City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris recently embarked on a journey of personal discovery and cultural immersion in the bustling city of Dakar-Plateau in Senegal.
In 2019, Pasadena named Dakar-Plateau as its first African sister city.
“I went in late October through early November, 2022. My brother, Meredith Beal, who lives in Nairobi, Kenya was presenting a conference in Dakar, Senegal that connected the Diaspora related to cultural renaissance. He was aware of the Senegal-Pasadena Sister City Connection and the conference included the Mayor of Dakar Plateau, who is also the National Minister of the Environment, The Honorable Alioune Ndoye, so I was even more inspired to be part of the conference.”
Bagneris said that The African Renaissance Cultural Conference was a memorable two-day event, featuring Dr. Julius Garvey, Minister Ndoye, local college students, authors, a contingent of African Americans who have moved to Senegal, a concert with internationally acclaimed singer Issias Diop.
“It was described by Dr. Garvey as the ‘most significant conference’ he has attended among all of his trips to Africa,” Bagneris added.
Apart from the conference, Bagneris recalled her visit to The Door of No Return on Gorée Island as an emotional experience.
“The Door of No Return on Gorée Island, is the last place countless Africans saw before they left for unknown lands and were enslaved on continents around the world. It is an emotional experience to be on the same soil, and imagine what they must have gone through—we returned…by choice.”
Her trip was a personal journey, not an official City one, which she paid for herself.
“I have long wanted to go to the African continent, and this was my first visit there. While, as City Attorney, I brought greetings from the City of Pasadena, I was not an official representative of the Sister City Committee.”
Bagneris will share stories, photos and videos of her trip to Dakar-Plateau, along with other interesting areas in Senegal at Hastings Branch Library on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. The event is available on Zoom.
“It was an experience like no other, and I will try to capture some interesting and key moments during my presentation on February 8,” she added.
To attend the Feb. 8 event, sign up at: https://pasadena.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=7309
Dakar-Plateau, A Pasadena Sister City
Dakar-Plateau has a population of over 30,000 and is one of 19 districts of Senegal’s capital of greater Dakar, serving as its political, financial and commercial center.
A sister city relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries.
The relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement to become sister cities.
Pasadena Sister Cities Committee (PSCC) President Taleen Hindoyan said the idea to name Dakar-Plateau as Pasadena’s sister city was first floated some 20 years ago by a group of artists but it only materialized only a few years ago.
“The idea found its most ardent supporter in our (late) Councilman, John Kennedy. And that’s really when the project really took on a momentum and just as his personality really, when he had an idea, there wasn’t any stopping him.”
“And there were many local professors and artists and businessmen who really came together with John Kennedy.”
The first Pasadena delegation went on the exploratory trip to Dakar-Plateau in 2018.
“We became like family and they were so welcoming to us, so we knew that we had the right fit. So we developed the relationship over the 2018 and 2019. And in June of 2019, it was ready to come to our City Council to be voted on and to be signed.”
When the relationship became official, Hindoyan recounted that the cities were pretty much ready to begin their student exchanges, cultural exchange trips, and all kinds of special opportunities. However, the pandemic halted those plans.
“We weren’t able to launch so many things. But finally and especially the one trip we had, that small delegation with our then Mayor Terry Tornek and John Kennedy, they were en route to Senegal when the shutdown of the world happened.”
“So that pretty much was not a turning point, but it was just a moment to pause and reevaluate how we’re going to launch this relationship and these events and exchanges, all these incredible things that a very robust subcommittee for the Dakar-Plateau subcommittee had been working on,” Hindoyan said.
It has two Friendship cities, one in South Korea and one in Japan.
“We’re working on two more – one in Taiwan, and one in Val-de-Reuil, France,” Hindoyan said.