I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from the Global Envoy of Sister Cities International, Mary Palko, asking if I would volunteer to participate in a Round Table Discussion next week.
“Sure, why not!?” I was quick to say yes, without really knowing much about it.
In essence, Sister Cities forms a legal or social agreement between them, a concept conceived after World War II “intended to foster friendship and understanding among different cultures and between former foes as an act of peace and reconciliation and to encourage trade and tourism.” (Wikipedia.org) Beyond this objective, the cities can use this relationship to also form strategic international business links.
Sister Cities International was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 as a nonpartisan 501 nonprofit which serves as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the United States. This network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in nearly 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries. That’s pretty impressive.
Interesting, isn’t it, that cities with close ties to one another across oceans and boundaries refer to themselves as “sisters,” rather than “brothers?” In questioning that, I found a lot of funny answers for the reason:
…because objects are generally referred to as female,
…because when “sister” is referred to an object, it often carries a subservient connotation,
…the general act of ascribing a female gender to inanimate objects,
…it’s biblical. Sisters get along. Brothers kill each other.
Personally, I like the last explanation best! (Women give life, not take it!) There is something more profound about “sisterhood” than “brotherhood” because for me, with three sisters of my own and no brothers, it’s so much more believable! We often call ourselves “sistahs,” which when defined by the Urban Dictionary, is “a girl or a woman coming from the same parents, roots or spiritual state of mind. A female whom you can count on throughout all time. In her truest sense she is one who will never turn her back on you. She knows you are not perfect and together you do what you need to do to improve. A real sistah is family. A connection with her is based on mutual love, respect and consideration. A sistah has your back and you have hers.”
This is what I have chose to believe is the real reason for this organization!
As a Global Envoy, Mary is a volunteer who serves during a five-year term as a diplomat and spokesperson at U. S. embassies abroad, international embassies in the U.S., protocol visits, and sister city partnership meetings. She presents papers, gives speeches, participates on panels and at workshops and meetings, at conferences, and more. In this case, she’s formed a Round Table discussion on Zoom where members and other interested parties can reopen the dialog since Covid-19 came on the scene.
Mary sent me a very long list (under construction by her team) of U.S. Sister Cities paired with France. There were well over 100 cities, but the list is not complete—it was missing my home town of New Orleans. That seemed strange to me considering New Orleans’ roots in France!
Thanks to Gary Lee Kraut of France Revisited, I found out I wasn’t wrong…New Orleans and Orléans became Sister Cities in 2018! And I learned something I should have known and didn’t—that New Orleans was named after Philippe d’Orléans, the nephew of King Louis XIV, and not actually after the city of “Sistah” Cities.
California has the most Sister Cities—nine in all, and in most cases I can fully understand what they have in common:
* Beverly Hills = Cannes (Yes! Isn’t Cannes the B.H. of the Riviera?)
* Modesto = Laval (Strange! I couldn’t find a good explanation.)
* Newport Beach = Antibes (Beachy! And Newport is to Los Angeles what Antibes is to Nice.)
* Laguna Beach = Menton (For the same reason as Newport Beach and Antibes…makes perfect sense to me.)
* Los Angeles = Bordeaux (Really? I don’t see it myself.)
* Palo Alto = Albi (There must have been a connection of some sort prior to officiating it.)
* San Francisco = Paris (This makes sense…San Francisco was the first city with an Alliance Française in the U.S.)
* Sonoma = Chambolle-Musigny (They even have a Facebook page. This “sistah” is thanks to international dignitary and wine connoisseur Frank Bartholomew who initiated the alliance with Burgundy’s Chambolle-Musigny, where he had friends in the village.)
* South San Francisco = Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (An important French town as the cross-roads of the route to Saint Jacques de Compostelle, at the foot of the mountain pass and the pilgrims’ last stop before the arduous mountain crossing…and San Francisco, a pioneer town?)
Mary’s home city, Fort Worth, is partnered with Nîmes. Paris has two other Sister Cities—Chicago and Washington, DC. Nice is partnered with both Miami and Houston. Miami has two besides Nice—the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis and Lamentin in Guadeloupe (French territory).
San Francisco has a lot of Sister Cities all over the world. So much so that in the summer of 2018, it installed a sign at Hallidie Plaza near the Powell Street cable car turnaround that included the names of each of its 19 sister city partnerships.
Here’s a list of U.S./French Sister Cities provided by Wikipedia.org.
Is your city one of them?
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with her Sistahs)
P.S. Sign up for a free writing workshop with Paris Prize for Fiction Winner and Lambda Award nominee, Timothy Jay Smith. It’s a “Virtual Event,” of course, for American Library in Paris members only. An RSVP is required:
TOMORROW, September 17 at 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Topics will include:
– Finding a story and developing it
– How much research is required
– Finding/developing characters
– How to adapt real people and places to the page
– The writing process
– Query letters and press releases
– Marketing, including publicists, social media, and videos
Learn more and register NOW by visiting the ALP website!