Lifestyle

Black and white towns break racial divide to become ‘sister cities’

Smashing stereotypes and building friendships

A powerful alliance has taken place between two towns, one of which is predominantly home to black residents and the other which is largely a white area.

Now, they have joined forces to become ‘sister cities’ on a mission to relieve racial tensions and promote healing between people from different heritages.

The union between Tuskegee in Alabama and South Berwick in Maine has become such a success that it has not only reduced prejudice but also seen friendships blossom.

Back in 2017, local activist Amy Miller began searching for a town in similar size to South Berwick that was home to African-American communities.

[Credit: Amy Miller]

Speaking about her quest, Amy explained to a local US network: “We knew that depending on media, movies, and stereotypes was not a good way to broaden our understanding of African-Americans or heal 400-year-old divides.

“We were excited when we found Tuskegee, Alabama, aware of its rich history that includes the pride of the Tuskegee Airmen.”

This history, which includes spearheading voting rights and civil rights progress, is now teaching Maine residents about the nation’s history from people who lived through it.

Amy continued: “Although we are still a town of white people who have only a small idea what it means to be black in America, we are a very different community than we were before our relationship with Tuskegee began.”

[Credit: Amy Miller]

Since then, after the two towns became sister cities, the people of Maine who had never spent time with black people in their entire lives, now have black friends.

It was not only a tokenistic exercise, but a project with long-lasting effects as friendships were built, schools were visited, and people began conquering fears over stereotypes.

Initially, nine Maine residents travelled to Tuskegee to launch the relationship, before the mayor of Tuskegee visited South Berwick with eight guests to discover their traditions.

[Credit: Amy Miller]

Following these meet-and-greets, the work was only just beginning.

Since then, two journalists – one from South Berwick and one from Tuskegee – teamed up for a joint column which is published in both hometown papers bi-monthly.

There has also been a trickle-down effect to influence future generations, with Tuskegee historian Guy Trammel spending a week in South Berwick schools to talk to students about his town, his personal experience with the Civil Rights Movement, and everything from the Tuskegee Airmen to the Voting Rights Act.

We can only hope more places continue to adopt this incredible approach.

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