Sibling synchronicity

Council considers approving Dakar-Plateau in Africa as Pasadena’s sixth sister city

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/23/2018

Pasadena may form its first sister city relationship with an African city Monday when the City Council considers adopting Dakar-Plateau, Senegal, with a population of nearly 37,000, covering an area of 1.93 square miles, and serving as the political, financial and commercial center of the country’s capital of greater Dakar.

While discussions to form a Sister Cities relationship with an African city have been ongoing for at least 20 years, efforts ramped up in 2015 when the Sister Cities Committee created a 15-member ad hoc committee on Africa and appointed Boualem Bousseloub as its chair. Bousseloub is a Pasadena resident who was born in Algiers and has lived in Paris, Albi, Bruges and Sacramento.

Pasadena has established five other Sister Cities partnerships, including with Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1948; Mishima – Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, in 1957; Järvenpää, Finland, in 1983; Vanadzor, Armenia, in 1991; and Xicheng District – Beijing, China, in 1999.

The idea of partnering cities grew out of the Twin Town concept in Europe in 1946 following World War II. Ludwigshafen was selected in 1948 by the Pasadena branch of the American Friends Service Committee. America’s involvement came in 1956 following President Dwight Eisenhower’s White House conference on citizen diplomacy, out of which grew Sister Cities International (SCI). Pasadena formally established its Sister Cities chapter in 1960.

Traveling to Dakar-Plateau

From March 21 to April 1, Bousseloub led a delegation composed of four members of the ad hoc committee on Africa, Pasadena Councilman and Vice Mayor John Kennedy and Honorary Consul of Senegal in Los Angeles Mame Toucouleur Mbaye, on a fact-finding mission to Dakar-Plateau. There they met with community leaders, including the mayor of Dakar-Plateau and member of the country’s Socialist Party, Alioune Ndoye, to determine the feasibility of forming a sisterhood with that city.

The delegation visited schools, youth centers, museums, the chamber of commerce, the Port of Dakar, the island of Gorée (the infamous gateway of slavery to the Western Hemisphere), the National Assembly, the US Embassy and other locations.

“Mayor Ndoye was with us from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of our delegation, as was a cameraman from a private TV station,” said Bousseloub. “Everywhere we went we were received with great interest and warmth by officials as well as the citizens of Dakar-Plateau.”

Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa. According to the BBC, for example, it is the “only country on mainland West Africa never to have had a military coup.” Although it is 96 percent Muslim, the country is also tolerant of other religions. Easter and Christmas are government holidays, for instance, and Muslim residents often have Christmas trees in their homes. Officials at the US Embassy also informed the Pasadena delegation that while Senegal is a conservative society, it is making positive progress on LGBTQ rights and there have been no recent active persecutions against LGBTQ people.

Senegal is not without its political turmoil, however. Dakar-Plateau is one of 19 district communes of greater Dakar, with each district commune having its own city government. In March, as the Pasadena delegation was touring Dakar-Plateau, the mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzling $3.4 million and falsifying documents. Sall and Dakar’s city government would not be involved in a Sister Cities relationship between Dakar-Plateau and Pasadena.

Identifying a Sister City

Before settling on Dakar-Plateau, the ad hoc committee explored other possibilities on the continent. They preferred a region that had an English-speaking population, no war or epidemics and a democratic political system that respected human and civil rights. They considered all 54 countries before narrowing the list down to three: South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia.

They first approached Cape Town, South Africa, but after several months of waiting, Mayor Patricia De Lille informed the committee that Cape Town was only interested in investors, not a formal Sister Cities relationship. The cities of Durban and Port Elizabeth expressed interest, but did not follow up.

In June 2017, Senegal’s Honorary Consul in LA Mame Mbaye unexpectedly called Bousseloub and they discussed the possibility of a Sister Cities relationship with a city in Senegal. On June 18, 2017, Bousseloub gave an invitation letter to Mbaye, who delivered it to Ndoye in Dakar-Plateau. On July 13, 2017, Ndoye wrote back accepting the offer.

