Thursday, October 20, 2016

Black Paris Profiles™II: Yolanda Robins - Part 1

Yolanda Robins is a former investment relations and corporate communications executive turned real estate entrepreneur who has made a life for herself in Paris. She moved to the French capital in 2004 after a careful, three-year selection process during which she investigated living in Rome, London, and Paris.

Yolanda was inspired to change her life on September 11, 2001, when she was on a flight from Hong Kong to New York. She was accumulating wealth from a financial perspective but not growing from a personal perspective. The terrorist attacks on the U.S. were the impetus she needed to decide to make a change. They made her realize that life is very precious and that "you really have to enjoy all aspects of what you're doing."

Yolanda was working at Pegasus Communications when she had this epiphany. She continued to consult with the company for a period of time to help them transition while traveling around the world for eight months to see different kinds of people and experience different cultures. She visited Vietnam, Cambodia, North Africa, and Europe. She returned to the U.S. to work on the then and former Pennsylvania governor's campaign and then made the decision to "test" the idea of living in Rome, London, or Paris.

Though she is a city girl, Yolanda found that the areas of Italy that appealed to her most - Tuscany and Umbria - were not urban centers and therefore would not support her in her professional endeavors. She thought London would represent the "path of least resistance" because there was no language barrier, but she found that it was not the kind of city that interested her.

Then she went to Paris, a place that she had visited many times before in her youth and as an adult. Despite not speaking the language, she felt that the pros outweighed the cons for relocating there. She packed up and moved in January 2004.

Yolanda came to Paris as a student. She attended the Sorbonne for a year and a half, taking French language, French history and art history courses. She found this to be extremely challenging, in part because she was twice the age of her classmates.

The Sorbonne
© Discover Paris!

Being in Paris alone was also a challenge. For the first few months, Yolanda was very isolated. But even though it was "excruciatingly painful" for the people with whom she conversed in her very basic French, she persisted in communicating in French - even when people detected her accent and responded to her in English:

I kept doing it. When they responded to me in English I responded in infinitives, but I kept doing it until they realized she is not going to stop speaking no matter how terrible she is speaking. After I would say probably about, I would say, about six to seven months I made myself understood. I understood things because I watched different films, I watched different television, I went to cafés, I went to performing arts and did everything in the language in the country where I had decided to live.

Yolanda began her career in real estate after attending a seminar organized by a person who was in the process of redefining her focus and creating a practice in real estate. She and Yolanda partnered in the new business venture. Then, after some period of time, Yolanda was approached by the agency that rented her apartment she found when she moved to Paris. They thought she was a dynamic person and though they understood what her level of French was at the time, they wanted to bring her into their company to create a practice that was aimed at helping non-residents purchase property in Paris for investment or personal use.

She spent time interfacing with banks, which was easy because it was part of her financial background. She also worked with French notaries who speak English. (The notary in France is somewhat to an attorney because they oversee the real estate transactions in France.) She worked with builders to renovate the properties as well. Within the agency, she put together a package of services that met any and all client needs. She specialized in properties in the Marais (3rd and 4th arrondissements) and targeted a niche of clients with non-conventional lifestyles - mostly same sex couples. She was the sole Anglophone within the agency and established a loyal, satisfied clientele. Having a financial and communications background and being well versed in Anglophone culture gave her customers a sense of ease and solidarity.

Yolanda started her own real estate business, Paris Mac Immo, in 2010. Once again, a personal defining moment was behind her decision - her mother became very ill and Yolanda spent a lot of time going back and forth to Philadelphia to care for her. She opened her business after her mother died and splits her time between sales and renovations. She works on interior design projects as well and finds it all very rewarding work.

Paris Mac Immo properties and renovations
Images from Paris Mac Immo Web site

When asked what she finds different about working in France compared to the U.S., Yolanda replied that it is challenging because in French culture, lifestyle takes priority over business. She finds that she can work at half the capacity that she did in the U.S. and get far more results because her American work ethic is more determined, more focused. This allows her to get things done quickly and efficiently. Bringing all of those skills, she is able to attract not only not only non-residents clients, but also French clients because they want the same level of service.

Regarding the real estate business itself, Yolanda informs her American clients that the process of purchasing property is completely different than in the U.S. It’s not an intuitive process and you need someone to help you navigate through the challenges. In the U.S. you can see a property, make an offer, and once it is accepted, you can close within two weeks - including the financing. In France, this process takes three months and people are very surprised that there is no prequalification for financing. It can take 90 days or even more from signing an initial offer to closing. Yolanda spends a lot of time notifying her clients of the process here.

