NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Mayor Latoya Cantrell recently traveled to West Africa and she believes what was accomplished will bear both cultural and economic fruits for the city.
Cantrell discussed her trip in an exclusive TV interview with FOX 8 News.
"I see a need to expand those opportunities to Africa,” said the mayor.
Photos provided by Cantrell’s office show her meeting with officials in Ghana. She was there as part of an economic forum put on by Essence, a company which holds a music and empowerment festival in the city each summer. While in Ghana, Cantrell signed a memorandum of understanding for a sister-city agreement with Cape Coast that will lead to cooperation in various areas.
Cantrell said because of the slave trade there is a direct link between New Orleans and Ghana.
"The largest slave dungeon that existed was that in Cape Coast, so it has contributed significantly to Africans who are a part of the diaspora right here in the city of New Orleans,” said Cantrell.
In terms of new economic opportunities, one area Cantrell talked about is coconuts.
"Particularly with Zulu I just see another opportunity as it relates to coconuts, city of New Orleans, also creating an economic driver relative to, you know, to coconuts, the coconut water. I see being able to even standup start-ups, small businesses here,” said Cantrell.
Members of the local carnival organization, Zulu, dress in grass skirts and throw decorated coconuts to parade watchers on Fat Tuesday.
Cantrell says the agreement also calls for academic cooperation between universities in New Orleans and Cape Coast and the cities respective business and tourism entities. She says there will also be collaboration in the areas of infrastructure, water and waste management and climate change.
Additionally, Cantrell said cultural exchanges will involve local musicians getting opportunities to perform in Ghana.
"Eager for our musicians here in the city to therefore go to Cape Coast,” said Cantrell.
And the mayor says she wants to build on other lessons learned in Africa to change the mindset in New Orleans related to how violence is characterized.
"In the continent, one thing that they don’t do, now we do share poverty in our communities but one thing that we do not share is this notion of a culture of violence. You don’t have black people there killing one another in their communities, you see more of unity. You see more of love and I would really love to build up that exchange here with our young people to get them to understand that there is no reason for us to own what has been talked about as a culture of violence,” said Cantrell.
Cantrell says her trip was funded by Essence, and that the city paid the expenses for the city’s international relations director who also made the trip.
The mayor says a delegation from Ghana will travel to New Orleans in July.
“In our delegation, I will be hosting in July I have hopes of setting up meetings with the Port of New Orleans, for example, where you really get into the discussions in regards to import/exports and of course GNO Inc., bringing them to the table of course, our own NOLA BA, making them center at the table, the business community, as well,” said Cantrell.