“Aware of the extraordinary exchange and collaboration opportunities between our two cities, we express our full support for this project,” Ndoye wrote.

The Importance of Exchange

Bousseloub and Jim Barry, a member of the ad hoc committee who lived in Senegal for five years, are optimistic that the Pasadena City Council will approve their proposal. They pointed out that the Sister Cities Committee overwhelmingly approved it.

Bousseloub also pointed out that Dakar-Plateau has a wealth of museums, a UNESCO World Heritage site, strong infrastructure such as its new airport and port, popular cultural festivals, financial institutions and youth programs. The presidential palace, the country’s major banks and all of its top companies are located in Dakar-Plateau.

If the City Council approves the proposal on Monday, the two cities would exchange official delegations led by Ndoye and Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and conduct signing ceremonies in each city.

Bousseloub then envisions extensive exchange opportunities between the two cities, including police officers, doctors, students, faculty and administrators of schools and universities, scientists, artists, musicians, business executives and athletes. Ultimately, he would like to see the creation of an annual Pan-African Market and Arts Festival at the Rose Bowl, and invite all of the African consulates in LA to participate.

“People on the West Coast of the United States have so little contact with Africa compared to people on the East Coast of the United States,” Barry said, addressing why Pasadena needs a Sister Cities relationship with an African city.

Bousseloub agreed, pointing out that the African-American community is a sizable portion of Pasadena’s population.

“This is a time when African Americans are searching for their roots,” he said. “We look at Pasadena as a mosaic. We want to add a beautiful new tile to make it a comprehensive and beautiful mosaic. We have Sister Cities relationships with three Asian cities and two European cities. Well, there are no Central or South American cities, and there are no African cities. I think there is something there that needs to be done in the future.”

Pasadena just finished hosting two college students from Ludwigshafen, Germany, who interned at a Pasadena law firm and the Huntington Library. One of the students, Sophia Hoffman, who stayed with different host families in Pasadena and Altadena for five weeks, told the Pasadena Weekly about how meaningful this experience was for her.

“I’ve had a wonderful time here,” she said. “I am glad and thankful for having the chance to be here. The people of the exchange program are very welcoming and cordial. I will always remember my time in California and I am sure that I will come back.”

To learn more about Pasadena’s Sister Cities Committee, visit pasadenasistercities.org.

Game on

Pasadena approves a 10-year soccer contract at the Rose Bowl as North America wins bid for 2026 World Cup

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 7/12/2018

Although the United States did not qualify for this year’s World Cup in Russia, soccer’s popularity in the United States — and especially in Pasadena — continues to explode.

On June 13, one day before kickoff of the first game of the World Cup between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) announced that the 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The joint North American bid beat out Morocco by a vote of 134-65, mostly due to the fact that all of the necessary facilities already exist in North America, whereas Morocco would have to build several stadiums and improve infrastructure to the tune of $16 billion.

According to The New York Times, President Donald Trump sent three letters to FIFA President Gianni Infantino over the past couple of months promising that “foreign teams, officials and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the US for World Cup matches in 2026 if their countries qualify for the tournament” and that Trump’s “hard line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup.” The Trump administration’s travel ban and immigration policies almost derailed the North American bid.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the final game of this year’s World Cup in Russia. The final game between France and Croatia will be played at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, July 15, at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Sweet 16

The North American bid promises to generate $11 billion in profits for FIFA. It could also be beneficial for Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

According to stadium General Manager Darryl Dunn, the facility, along with 22 other venues, is a candidate to host soccer games during the global, newly expanded 48-team tournament in 2026. Sixteen venues will ultimately be chosen by FIFA in 2020.

“We’re hopeful,” said Dunn. “Our fingers are crossed.”

When the United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994, the final game between Italy and victorious Brazil was held at the Rose Bowl. Mexico hosted the 1970 and 1986 tournaments. The US-Canada-Mexico bid forecasts that revenues will reach $14.3 billion.

