Inglewood, Jamaican City Plan to Become ‘Sisters’

Times Staff Writer

One is a tough urban community that serves as home to a professional basketball team and horse racing. The other, a miniature island port known for its serenity, deep-sea fishing and river rafting.

Inglewood and Port Antonio, Jamaica, thousands of miles apart, are planning a sister city arrangement in which they will share cultural exchanges.

Inglewood has been the sister city of Pedavena, Italy, since 1981. The hometown of City Councilman Anthony Scardenzan, Pedavena is a tourist town near the Austrian border known as a brewing site of Heineken beer. Although the exchange with Pedavena is going strong, some members of Inglewood’s sister city program said Inglewood’s predominantly black population necessitated a second sister city.

Organizer Frank Denkins said of Port Antonio, “A whole lot of their folks look like us and we look like them.”


Councilman Daniel Tabor said the new sister city will provide “the mystique of Jamaica” and “a rich African heritage.”

A 3-mile-long town on Jamaica’s easternmost coast, Port Antonio is known as the cradle of Jamaica’s tourism industry. The town is built on twin harbors and was the site at the turn of the century for a United Fruit Co. facility, a U.S.-based firm active in the Caribbean. Even before such resorts as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios were generally known, Port Antonio was attracting such vacationers as Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and William Randolph Hearst.

“Nature has been kind to us,” L. L. Fielding, secretary manager of the Portland Parish Council, said in a telephone interview from Port Antonio. “We have beautiful lush scenery all year long.” He said the town sponsors an international fishing tournament every year and depends on tourism and banana harvesting for income.

The two communities, despite their different environments and economies, already have a connection: a sizable Jamaican community in the vicinity of Inglewood. Fielding, the Jamaican official, said Port Antonio Mayor Hezekiah Molloy has received telephone calls from former Port Antonio residents living in the Inglewood area encouraging the exchange.


Proposed Her Hometown

Stephanie Sullivan, who runs the Island Hut restaurant in Inglewood, proposed her hometown of Port Antonio to Inglewood officials as a sister city after a town in Zimbabwe fell through. She said residents of both cities will benefit from the exchange.

“Jamaicans always want to know more about Americans,” she said. “They put them on a pedestal. I think by them coming here they’ll learn that we’re all basically the same.”

As for Americans, Sullivan said: “Jamaica is more than a beach. It’s a country. It’s more than reggae music and marijuana. It’s the people. Americans come off the plane and say, ‘We’re going to the beach to smoke some weed.’ They don’t know ganja is illegal in Jamaica.”


She said Americans will also learn that Jamaica is more culturally diverse than they believe. “You have Chinese Jamaicans, Indian Jamaicans, white Jamaicans,” she said. “ ‘Out of Many People, One’ is our motto. Jamaica is made up of many people, just like here.”

Denkins, who visited Jamaica in 1983, said the sister city arrangement will give Inglewood residents a tropical vacation spot they can call their own.

“The biggest thrill I had in Jamaica was rafting on the Rio Grande (in Port Antonio),” he said. “It blew my mind. It was heavenly. . . . It’s an experience I’ll never forget in my lifetime. It had so much raw beauty.”

Tropical Atmosphere


Inglewood sister city officials said their city can provide economic and professional assistance to Port Antonio, which was struggling economically even before it suffered damage from Hurricane Gilbert last year. Port Antonio can offer its tropical atmosphere for Inglewood vacationers and its unique style of art, music and cooking, they said.

Already being discussed are exchange programs for students, doctors and business people, a Jamaican cultural festival in Inglewood and an effort to bring Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley and Mayor Molloy to Southern California.

After the Port Antonio exchange becomes final in the coming weeks, more sister cities may be in the works.

“I’d like to have a sister city on every continent,” Tabor said.