Thursday, November 21, 2013

Black Paris in the 2nd Arrondissement

Last weekend, Tom and I had the pleasure of staying in an apartment in the 2nd arrondisement that is managed by Habitat Parisien. The address is 44, rue Vivienne. We had a lovely stay there, including a fabulous chocolate tasting that we hosted for friends and fellow bloggers.

I am always looking for evidence of the influence of the African Diaspora on the Paris landscape and this neighborhood did not disappoint me. Rue Vivienne intersects boulevard Montmartre - part of the Grands Boulevards created in the wake of the destruction of the city ramparts during the reign of Louis XIV - at its northern end. It just so happens that the Théatre des Varietés and the Musée Grévin, both of which lie on this trendy section of the boulevards, are within a two-minute walk from the apartment.

L'Argent du Diable (The Devil's Money), a play by 19th century playwrights Victor Séjour and Adolphe Jaime fils, was performed at the Théâtre des Variétés in 1854. Victor Séjour was a free man of color from the Louisiana Territory, son of a Santo Domingan (Haïtian) father and a New Orleans-born mother. He came to Paris in 1836 to pursue a career as a writer. A contemporary and friend of Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, he enjoyed considerable success, but died a pauper. He is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery.

Théâtre des Varietés
© Discover Paris!

The famous Musée Grévin features wax representations of royals and politicians as well as celebrities from stage, screen, and sports. Michael Jackson found his place among the replicas in 1997. The museum's statues of Josephine Baker are on view at her château Les Milandes in the Dordogne region of France. More recently, replicas of President Barack Obama, César winner Omar Sy, basketball player Tony Parker, and Olympic judo medalist Teddy Riner have been added to the collection.

Musée Grévin
© Discover Paris!

On rue Vivienne itself, an American-style bistro called Lefty boasts a huge photograph of Mos Def holding the November 8, 2008 edition of the left-leaning French newspaper Libération. President Obama's photo is on the first page of this edition of the paper; the headline reads "We Have a Dream".

Photo of Mos Def by Liroy Photography
© Discover Paris!

A smaller photo of Prince can be found to the left of the bar.

President Obama is a recurring theme in this tiny area of the 2nd arrondissement - an image of him on a business card appears in the window of a tailor's shop alongside a photo of Elizabeth Taylor and two photos of Joy Villa.

President Obama, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joy Villa
© Discover Paris!

Finally, and most astonishing for me, was a poster of the Black Panther Party in the window of an old-fashioned wine bar called Le Gavroche:

Black Panther Party at Cave Le Gavroche
© Discover Paris!

It turns out that this is a flier for a photography exhibit held at Galerie La B.A.N.K on rue Volta in the 3rd arrondissement (now closed) that featured photos by Pirkle Jones and others in 2011. Jones and his wife Ruth-Marion Baruch photographed the Panthers from July to October 1968.


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Denise Gordon said...

so exciting, I love your life!

About Beauford Delaney said...

Tom and I are truly blessed, Denise!