International soccer has carved out its place in the Rose Bowl. The stadium has hosted several national teams, as well as European club teams such as Inter Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid and others. It hosted an international soccer match in 2013, another in 2014, two in 2015, four in 2016 and one in 2017. This year, Mexico and Wales faced off on the Rose Bowl’s Spieker Field on Memorial Day, and July will see AC Milan take on Manchester United and FB Barcelona take on Tottenham Hotspur as part of the International Champions Cup.

Next year, the Rose Bowl will present at least two games during the regional 2019 Gold Cup tournament, hosted by the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). The Rose Bowl hosted the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in 2002 and 2011, a group stage doubleheader in 2013 and a semifinal in 2017. The stadium also hosted Brazil vs. Ecuador, Colombia vs. Paraguay, and Mexico vs. Jamaica during the 2016 Copa America Centenario, a North, Central and South American regional soccer tournament.

In fact, international soccer is critical for the long-term financial viability of the Rose Bowl, Dunn told Pasadena City Council members at their June 4 meeting. That night, the council unanimously approved a 10-year exclusivity contract with one of Southern California’s two Major League Soccer teams, LA Galaxy, and promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which also produces the music festival Arroyo Seco Weekend, now in its second year at the Rose Bowl and Brookside Golf Course. The Rose Bowl Operating Co. and AEG are currently finalizing the contract’s language and are expected to sign it soon.

The other LA-based MLS team, LA Football Club, is a brand-new team with a brand-new stadium, the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park.

“Soccer is an essential piece [of the Rose Bowl’s financial viability],” Dunn told the Pasadena Weekly. “The Rose Bowl is the only venue in the world that has ever been the host of the gold medal match of the Olympics [in 1984] and the final matches of the men’s and women’s World Cups [in 1994 and 1999, respectively]. No one else has done it. Our history is second to none and we have the reputation of being the preeminent soccer venue in America. We want to build on that and strengthen that. Continuing to host high-level international soccer is very important for our future, which is the primary reason why we want to do this deal with AEG.”

The Rose Bowl will also likely host men’s and women’s semifinals and finals in soccer once again during the 2028 Olympics, to be hosted by Los Angeles. Dunn said that the RBOC had a handshake agreement with LA’s Olympic bid committee when it was aiming to host the Games in 2024.

“We’ve had some discussions [since Paris was awarded 2024 and LA was awarded 2028], and we do anticipate having the same events in 2028, but we need to finalize specifics related to that with the organizing committee,” Dunn said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that that’s going to happen. And certainly, our partnership with AEG is going to do nothing but make us — the Rose Bowl and therefore Pasadena — stronger.”

A Stronger Stadium

Pasadena’s contract with LA Galaxy and AEG stipulates that any soccer match with an expected attendance of 35,000 or more involving either of those two entities within the LA market must be offered to the Rose Bowl. In return, the Rose Bowl will involve AEG in all its soccer bookings. The agreement also allows for a higher license fee structure. Currently, the Rose Bowl earns about $165,000 per soccer match that it hosts; under the new agreement, the stadium will earn anywhere between $250,000 and $400,000 per match. Thirty percent of net revenues will go to AEG/LA Galaxy, excluding admission tax.

“We are confident that the minimum we will be able to generate [from special events such as international soccer games under this new agreement] is $300,000 per event,” said Dunn. “This is really an opportunity for the RBOC to give ourselves the best possible chance to continue to have soccer programming over the next 10 years.”

The increased soccer revenue will help offset the declining golf revenue that the RBOC relies on. Golf’s popularity is decreasing nationwide.

Jens Weiden, chief revenue officer of the RBOC, told council members that there is a real chance the Rose Bowl could be shut out of the soccer market if the city did not approve this contract.

“Over this 10-year span, that could represent millions of dollars in lost revenues for the RBOC,” Weiden said. “This deal will better align ourselves to hopefully book some of this programming. It could be said that outside of American football, our venue is known internationally as a soccer venue more than anything else. For us, soccer has been and will continue to be very important as far as programming and revenue for the RBOC. For a very long time, the Rose Bowl had very little competition in the market. That is changing.”

