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Dressed in a brightly colored, patterned dress and wearing stylishly large, black rimmed glasses, 51 year-old Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr flashes the most fantastic smile. The mayor of Freetown, Seirra Leone in West Africa has travelled more than 4,000 miles to visit Charleston and South Carolina’s Sea Islands. She must be exhausted. Yet she glows with warmth and enthusiasm.

“We’re family,” she tells an audience gathered inside the Frissell Community House at the Penn Center on Saint Helena Island. “We should be a bit closer than we have been to date.”

Freetown and the Lowcountry are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. But they are closely connected through the transatlantic slave trade which transported enslaved Africans, mostly to the Americas, from the 16th to 19th centuries.