, we are a very different community than we were before our relationship with Tuskegee began.”
In an effort to influence youth in 2019, the South Berwick School District invited Tuskegee historian Guy Trammel to spend a week in their schools – grades K-12 – talking about their city, their own personal experience with the Civil Rights Movement, and everything from Tuskegee Airmen to the Voting Rights Act. He stayed at the home of the school librarian and met with teachers, community members, and city leaders.
The relationship built with Tuskegee left South Berwick experiencing this summer’s racial tension in a very different way than they had before.
On June 6, the Maine city of approximately 7,000 people held a sister city solidarity walk through the city that drew 300 people, including the chief of police, and ran a full-page advertisement in Tuskegee News.
And to keep the dialogue going, two journalists, one from South Berwick and one from The Tuskegee News, now write a joint column, each from their own perspective, published in both local newspapers every two weeks.
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His latest project, Together We Vote, was one more opportunity to work together as two cities. With the COVID-19 restrictions, they met on Zoom, a call that drew 150 people.
“Nobody wanted to leave the virtual room,” Miller exclaimed. “And then one person after another from both communities said they felt a spark of hope in these dark times and asked, ‘What can we do now?’
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