Weiden noted that the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum is currently undergoing a $300 million renovation that will be completed in 2019; the $350 million soccer-specific Banc of California Stadium opened earlier this year; and the $4 billion LA Stadium in Inglewood, which will be the home of the Chargers and the Rams and multiple other events, will open in 2020.

“Our landscape when it comes to attracting events, which is our business, has changed and is constantly changing,” he said. “AEG and LA Galaxy have been partners of the Rose Bowl for a very long time. When it comes to promoting a soccer match, you almost always partner with the local MLS team. This is because you need to be able to market and sell tickets, so you need to partner with somebody that has a database of people that buy soccer tickets in market.”

LA Galaxy, a founding member of MLS, first played at the Rose Bowl from 1996-2002.

“When we set out to renovate the stadium, this is precisely what we had in mind,” said Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo. “Fortunately, we’re a couple steps ahead of the Inglewood stadium’s opening. That’s going to be the most expensive stadium in the history of this country — of the world, maybe. And they’re going to have to make up that $4 to $5 billion. They are going to be hungry for events, and they’re likely going to try to buy a lot of the business away from other stadiums. If we hadn’t done the work of renovating the stadium and positioning it ahead of time, we’d be in a world of hurt, potentially also losing UCLA. So I’d like to thank Darryl and his staff for having positioned the Rose Bowl in this way and giving us a fighting chance. This is the kind of deal that we need to drive for so that we’re not just responding to the market and trying to compete for very limited business.”

At the June 4 council meeting, Nina Chomsky, president of the Linda Vista-Annandale Association, questioned whether this deal represents “displacement creep,” meaning a gradual increase of large events at the Rose Bowl each year that are called “displacement events.” The city council has to approve any event over 15 per year. Dunn said they will reserve two displacement event slots for soccer each year over the 10-year period.

“Part of our agreement with AEG is anything over two, no matter what number it will be, would be subject to approvals by the city,” he said.

Pasadena UN Association chapter uses music to help children in some of the world’s poorest refugee camps

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 6/21/2018

With no end in sight to the unprecedented global refugee crisis, the Pasadena chapter of the United Nations Association (UNA) is hosting a concert Friday, June 22, to benefit two of the largest, most crowded and poorest refugee camps in the world.

The second annual concert will raise money for the Adopt-A-Future campaign, run by UNA-USA and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Launched in 2016, Adopt-A-Future raises money to benefit two UN refugee camps in Kenya: the Dadaab Refugee Complex and the Kakuma Refugee Camp, temporary home to more than 400,000 people. Those funds will be matched by the UN Foundation and the queen of Qatar, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

About 18 million of the more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes and their countries due to conflict and persecution are under the direct care of the UN. More than half of them are children, many of whom have limited if any access to an education. One of the UN’s global goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, is dedicated to “providing inclusive, quality education to all and promoting lifelong learning as a basic human right.”

Student musicians from the Colburn School in Los Angeles will perform at the benefit concert, which will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Westridge School for Girls, 324 Madeline Drive Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students.

Friends in Aleppo

One of those student musicians is herself a refugee from Syria. When Nanor Seraydarian was 11 years old, she and her parents and siblings were visiting her aunt in the United States in June 2012 when all hell broke loose in Aleppo, her home town. They haven’t been back to Syria since, and now live in Reseda, which she said has been difficult. She is entering 11th grade in the fall.

“We didn’t know English back then [in 2012], so I had to learn a new language,” she said. “It was hard making friends at school, especially in the beginning, because everybody would speak English and I wouldn’t know what they were saying. I think music helped me get through that because when I play music I forget about all my worries and about all my pains, and I think through music is how we’re going to get to tell people to help these refugees gain an education.”

Seraydarian is a violinist who performed in last year’s Adopt-A-Future benefit concert and is looking forward to performing again this year.

“I really liked the concert last year,” she said. “It was a great idea to tell people about the refugee camps and the kids who are having difficulties in getting access to education. It was my honor and pleasure to play in the concert. I’m definitely excited to play again this year.”

The destruction of Aleppo was a humanitarian crisis from 2012 to 2016 and became the symbol of a disastrous war that the international community failed to stop. Seraydarian still has family members in Syria who she talks to every week.

