Thursday, June 28, 2012

Black Hair in Paris: Interview

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen of Prissy Mag for Pris' most recent blog - Black Hair in Paris (BHIP) for an article called "Up Close." An excerpt follows:

BHIP: How did you wear your hair before you got here?

MW: Before I came to Paris (in 1992), I wore braids. I started wearing braids when I went to graduate school in 1985. Before then, I processed my hair (straight perms, Jeri Curls).

Monique and Paul Stromberg at The Ohio State University
Photo courtesy of OSU

BHIP: What was your hair experience when you got to Paris--were you lucky in finding salons? Products?

MW: I got my hair cut into a short Afro just before I moved to Paris and have worn my hair
in this style since arriving. I brought my “black” hair care products with me (in bulk) when I moved here. I have always purchased shampoos and conditioners that a person of any race can use in stores around town such as Monoprix, Franprix, etc. For products similar to what we used to call “hair grease” ( LOL!), I buy them from the States when I go on vacation and bring them back. A little goes a long way for me!

BHIP: Have you had any bad hair experiences in Paris?

MW: No, but I attribute this to the fact that I am completely natural – no extensions, weaves, or chemicals. It’s pretty easy to find a black hairdresser who can cut men’s hair. When I first came, I just showed a photo of what I wanted and they reproduced it. I’ve only had three hairdressers in 20 years, so they pretty much know what I want.

Visit Black Hair in Paris to read the remainder of the interview!


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Farida Akadiri - A Leader of Women

Farida Akadiri is a woman on a mission. She organizes networking and mentoring events to help women achieve their dreams, whether personal or professional.

Farida Akadiri
© Discover Paris!

I had the privilege of attending Farida's most recent Women & Leadership dinner on Saturday, June 9th. It was held at the home of Diane Anthonissen, a private chef who provides customized culinary services for Discover Paris! clients. I introduced Diane and Farida a few weeks before, knowing that Farida is always looking for new venues and new ways to enhance the networking dinners that she has been holding since 2011. She thought that the idea of moving the dinner from a restaurant to a home had appeal. After they chatted for several minutes, it became apparent that Diane would not only be the chef for the evening, but also the guest speaker! Diane's story of leaving the petrochemical industry in the U.S. to pursue a career in cooking in France was perfect for Farida's group!

The energy in the room that evening was palpable. Farida had the women break up into groups to get to know each other, and Diane and her husband Eric served home-made gougères and a shrimp-citrus cocktail with avocado cream. Farida then introduced herself and the concept of Women & Leadership. Lots of discussion and laughter ensued!

Enjoying shrimp-citrus cocktail
© Discover Paris!

Groups working together
© Discover Paris!

Farida leading the group
© Discover Paris!

Diane emerged from the kitchen to tell the story of her career change to a rapt audience. Many questions were posed, and again, much discussion ensued.

Listening to Diane
© Discover Paris!

Diane addressing the group
© Discover Paris!

After Diane's presentation, it was time for the buffet. Cajun salmon, chicken, grilled bell peppers, coconut soup, Thai-style red curry sauce, and basmati rice comprised the menu for the evening. The group devoured these offerings, so delectable were they!

Buffet table
© Discover Paris!

Dinner is served
© Discover Paris!

Everyone served herself and went back to the living room for more discussion. Dessert - consisting of mini portions of chocolate mousse topped with crème Chantilly and mini lemon tarts topped with pistachios or a single raspberry - was served there. One of the attendees had brought a cake to celebrate another participant's birthday, and those who had room for more dessert sampled this as well.

As generally happens when conversation is lively and food is appetizing, the event lasted longer than anticipated. The empty serving dishes and the exchange of contact information and good wishes at the end of the evening were all the evidence that Diane and Farida needed to know that the event was a success!

Click here to find Farida and Women & Leadership on Facebook.
Click here to contact Discover Paris! about Diane Anthonissen's private chef services.


