Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Monday to approve a “Sister City” pact with Unification City in Liberia. Waterloo is a city in and the county seat of Black Hawk County, Iowa, United States, the city is part of the Waterloo – Cedar Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area .
The agreement is designed for the two cities on opposite sides of the world to share information and friendship but does not carry any financial commitments by either side.
“This gives us the ability to exchange social and cultural ideas, to be able to work together, to be able to better serve the Liberian community and African communities that are currently in the city of Waterloo,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart.
Unification City Mayor Samuel Berrian and Police Chief Sylvester Hina, who oversees a force of 150 officers in Marbigi County, both attended the council meeting in Waterloo.
“It’s an exciting period of time to be here,” Berrian said. “We feel that if this agreement is reached … Unification City can stand to benefit from the reservoir of knowledge from the council members, from the office of the mayor.”
The Rev. Alexander Collins, pastor of Redeemed Life Church International of Minneapolis, hosted the Unification City officials and noted Waterloo is currently home to 500 to 600 Liberian immigrants, including several from the Unification City area.
“Your Liberian community here is growing, and we want to see how we can be a part of that,” Collins said. “This is a social contract mainly for the exchange of ideas, exchange of resources.”
Collins noted a similar relationship in the Twin Cities area was used when Minneapolis police reached out to a sister city to understand Liberian culture when investigating a murder.
“For example, in Liberia when police pull you over, you get out of the car,” Collins said. “In the United States, when you do that you get shot.”
Liberia has a strong historical relationship with the U.S. dating back to 1820, when America began sending freed slaves to Liberia. The African country modeled its constitution on the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
During World War II, the U.S. stationed thousands of black soldiers in Liberia to guard runways. The base was off limits to Liberians, but they could smell the American food being cooked on the base.
Berrian noted that led to the original name of Unification City, which was called Smell No Taste.
Councilman Steve Schmitt called the sister city arrangement a “great idea” that could be expanded to other immigrant groups living in Waterloo.
“In hindsight, it’s something we should have been doing with the Burmese and something we should have been doing with the Hispanics and some of these folks where we’ve got thousands of immigrants to our community,” Schmitt said.
Source: The Courier