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21.10.2004 Diaspora (USA)

Chicago Heights going for Asuogyaman

By Daily Southtown

Fundraising efforts to establish Chicago Heights' fourth sister city are in the works. Ald. Kevin Perkins (3rd) said the city hopes to have a sister city agreement with Asuogyaman, Ghana, by next year.

"African-Americans have contributed much to this city, and it is fine time that our community contribute something as far as establishing a sister city in the continent of Africa," Perkins said.

He said the Chicago Heights Sister City African Diaspora Initiative Inc. was a committee formed in February to represent all areas of the city, and by next month it should have tax-exempt status.

At the end of October, the committee will host a fundraiser at Balmoral Race Track in Crete.

Perkins said the committee decided upon Ghana because of it's similarity to Illinois.

"We wanted to have direct communications as far as language was concerned. Ghana's population is very similar to the population in the state of Illinois, and Ghana is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa," Perkins said.

"We kind of lost certain foods, dance, music and dress during the slave trade as far as our culture," Perkins said. "Surely things have changed in Ghana as far as the culture that existed 400 to 500 years ago, but what can happen now in the modern days is a reconnect and building for the future."

Lorenzo Martin, a history professor at Prairie State College, is a member of the sister city committee who has been to Ghana four times.

"People go to countries all over the world to reaffirm their connections with their ancestral homeland," Martin said. "We thought it would be spiritual to return from the place we originated from."

There are two ways to apply for a sister city. The first being to submit a profile to Sister Cities International that pairs communities with other communities looking for a sister city.

The second option is to work with the top elected official in the desired city and initiate delegation visits to build a relationship.

Perkins said Chicago Heights is working with Preps Kofi Fiadzigbe. He is running for parliament in Ghana's December elections, opposing the incumbent parliament member.

"Mr. Fiadzigbe won the primary elections and we feel very confident he will be the next member of parliament," Perkins said. "He has dual citizenship in the U.S. and ... Ghana."

Perkins said Fiadzigbe once worked in Chicago's controller's office and was instrumental in forming Chicago's sister city relationship with Accra, Ghana, in 1989.

With the addition of Asuogyaman, Chicago Heights would have more sister cities than any other Chicago suburb.

Chicago Height's first sister city was San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy in 1977. It then adopted Wadowice, Poland, in 1999, and Cedral, Mexico in 2001.

"I think this particular initiative is way overdue, and I'm very happy to play a part in establishing the sister city in Africa," Perkins said.

For more information about fundraising opportunities for the Chicago Heights Sister City African Diaspora Initiative Inc. or the Oct. 30 event at Balmoral Park, phone the city clerk's office at (708) 756-5311.

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