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"If we can make personal connections back to the continent, it would be difficult to ignore the plight of most Africans," says local Sister-City Association President Paula Royster.
BY FRANK DELANO
PRINCE'S TOWN, Ghana--A seat of honor is reserved in West Africa for the mayor of Fredericksburg.
In Ghana, tribal chiefs at ceremonial occasions sit on ornately carved, often ancient wooden stools. Now, when Prince's Town Chief Nana Kundumuah IV [kun-DU-mu-ah] and the 14 elders in his council meet, a new stool waits empty beside them.
The vacant stool is a public symbol of Prince's Town's new sister-city relationship with Fredericksburg. Everyone in town hopes to see a Fredericksburg mayor sitting on it one day.
Mayor Tom Tomzak said he was "honored" by the gesture, but has no immediate plans to take a seat.
"I'm looking forward to visiting Prince's Town, but I really don't know when," Tomzak said.
Prince's Town also awaits another VIP visitor from Fredericksburg. In July, an unidentified Prince's Town man said: "Pamela Bridgewater, the American ambassador [to Ghana], she's from Fredericksburg, right? Fredericksburg has produced many famous people. When is she coming to Prince's Town?"
"At my first opportunity," Bridgewater said in an e-mail to a reporter. "[I] have had tons of official visitors and responsibilities, but visiting Prince's Town is among my priorities when I get the first free moment."
Bridgewater said the U.S. Embassy in Accra is seeing an increase of interest from cities in Ghana and the United States seeking sister-city ties.
The Ghana government is also welcoming tourists and investment through its Joseph Project, a campaign designed to reconnect blacks around the world with their heritage in Mother Africa.GOING TO GHANA
At a City Council meeting Aug. 14, the Fredericksburg-Princes Town Sister City Association extended an invitation to city officials to join association members when they visit the poor, remote town in October.
Sister City Association President Paula D. Royster also asked the city for $10,000 to help pay travel costs, but council members did not act on her request. No officials have yet signed up, she said.
The October trip will be the first for Royster and other Fredericksburg members of the group. Association Vice President Powell Holly delivered a laptop computer to Prince's Town when he was in Ghana on business in April.
Four leaders of Prince's Town came to Fredericksburg in December of last year for the ceremonies establishing the relationship. The City Council appropriated $8,000 to the Sister City Association to help get them here. The appropriation was for two years.
Royster is the spark plug who fired the council's interest and approval of the relationship last year.
"This trip is to solidify the relationship between the two cities," she said. "Putting faces with names makes the relationship more personable and therefore more successful."
During the four-day October visit, she said an association archaeologist will work with townspeople to survey the town's 17th-century German fort, develop a plan for its maintenance and conduct a dig.
The similarity of the names of Fort Gross-Friedrichsburg and Fredericksburg led last year to the establishment of the sister-city relationship with Prince's Town.
An engineer will demonstrate how to generate electricity from sun, water and wind. A doctor will conduct health and hygiene workshops, Royster said.branches from the vine
Royster, who is also president of the Center for African American Genealogical Research Inc., will lead a workshop on computers and genealogy.
She also plans to collect DNA samples from Prince's Town residents.
"We all come from the same vine, although we are many branches," she said. "There are any numbers of cases here in the states where DNA has brought families together that would have otherwise not known they were related.
"Our theory is that if we can make personal connections back to the continent of civilization, it would be difficult for anyone to ignore the plight of most all Africans, especially if that African is the distant relative for which your very being is validated."
City Councilman Marvin Dixon understands.
"I am a family genealogist and have reconnected with my far-flung family throughout the United States, Ireland and Germany. My family came from the poorest of [the] poor. Poverty isn't the issue. The remoteness and poverty of Prince's Town is irrelevant in re-establishing family ties," he said.
Royster said the association will use "nontraditional mechanisms" to establish bonds with Prince's Town. The mechanisms include technology, education, computer literacy, historical preservation, genealogy and DNA.
They "are not traditional, either in whole, in part or in combination, of any people-to-people or sister-city relationship anywhere," she said.
"This obviously is not a middle class-to-middle class relationship, as is the case for most other sister cities. This is a long-term partnership and as we mature out of this infancy stage, so will the opportunities for a more robust exchange."STRENGTHENING TIES
Twenty-seven years of robust exchanges and activities have marked Fredericksburg's sister-city relationship with Frejus, a city of 50,000 between Cannes and St. Tropez on the French Riviera.
A.C. Whitley, president of the Fredericksburg Sister City Association Inc., said "hundreds of people" from Fredericksburg and Frejus have visited each other's cities since the bond was created in 1980.
This summer, 14 teenagers from the Fredericksburg area visited families in Frejus. Next summer, French teenagers will come to Fredericksburg.
The student exchanges have been going on for years, along with scholarships, work-study and cultural programs.
The Fredericksburg-Frejus group has an annual budget of about $16,000, including a yearly contribution from City Council of $4,000. The balance comes from a variety of fundraising activities such as French classes, auctions and product sales.
Royster said the Fredericksburg Princes Town Sister City Association also plans to fund its future activities "via philanthropists, corporate donors, grants and fundraising activities and events, including membership drives."
"All sister-city relationships are designed with the underpinnings of learning about other cultures, to share our culture with others and advance peace throughout the world," Royster said.
"Fredericksburg will get out of it what Fredericksburg puts into it. Prince's Town will get out of it what Prince's Town puts into it," she said.Fredericksburg-Princes Town Sister City Association: fredericksburgsister city.org/index.html Fredericksburg-Frejus Sister City Association: http://fsca.community point.org/index.html The Joseph Project: thejoseph project.com/ More on sister-city relationships: sister-cities.org Frank Delano: 804/333-3834
|ON THE NET >> For more photos, video or to order photo reprints, fredericksburg.com|
|SUNDAY: Sister cities Prince's Town and Fredericksburg are world's apart. MONDAY: Sister-city relationship shines a beacon of hope into Prince's Town. Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's need, and obsession. TUESDAY: Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect villagers from malaria. YESTERDAY: Profile of Fredericksburg's Pamela Bridgewater, ambassador to Ghana. TOMORROW: Forty years later, reporter's return to Ghana is bittersweet. In LIFE SATURDAY: Remembering Prince's Town's Golden Age, and a photo essay on a traditional burial. In TOWN & COUNTY For previous stories in this series, see fredericksburg.com|
|Reporter Frank Delano visited Prince's Town, Fredericksburg's new sister city, during a July trip to Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago.|
The Fredericksburg-Princes Town Sister City Association will collect books, school supplies, shoes and sporting goods "to meet some of the short-term needs of our sister city," said association President Paula D. Royster.
Royster said the collection drive will begin tomorrow
Beck's Antique's & Books, 708 Caroline St.
James Monroe High School library, 2300 Washington Ave.Shoes Room 101 of Monroe Hall, University of Mary Washington. Sporting goods Sporting goods, including soccer balls and apparel can be dropped off at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St. FOR MORE INFO Call Mary Bridgewater at 540/373-7951 or Maude Williams at 540/785-9925, or go to fredericksburgsistercity.org.