"Sister Cities" Book Announcement!!

Virginia Friends of Mali is pleased to announce 

.... the publication of an exciting book written by two of our founder members in honor of the 10th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Segou, Mali and Richmond, Virginia, USA. Board Members Ana Edwards and Robin Poulton are in love with the West African country of Mali and the second city of Mali, called SÉGOU, which has made them both Honorary Citizens.

The City of Ségou has been twinned with the City of Richmond, Virginia for the past ten years. Many things have been done in Ségou and in Richmond, as a result of this partnership, and the stories the authors tell are very instructive. Ana and Robin have written an amusing and insightful book, published this month in Richmond VA by Brandylane Publishers:

Sister Cities: A story of friendship from Virginia to Mali

by Ana Edwards & Robin Poulton. Richmond Va: Brandylane 2019. ISBN: 978-1-947860-58-2
A fun story about Richmonders and their Malian Sister City friends

“The primary reason we created Richmond’s Sister City relationship with Ségou,” say Ana and Robin, “was to change the perceptions of Africa as a continent of catastrophe; and to teach African Americans in particular that they are the descendants of a famous and wonderful civilization ….  the ancient Malian civilization and the Empire that was founded by the famous and wonderful Lion King, whose name was Sunjata Keita.”

Ten years after the signing of the Sister City agreement, this book is filled with of amusing stories about mutual cooperation, where Malians explore Virginia, and Americans are amazed by Ségou. More than fifty Richmonders have visited Mali, and more than fifty Malians have come to Richmond from Ségou – often during the time of the Music Festivals in each city. The Richmond Folk Festival and the Ségou Niger River Festival are described beautifully in SISTER CITIES and we also meet some of the musicians: for Malian music is famous, and it is also at the roots of most American music.

Jazz and calypso, reggae and blues, Old Tyme and bluegrass, soul and beat, pop and rap and hiphop all have West African roots, and Americans play them on instruments like the banjo and the guitar that are descended from African musical instruments. Who knew that the famous blues-rock'n'roll musician Bo Diddley took his stage name from the one-string Malian instrument called the dili bo? The book SISTER CITIES is filled with such anecdotes, provided by Ana-the-artist and Robin-the-anthropologist who are the best sort of teachers: two people with a passion for their subject and the gift of telling a great story.

SISTER CITIES is a MUST READ for every elementary school teacher involved with the Mali-Sonrai Standard of Learning for 3rd Grade and 6th Grade students in Virginia’s elementary schools. In fact, this is an important book for education at every level in Virginia: for history and anthropology students, for African and African Studies students, and for all the parents of small children attending ES.

“The Richmond-Ségou sister city adventure actually has its roots in 2003. That year, the Virginia Department of Education created a Mali Standard of Learning (SOL), a state-imposed regime mandating that third-grade students learn and answer questions about Mali for an examination given to every third-grader in Virginia.”

So Virginian children know more about Mali than their parents, although we have done our best to help teachers educate adult Richmonders and Virginians about West Africa. Readers will discover through the book SISTER CITIES, the life and culture of Ségou described by Ana and Robin. In their book we meet women and men, school teachers and their students, Mayors and councilors, musicians and artisans, business people, traders and farmers. The stories of women feature prominently as they represent both the vulnerabilities of a society under pressure and the strengths of human accomplishment from the every day to the historic, and the progress that Malian and Virginian women continue to make everyday.

There are lots of Virginian partners in this story, which is not simply about Ségou, or Virginia Friends of Mali, or the Mayor and the Richmond Sister City Commission. In SISTER CITIES we meet exciting women community leaders in Virginia, as well as important community groups that support the aims of social justice and community development that we espouse. So readers will discover the African art collections in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Virginia Union University; visit exhibitions in the Black History Museum and Richmond’s Public Library; discover school teachers and university professors, visiting French classes in Virginia Commonwealth University and  governance discussions in the Maggie Walker High School; join West African dancing with Elegba, “Richmond’s Cultural Ambassador”  and West African music at the Richmond Folk Festival ….. and so many other partners across Virginia, for the Mali-Sonrai ES curriculum reaches into every elementary school in our State.

There is an index of proper names at the back of this book, filled with the names of Virginian women and men who have participated during the past fifteen years in the excitement of SISTER CITIES.

The authors and VFoM distinguish three types of SISTER CITIES project:

  1. Sister City things we do in Richmond (like teaching about the Lion King and supporting VA teachers in their history and social studies curriculum; and supporting Sister Radio project with WRIR);
  2. Sister City things Malians do in Ségou (like their English Teachers’ Club; and supporting Sister Radio project on Radio Sikoro);
  3. Sister City things the two cities do together (including visits to each others’ cities; the Gates Foundation grant that we jointly managed to build a maternity clinic and a medical laboratory; joint efforts to support women and girls’ education in Ségou; and supporting the creation of a documentary film about the two Sister Radio projects).

Some of the projects turn out to be hugely successful, as we learn in the book; others struggle to get off the ground and have obstacles to overcome. But that is life. Overcoming obstacles is a part of the SISTER CITIES story. It is a great story, well-told, and filled with insights. President Eisenhower created the sister city idea in order to promote peace and understanding between the peoples of our world. SISTER CITIES are a gift to us all, and SISTER CITIES is a book you must buy for your family, for your friends, and for your teachers.

List of Local Independent Booksellers that can also order the book!

Media Release: 18 September 2019. 
Contacts: Robin Poulton poultonrobin@gmail.com and Ana Edwards virginiafriendsofmali@gmail.com