In 1993, my wife and I boarded African Airlines and 20 plus hours later we landed in the Motherland, Africa. We toured Senegal, Ivory Coast and The Gambia. The Gambia is the country made famous by the ﬁrst television series, “Roots”, Alex Haley’s famous story that taught America about Africa and the Slave trade.
I will always remember visiting the homeland. I remember the Pink Lake where we saw where water appearing pink. We learned that the water was clear but because of the salt sediments on the bottom, it gives the appearance of being pink. I remember the restaurant where we dined daily, and the main dish of ﬁ sh and rice or chicken and rice.
I remember my wife getting sick and I wondered what were we to do? We spent a day going to the clinic to see an English speaking doctor and searching out a pharmacy to ﬁ ll her prescription. Overall, I found that medical service there is just as we have in America. I remember seeing a young man who looked like the spitting image of my nephew. We met more people who looked like people we knew back home in the states.
My camera was ablaze with the wonders of West Africa. My mind was set aﬁ re with new knowledge about Africa. I didn’t know there were 50 plus countries in Africa. I saw the contrast of Africans sitting on the ground begging and other Africans pass by with brief cases in hand. I was amazed at how Black Africans were taking care of business, from the Black pilots on our plane to the happy hour cooks and servers at the hotel.
There we were riding taxis and buses as if we were at Disneyland, touring the countryside and being told and shown how the Africans would make paint out of different plants and get rubber and sand paper from trees. They lived in houses, drove cars and the children went to schools on school busses. We were told the different color of their uniforms revealed the different schools and grades they were in. One of our Taxi drivers bragged about picking his child up at the French School.
The grocery store I went to each day and became enthralled by a certain succotash that I bought. I got another lesson in Afrocentrism and how it was enmeshed with Eurocentrism. This lesson came from the clerk at the meat counter who ﬁnally asked me why I kept pointing to what I wanted instead of asking for it, in either French or the local African language, Wolof. I was being forced to speak their language.
I returned home and got involved with then Mayor Bogaard and others, discussing an African Sister City for Pasadena. The effort died, or at least took a long nap. Why? Who knows! Pasadena has Sister Cities in a number of European cities. One is in China and other in places not in Africa. Why not?
In April of this year, my wife and I attended an event put on by a group called African Focus. This was their fifteenth anniversary African Goodwill Awards and Family Inductions Dinner and Dance. It was held at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles and was a mind blowing event highlighting Africa, African people and Black people of the Diaspora. My friend, Dr. Earnestine Thomas Robertson, was Chairperson and also an honoree named “Ambassador of Goodwill and Zambian Induction”.
As a note, her brother, McKinley Thomas, had taught at Chang’ombe Teachers College in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Dr. Thomas has been involved with Africa in a number of ways, including being appointed by Mayor Thomas Bradley and then Assemblywoman Maxine Thomas. Dr. Thomas Robertson currently heads the Los Angeles Lusaka Sister City Committee.
There is progress being made on this idea whose time has come for Pasadena. A number of meetings between a Pasadena delegation and a delegation from Dakar, Senegal have occurred and resulted in a 26 page proposal which answers the questions raised by past and present committee members. As of now there is an Ad Hoc Committee on Africa and a letter from the mayor of Dakar Plateau has been sent and delivered to Pasadena expressing an interest. His letter in response to a 2017 letter from the Pasadena Committee expresses a deﬁnite interest.
It seems that now is the time to re-visit the African Sister City idea in Pasadena. To further this idea, contact Pasadena City Council Member John Kennedy and/or Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and express your interest. A meeting of Pasadena’s Ad Hoc Committee is scheduled for June 14, 2018 on the issue. For more information, go to www.pasadenasistercities.org.