“They’re in a safe area, but most areas are still not safe to go,” she said. “They’re mostly at home and at school. I still have some friends there, but I have no contact with them. Some of them I know are in Armenia now, some of them I know are in Canada. I still don’t know what happened to most of my friends who stayed in Aleppo.”

Seraydarian said she misses Syria and wants to go back “when the conditions permit, of course, when it’s safe to go back.”

Special Care Needed

The benefit concert is the brainchild of Marta Sterns, who serves on the board of UNA-Pasadena.

“To me, the fact that those kids are trapped in refugee camps for an average of 17 years is really scary,” she said. “I point out to my progressive friends the fact that it’s a humanitarian crisis when you think of losing that much talent and mental capacity over the next couple of generations. I point out to my conservative friends that there will be 65 million illiterate people emerging from those camps with no home, no country and no place to go. That’s scarier than anything we’re looking at right now, in terms of the potential for radicalization.”

At Kakuma and the nearby Kalobeyei Settlement, which were established in 2015, an influx of refugees from South Sudan has stretched thin the available resources, including education. At Dadaab, 95 percent of the population is from Somalia. According to a UN report, “of 48,737 students enrolled in Dadaab schools in December 2017, there were 943 ‘special needs’ students.” Sterns pointed out that many refugee children need special care because they have experienced extremely traumatic situations, such as the killing of their parents.

Girls are also particularly vulnerable. They constitute nearly 70 percent of out-of-school children in the camps, according to the UN report.

“Girls face negative cultural practices such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, difficulties balancing school work and domestic responsibilities, overcrowding which tends to push girls out and family preferences to educate boys,” reads the report.

So far, the Adopt-A-Future campaign has helped to “expand school infrastructure (seven classrooms and 16 latrines), improve teacher salaries and training and provide desks and more than 9,000 textbooks. Primary education access improved 15.1 percent from 2016 through 2017, and refugee children who sat for the national primary exam achieved an 87.8 percent pass rate (the national average was 76 percent).”

However, these improvements have “not kept pace with the significant growth in school enrollment. Overcrowding threatens the quality of education as 160 children share a classroom meant for 40 pupils. There is one teacher for every 103 pupils, one book for every seven students and one desk for every seven students.”

A Human Right

At the benefit concert, Sterns is aiming to raise $30,000 to build a classroom in one of the refugee camps.

“Last year, we got about 200 people and raised about $8,000, but the auditorium at Westridge will hold 450. We want to fill the room this year,” she said.

Sterns will also be hosting a fundraising soiree at her house in Pasadena where a pianist and an opera singer will perform. She and other members of UNA-Pasadena plan to reach out to local progressive groups to raise funds as well.

“Last year, we had problems giving tickets to the benefit concert away because people thought it was a little kids’ recital, but when they showed up it was a jaw dropping experience,” she said. “These kids are really outstanding performers. They’re in the protégé category. They fill the room with music, and it is just so beautiful.”

Sterns said events like these are becoming increasingly necessary since the Trump administration is cutting US foreign aid, including the United States’ traditional contribution to organizations like the UN. In December, the administration announced $285 million in cuts to the UN’s budget.

“U.S. support around the world is disappearing,” Sterns said. “The remaining opportunities to make a difference in a very complex, violent world are that much more critical. It’s the kids that get me. To me, education is a human right. Besides providing some kind of a life, it’s survival for these populations. They’re not going to make it without an education. They can be trapped in a camp for 17 years, but we can free their minds. We can still give them a chance.”

UNA-Pasadena will also present the second annual Jon Charles Distinguished Service Award to Methodist minister, author, occasional Pasadena Weekly contributing columnist and social activist Inman Moore, in appreciation of his lifelong commitment for social justice, equality and human rights. The award is named after past UNA-Pasadena President Jon Charles, for “his selfless service and dedication to a world that works for everyone.” 

Tickets for tomorrow’s Adopt-A-Future benefit concert can be purchased at the door or online at: bit.ly/UNA-Colburn2018.