In 2017, two American cities, one with a primarily white population and one with a primarily black population, became sister cities and continue to celebrate the racial reconciliation, new friendships, and increasing understanding and partnership between the two cultures.
The movement started in 2016 when people in South Berwick, Maine, searched for a way to play a role in breaking apart the nation’s racial problems. “We knew that it was not a good way to expand our perception of African-Americans or heal 400-year-old differences based on media, films, and stereotypes,” Amy Miller told GNN. Four years ago, residents of South Berwick searched Wikipedia for a city of comparable size that was primarily African-American. When they found Tuskegee, Alabama, we were thrilled. Nine Maine residents traveled to Tuskegee the following year to start the partnership and give it some real sense person-to-person. “We were given the red carpet treatment hearing concerts and getting personal tours. In this country, we also engaged in rich but difficult race discussions.
The mayor of Tuskegee, Ala., and eight other residents of his town traveled north in the spring of 2018 to eat lobsters, see the rugged Atlantic coast, and spend four nights in the South Berwick homes of strangers. “While we are still a city of white people with just a tiny idea of what it means to be black in America, we are a very different group than we were before we started our relationship with Tuskegee.” In an attempt to influence young people in 2019, the school in South Berwick Tuskegee historian Guy Trammel to spend a week in their schools – grades K through 12 – talking about his town, his own personal experience with the Civil Rights Movement and everything from the Tuskegee Airmen to the Voting Rights Act. He stayed in the school librarian’s home and met with teachers, community members, and town leaders.
The relationship left with the two towns are much better than they were before. People are not afraid anymore, and life is better there.