- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - A delegation of West African and Mississippi officials are looking to build a bridge between Natchez and Senegal.

Natchez and Adams County officials, along with members of the local tourism industry, historians and others met Thursday with dignitaries from two cities in Senegal, West Africa, and the Caravan for the Promotion of Cultures of Africa at the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture.

The Natchez Democrat reports (https://bit.ly/1PaFxQr) the groups met to start a dialogue about establishing a sister city pact between Natchez and a city in Senegal.

Two mayors from cities in Senegal - Falou Sylla of M’bour and Aminate Kanté of Sam Notaire - attended the meeting and have already formed similar partnerships.. M’bour has signed a pact with Jackson and Sam Notaire with Philadelphia.

Natchez native Shirley Mock of One Voice Mississippi and her son, Berthrone Mock-Muhammad, a Jackson cardiologist and board member for the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, have helped coordinate the sister city program idea.

“This city is rich in culture, rich in ethnicity,” Mock said. “We celebrate our ethnicities in Natchez, because culture is what makes up the roots of Natchez. We need to celebrate that.”

CAPCA Executive Director Ndeye Ndao outlined the basics of a sister city partnership that would allow residents of both cities to explore various aspects of a different culture.

“You’re not just sitting in your borders,” she said. “You’re exploring a whole different culture, a different language, different people.”

Sister city partnerships also can include performance art exchanges, community development programs, music exchanges, museum exchanges and community service projects, Ndao said.

Sylla and Kanté said they were overwhelmed with the hospitality and warmth they have felt since arriving in Mississippi. Sylla said one of the purposes of the trip was to learn more about the impact slavery had on Africans in America.

“We know what happened in the motherland, but we are looking forward to knowing what happened to our ancestors here,” Ndao said, translating for Sylla.

Kanté said she was surprised to see so many African-Americans in the U.S.

“That’s not what (we) see on TV,” Ndao said, translating for Kanté. “It was a big eye-opener. I have been around the world, and (I have) never felt more welcome than (I) do here. (I) feel like (I) am still home.”

Mayor Butch Brown said the sister city program can be beneficial to Natchez in many ways, including tourism.

“African-American history is what we are here about today,” he said. “It’s what this building is about and what tourism in our city and our state is about now . recognizing those who have not been recognized.”

Mock-Muhammad said the most successful sister city partnerships have a strong grassroots component.

“What’s different here is that you have a really strong link of elected officials that are in line,” he said. “You have great leaders among you . keep focused and stay ahead, and we will get to the target.”

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Information from: The Natchez Democrat, https://www.natchezdemocrat.com/


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