Yolanda amassed a good deal of wealth while working in the U.S., so she was able to live off of savings during the three years that she spent traveling and selecting the new city that she would eventually call home. When she decided to move to Paris, she was offered an opportunity to do almost the same work that she had done in Philadelphia. But she had made a conscious decision to reconfigure her life, so she set out to do something different. She started her real estate activities as a consultant with the understanding that she would be able to serve the client base she developed once she created her own business. This allowed her to establish a successful practice quickly.

Running her own business, Yolanda is able to make lifestyle a priority while maintaining a competitive edge through her American work ethic. In her corporate position in the U.S., she wouldn't think anything of working 14- to 15-hour days and she often found herself traveling 15 days a month for work. Her eating habits were extremely poor.

Now she works eight hours a day and only works on weekends when it is necessary. Because she found herself surrounded by physically fit people in Paris, she began to run or work out everyday and has lost 50 pounds because of this new habit. The quality of her life has markedly improved.

For women who are thinking of relocating to France and running a business in Paris, Yolanda has the following advice:

I would say that first of all you have to expect the unexpected. You should not be deterred by the challenges. You should not be deterred by the cultural differences. You should not be deterred by the language. All of these things can be used to your advantage to help you excel at what you want to do because if you have the basic instincts to succeed you can do that just about anywhere.

What's also helpful for women, for Americans in general, is to be a generalist, to be able to do many different things. I am a person who adapts to change very easily and I do that by being a generalist. If you have all of those skills and if you're not deterred, then that’s my advice. Just enjoy the experience because there are things about the city that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world.

Paris is a place that is full of life, full of happiness, full of joy, full of opportunity. It’s really a great environment or a great backdrop to create a life, to create work, to create just how you want to be.


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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Carole D. Fredericks Collection Enters the American Library in Paris

After extensive remodeling, the American Library in Paris celebrated its grand reopening during its Fall Open House on Sunday, September 25, 2016. Guided tours of the new spaces were conducted by Library Director Charles Trueheart and architect Lia Kiladis. Treasures from the library's archives were on display in the conference room. Tutorials for digital resources, face painting and story time for children, a voter registration station, and much more were offered during the day.

Architect Lia Kiladis and Library Director Charles Trueheart
Images and collage © Discover Paris!

A prime feature of the open house was the Carole D. Fredericks Collection, which was recently donated to the library by the Carole D. Fredericks Foundation. It consists of activity books with lessons, music videos on DVDs, and albums on CDs that serve to teach Anglophone students to speak French. These high quality French language materials engage students at all grade levels, teach language skills, and promote the study of Francophone cultures. They support the Foundation's goal of emphasizing the advantages of second-language learning and cross-cultural communication skills.

Carole D. Fredericks Collection Display Table
© Discover Paris!

Carole Fredericks was a powerful singer who wove the passionate threads of blues, gospel and R&B into a uniquely French tapestry. Ms. Fredericks moved from Springfield, MA to Paris in 1979 to pursue a singing career. She began as a background singer and featured artist supporting stars such as Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall, Michel Berger, Johnny Hallyday, Gilbert Bécaud, Mylène Farmer, Mireille Mathieu, and many others. But it was her breakout performance with the stellar music trio FREDERICKS GOLDMAN JONES (Jean-Jacques GOLDMAN and Michael JONES) and subsequent appearances with LES ENFOIRES for Restos du Coeur that cemented her fame with the French public.

Ms. Fredericks lived in France for twenty-two years. Her sudden death in 2001 propelled her sister, Connie Fredericks-Malone and French teacher Nancy Gadbois, in cooperation with the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), to transform Ms. Fredericks’ biography and musical legacy into innovative French lessons for English-speaking students.

Connie Fredericks-Malone and her husband, Dr. James F. Malone, were present at the festivities to present and answer questions about the Collection and the services the Foundation provides. Dr. Malone is a veteran College and Career Readiness Counselor whose expertise is essential to the other goal of the Foundation, which is "to provide students with an effective approach to career and college readiness planning skills so they understand how to author their own career narratives."

Connie Fredericks-Malone and Dr. James Malone at display table
© Discover Paris!

Presenting the collection
© Discover Paris!

Learning about the collection
© Discover Paris!

The Carole Fredericks Collection also includes the complete Fredericks Goldman Jones catalog of albums and music videos.

The Library holds the Collection with its course materials. For more information, contact External Relations Manager Pauline Lemasson at



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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Color Line - Buzz

The vernissage (opening reception) for The Color Line was held on Monday, October 3, 2016 at the Musée du quai Branly.

This long-awaited exhibition provides a magnificent lens through which visitors can simultanously regard the sad history of segregation in the United States and a cross section of the monumental body of work that African-American artists have produced in spite of and because of it.

The vast majority of works were borrowed from museums and private collections in the U.S. and there is considerable buzz about the exhibition because of this. Numerous people have traveled to Paris to see it as a result. The Quai Branly Museum, Columbia Global Centers | Paris, and the Terra Foundation for American Art are among the organizations that have organized public events in celebration of the opening. Several private events were organized as well.

