“The President’s Perspective”
By Alderman Ashanti Hamilton
Common Council President City of Milwaukee
This Saturday, the Africans in Milwaukee Inc. will be hosting their Cultural Festival in Brown Deer Park. As we join in this celebration of good food, community and culture, it is important to remember that there are implications of events like this beyond just enjoying ourselves. We have the opportunity to truly expand the horizon of our thinking from solely being on Milwaukee to a more global mindset. Thinking about our role in this world as an individual and as a City is important as we look to our collective future for a variety of reasons.
We cannot deny that our world is becoming smaller. Technology and the ease of travel have made it possible to connect with people across the world at speeds previously unimaginable. Our economies are globalizing and cultures spread well beyond their origins. What we are left with as citizens of Milwaukee is a choice. We can either let the connecting of our world happen despite us or we can be on the frontlines finding ways to take advantage. As part of this effort, I am working collaboratively with the Africans in Milwaukee Inc, Ghana in Milwaukee Association, and Asentu Rites of Passage to form a new Sister City relationship between Milwaukee and Tema, Ghana.
The specific nature of this relationship is still taking shape as we work with local residents of Tema to find areas of mutual benefit, but one thing has become apparent from our discussions. Milwaukee can see a very real and tangible benefit from this relationship in a multitude of ways.
The first is trade. Tema has the largest port in Western Africa and is a major exporter of raw goods and materials. Businesses and manufacturers in Milwaukee could benefit from a formalized trade relationship with companies in Tema that can provide them with the materials they need for their products. Our team can work with the Port Authority to set this infrastructure up and create new market share for Tema while giving new import options to Milwaukeeans. Aside from raw materials, our products can be sold to retail and marketplace locations in Tema and vice versa.
Another area that we can see benefit is through education. Students in Milwaukee, especially of African origin, can benefit greatly from an educational experience guided by a Ghanaian or held in Tema.
Through exchange programs and formalized relationships between educational institutions, we can provide this opportunity for our students to reconnect to their roots, learn about another culture, and understand the historical connections that exist between the United States and this particular area of Ghana. In my own personal travels to Western Africa, I found this connection to be the most profound.
Culturally, a Sister City with Tema can bring about a host of new opportunities. Having Ghanaian products, artisans and performers present at events such as the African Cultural Festival can only enhance the cultural experience, we get every year. Irish fest already does this through a Sister City relationship with Galway, Ireland and we can apply this same idea to our Black History Month, Juneteenth, Black Arts, and African Cultural Festival activities.
No matter what we craft this connection to look like, we know that it will benefit our community in a meaningful way. Through partnerships with the African American Chamber of Commerce, local BIDS, and neighborhood residents, we can ensure that the benefits are felt. I thank all of our partners in this effort and look forward to making a formal announcement of how this Sister City will look once it is formally established.