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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Passing Love: A Book Review

Jacqueline E. Luckett's novel - Passing Love - is a wonderfully complex and entertaining story that unfolds in post-World War II Paris and the Paris of today. Luckett entices us to the City of Light by developing two seemingly separate story lines - one about a light-skinned colored girl named RubyMae and another about a mature African-American woman named Nicole. Nicole has dreamed about Paris since she was a little girl, while RubyMae is introduced to the idea of seeing the city by a much older lover named Arnett. Each character arrives in Paris and sets out to make the city her own. Each is involved with a man who, in one way or another, is holding her back from reaching what she sees as her full potential.

With RubyMae, who was "born under the sign of dissatisfaction," we experience 1950s Paris. Arnett works the jazz club circuit while Ruby begins to make her own attempts to achieve the fame and fortune she believes she deserves. Nicole takes a month-long vacation in Paris in 2009. She stays in an apartment that Ruby might have coveted - a finely furnished two-story affair with a view of the Seine and the Ile Saint-Louis.

Luckett provides us with powerful glimpses of African-American history and contemporary Diaspora life in Paris throughout the story and weaves them in alongside "traditional" destinations. We visit Haynes Restaurant, Chez Inez, and Barbès just as we visit the Palais Garnier, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the Rodin Museum. It is amusing that while Luckett is intent on relaying juicy tidbits of African-American history to her readers, Nicole is less than impressed with what she is learning about the subject from various characters who introduce her to the city.

The stories of RubyMae and Nicole eventually converge about midway through the book. Here we learn that the two women are connected - in the most intimate way possible. We then follow Nicole as she doggedly pursues every clue she can find to lead her to Ruby and to the truth of her entire existence.

Passing Love takes its name from the Langston Hughes poem. Luckett includes references to Hughes and his poetry throughout the book as she develops the story of Squire, a man who plays a critical role in the lives of Nicole and Ruby.

What endeared me to this book was not only the vivid way in which Luckett conjures up visions of the French capital, the habits of its residents, and its African-American history, but also her attention to the French language. The language is what drew me to France when I was a child - not food, fashion, or the legendary African-American presence and the myth of a colorblind France. The music of the language is what inspired me to move here. So I was delighted to see Nicole's chapters begin with a short notation about some aspect of the common usage of French and a few vocabulary words, complete with phonetic pronunciations and definitions. Luckett evokes the difficulties that Ruby, Nicole, and other Americans have with the language throughout the book as part of the natural flow of the narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Passing Love and recommend it without hesitation!

Jacqueline Luckett
Photo credit: Ashley Summer

Jacqueline E. Luckett is an avid reader and lover of books, an excellent cook, aspiring photographer, and world traveler. She lives in Northern California and, though she loves all of the friends there, she takes frequent breaks to fly off to foreign destinations. Searching for Tina Turner (2010, Grand Central Publishing) was her first novel.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Black Paris Profiles™: Carole Denise Fredericks

For Women's History Month 2011, I published "notes" on a number of black women who either made Paris their home or enjoyed significant professional growth and achievement in the city. Among them was Carole Denise Fredericks, a singer who enjoyed enormous international success. The Paris suburb of Montreuil has named a street after her and France is soon to honor her with a plaque on the building that she called home for ten years. I am honored to bring her story to you – courtesy of the Carole Fredericks Foundation – as part of the Entrée to Black Paris Black Paris Profiles™ series. Carole is the first person that I am featuring in the series posthumously.


Carole Denise Fredericks
Photo courtesy of the Carole Fredericks Foundation

Carole Denise Fredericks (June 5, 1952 Springfield, MA – June 7, 2001 Dakar, Senegal) was an American singer most famous for her English and French recordings in France. Fredericks stepped from the shadow of her brother Grammy winning blues musician, Taj Mahal, to achieve fame and popularity in Europe, France and the francophone world. Although Fredericks left her mother country, she never left her roots. Steeped in the fertile traditions of her parents, striving professionals from the Carolinas and West Indies, Carole emerged as a powerful singer who wove the passionate threads of blues, gospel and rock into a uniquely French tapestry.


Black Paris Profiles is now available on Kindle.  Only excerpts are available on this blog.
To get your copy of Black Paris Profiles, click HERE.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

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