Togolese officials honor Aurora mayor, seek cultural exchange
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin isn't just the leader of the second-largest city in Illinois.
He's now a Togolese prince.
The honor was bestowed Saturday and re-enacted Monday by King Aklasou Mawuko Kwami Adelan, the traditional ruler of the canton of Bé in Togo.
"You have the power to lead your people and the power to have everything you ask for," Adelan said, via an interpreter, at a meeting with the mayor, some aldermen, city officials and representatives of business organizations.
Irvin also was named a "godfather" of the Togolese 2018 Month of the Diaspora, the West African nation's effort to reach out to people of Togolese ancestry, especially in the United States.
Delegation member Justin Aziabu said the money Togolese people in other countries send home to help their relatives adds up to more than the financial aid the country gets from international organizations. Several hundred Togolese immigrants were living in Chicago by the end of the 20th century, according to the "Encyclopedia of Chicago," published by the Chicago Historical Society.
The election of Irvin, who is black, in 2017 caught the delgation's attention.
"We have been following you since the mayoral election," said Aziabu, a development minister in Togo.
They wanted to include Aurora on their visit to the United States "to see if what was said was true."
"We see Aurora as a very clean city and beautiful. There is a lot of peace right here in Aurora," Aziabu said.
Aziabu touted Togo's abundant mineral resources and its seaport on the Atlantic Ocean, plus its plans to concentrate on education and the empowerment of women. It seeks business investment, as well as cultural and educational exchanges, with Aurora.
"You can count on us to be there to work with you as we go forward," Alderman Sherman Jenkins said.
Over the weekend, the delegation attended the mayor's celebration of his 500th day in office and a service at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church.
On Monday, members were to view the "Finding Home" art exhibit, featuring works by refugees, at the Pierce Art and History Museum downtown.
Irvin has been invited to visit Togo and intends to do so, city spokesman Clayton Muhammad said.
"They have given me a great honor," Irvin said. "I hope I can live up to this great honor."