Sat | Mar 25, 2017

'Don't be dismayed' – Alabama mayor tells concerned Jamaicans to look to the heart of US people

Published:Friday | February 17, 2017 | 2:00 AMRomario Scott
Delroy Williams (right), mayor of Kingston, and Dr William A. Bell Sr (left), mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, put pen to paper at the Sister City signing ceremony between the City of Kingston, Jamaica, and Birmingham City, Alabama, at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation office earlier this week. In the background are (from left) Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government; former Kingston Mayor Angela Brown Burke; and Mark Jackson.

Amid the slew of executive orders by United States President Donald Trump, resulting in rising political tensions and panic among immigrants, including Jamaican nationals, earlier this week, the city of Kingston moved to strengthen its ties with the US city of Birmingham, Alabama.

Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams and the Mayor of Birmingham, Dr William Bell, signed a Sister City agreement, which will see their respective cities cooperating in several areas, including culture and health care.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, held at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) offices, Williams said that with the agreement in place, Birmingham is now able to assist Kingston in becoming "the capital city of the Caribbean".

But with the unfolding of Trump's foreign policies already causing jitters, Bell gave the assurance that the programme would continue without interference.

"The Sister City agreements step outside the political arena. It is people-to-people exchanges, and the people of Birmingham will welcome the exchanges that are on offer, and oftentimes, that set the tone for the Government to get in line," Bell told The Gleaner.

Mark Jackson, former chairman of Birmingham Twin Sister Cities and now, Honorary Consul General of Japan, said that "presidents stand for one to two terms. Sister Cities have transcended all presidents ... it is hearts that bond us and not our politics", adding that the programme has stood for 60 years.

 

A GOOD RELATIONSHIP

 

Williams said that the relationship between the people of the US and Caribbean has always been a good one and that he didn't foresee anything changing that.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie agreed that the twining of cities was important to the development of Kingston and also brought into sharp focus the nature of the relationship between Jamaica and the US.

For more than 50 years, the KSAMC has been twinning with countries across the world. In the past 10 years, there have been six similar agreements with other cities in the US, the last one with Chicago.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com