The Friends of Education of MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in Manhattan sent a large group to Paris to attend the opening. They enjoyed a private reception at Galerie Intemporel, hosted by owner and independent curator Laurence Choko on Sunday evening, October 2. Distinguished guests included U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines and prominent African-American art collector Dr. Walter O. Evans.

Dr. Walter O. Evans, Laurence Choko, and Linda Evans
© Discover Paris!

Dr. Evans has loaned several works from his personal collection to the exhibition.

Several members of the Friends of Education of MoMA group enjoyed a private tour of Beauford Delaney's Montparnasse, a two-hour walking tour that explores the district where Delaney lived for most of his 26 years in Paris.

MoMA group on Beauford Delaney's Montparnasse walking tour
© Discover Paris!

Delaney's abstract portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, loaned by the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, hangs in the exhibition.

The Musée du quai Branly organized a pre-vernissage on Sunday, October 2 and a traditional vernissage on Monday, October 3. They have scheduled numerous events throughout the show's run through January 15, 2017.

The exhibition is rich, broad, and deep and will take several hours to see if you plan to do anything more than just walk through. I attended the opening reception on the evening of October 3 and can personally attest that this show is not to be missed!

The Color Line - collage
© Discover Paris!

Columbia Global Centers | Paris has organized a week-long series of events to coincide with the opening of the exhibition. Called "Race and Racism: Global Perspectives," it is being presented in partnership with the Columbia Masters Program in History and Literature in Paris. Attendees of the various events will enjoy music, dance, literature, and film. All events are free and open to the public. To register, click HERE.

The Terra Foundation of American Art has organized a dialogue between The Color Line's French curator, Daniel Soutif, and American scholar Richard J. Powell, who is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University. This event, which is also free and open to the public, will take place on October 10, 2016 at 6:00 PM. Registration is required - to sign up, send e-mail to .

Discover Paris! is offering private, guided individual and group tours of The Color Line in English. For more information, click HERE.


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Thursday, September 29, 2016

NMAAHC Inaugural Ceremony Live Streamed at the Musée Dapper

The U.S. Embassy and the Musée Dapper partnered to present the inaugural ceremony of the Smithsonian's newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

U.S. State Department representatives Randianina Peccoud and Sophie Nadeau welcomed invitees in the vestibule and directed us up to the auditorium. Scenes from the new museum greeted us upon entry - Angelique Kidjo on stage, views of the crowd queuing for admission and shots of those already having been admitted chatting and laughing.

Angelique Kidjo on live stream
© Discover Paris!

Aurélie Leveau, General Administrator of the museum, greeted the audience and briefly presented the museum and the current exhibition, Chefs-d'oeuvre.

Aurélie Leveau, Administrative Director of the Dapper Foundation
© Discover Paris!

She was followed by Philip Frayne, Minister of Cultural Affairs and Communications at the U.S. Embassy; who also spoke briefly and, in turn, introduced Daniel Yohannes, U.S. Ambassador to OECD.

Philip Frayne, U.S. Cultural Affairs and Communications Minister
© Discover Paris!

Ambassador Yohannes spoke for only a few minutes, sharing that he was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 17. He expressed his pleasure that the museum is finally a reality and took his seat in the audience so we could all continue watching the ceremony.

Daniel Yohannes, U.S. Ambassador to OECD
© Discover Paris!

We were able to view the entire proceedings, including President Obama's entire address and the ringing of the Freedom Bell by the Bonner Family and President and First Lady Obama.

President Obama addresses the crowd
© Discover Paris!

Ringing the Freedom Bell
© Discover Paris!

Then, we were treated to a panel discussion moderated by Rokhaya Diallo, a French-Senegalese journalist, writer, award-winning filmmaker, and activist for racial, gender, and religious equality. The panel consisted of Raina Lampkins-Fielder, Artistic Director of the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art & Culture in Paris; Curtis Robert Young, Professor of Literature and historian; Doudou Diène, Chair of the Board of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and Jake Lamar, award-winning novelist and playwright.

Panelists on stage
© Discover Paris!

All panelists expressed their sentiments about the discourse delivered by President Obama from a professional and / or personal perspective. Perhaps the most poignant of these was a personal statement by Lampkins-Fielder, who pointed out that her eight-year-old twins have only ever known a black president and that this is "normal" for them.

Moderator Rokhaya Diallo, left; panelists (top to bottom) -
Jake Lamar, Doudou Diène, Curtis Robert Young, and Raina Lampkins-Fielder
Images and collage © Discover Paris!

Because the hour was growing late, Sophie Nadeau invited us to retire to the lower level of the museum and take up the conversation about the inauguration and the panel discussion over wine and cheese. It was a spirited end to an historic day!

Chatting at the reception
© Discover Paris!


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