Sister Cities reception celebrates Seattle’s international ties

Mohammed Shaibu & Thierno Diop

The 17th annual Seattle Sister Cities reception last week brought people from all around the globe to Seattle City Hall to celebrate diversity and cross-cultural relationships.

Whether they wore sleek suits or traditional African garb, high heels or brightly colored veils, those who came to the Seattle Sister Cities reception shared a truly international experience.

This was the organization’s 17th annual reception, which took place on May 9 at Seattle City Hall.

Those with name tags showing Seattle’s Sister Cities: Chongqing, China; Limbe, Cameroon; Perugia, Italy; Tashkent, Uzbekistan, were celebrated as special ambassadors.

But just because these four particular cities were highlighted, that doesn’t mean the Seattle Sister Cities Association didn’t extended a warm welcome to all of its 21 partnering cities—and anyone else who chose to come.

Lucy Wu of Nanjing, China, represents Seattle Sister City Chongqing, China with her musical performance by playing the jinghu, a two-stringed Chinese-style fiddle at the 17 Annual Seattle Sister Cities reception. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)
Lucy Wu of Nanjing, China, represents Seattle Sister City Chongqing, China with her musical performance by playing the jinghu, a two-stringed Chinese-style fiddle at the 17 Annual Seattle Sister Cities reception. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)

The welcome included traditional foods from around the world and special cultural performances representing art forms from each of the featured cities.

Seattle mayor Mike McGinn spoke at the event to recount his 2012 visit to Chongqing, China with the Seattle Sister City delegation.

“I gained such a deep understanding of how important the Sister Cities are to building, deepening cultural understanding, and expanding the horizons of everyone in Seattle,” McGinn said.

“The aim [of the organization]  is to increase the diversity of people interested in learning more about a region in which they probably know very little about,” said Mike Peters, International Programs Director for the 2013 reception.

According to Peters, the receptions are one of the largest sources of revenue for the organization. The largest sponsors for the event included Boeing, catering company Seasoned in Seattle and the Port of Seattle. This year, tickets ranged from $15 to $30 and the event raised $5,500 with over 350 tickets sold.

“Each of the different cities—we have 21—has a separate nonprofit associated with it,” Peters said.

Sister City relationships generally promote educational exchanges, cultural exchanges—such as the Daejeon Yeonjeng orchestra from Korea having been invited to play at the Benaroya Hall in April—and opportunities for trade, according to Peters.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower laid the groundwork nationwide for the Sister Cities program in 1956, “to increase the chance of peace and reduce chance for conflict in the world,” Peters said.

Dilbarkon Akhmedova sings a traditional Uzbek folk song and represents her hometown of Taskent, which is shares a Sister City relationship with Seattle. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)
Dilbarkon Akhmedova sings a traditional Uzbek folk song and represents her hometown of Taskent, which is shares a Sister City relationship with Seattle. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)

Just one year later, in 1957, Seattle and Kobe, Japan sparked a sistership. The cities celebrated their 55th anniversary last year.

Co-president of the Tashkent, Uzbekistan delegation and Seattle-area resident Diana Pearce, got involved with the Sister cities program shortly after her Fulbright scholarship in 1996.

She said the Seattle Sister Cities association has helped her to develop democratic institutions in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. In 1973, the Tashkent and Seattle sister city relationship became the first between a U.S. and Soviet city.

Seattle-area residents Benita Horn and Kikora Dorsey, members of the Mombasa, Kenya delegation, recall their trip to Mombasa.

“We were treated like royalty because of the sister cities connection,” Dorsey said.

For more information on how to get involved with the Seattle Sister Cities Association visit https://www.seattle.gov/oir/sistercities/.

Editors’ Note: The original version of this story mistakenly referred to Mike Peters as Mike Peterson. The error has been corrected.

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