Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Paris Vacation

I received this testimonial from Cheryl Adams, a client who came to Paris earlier this month with her sister, Delores. It expresses perfectly what I hope to have you experience by taking an Entrée to Black Paris tour!


Cheryl Adams, Monique Y. Wells, and Delores Jones
on the "Black Paris after World War II" tour
© Discover Paris!

Just last week I took my life-long dream vacation to Paris, France. To say I had a wonderful time does not do my experience justice!

I, along with my sister Delores, took in all the noted tourist attractions: the Louvre museum, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, the home of Monet, and Palace Versailles, just to name a few.

My week of excitement culminated with a tour given by Ms. Monique Wells of Entrée to Black Paris. When I learned of my trip, which was a gift from my daughter, also included was information on Entrée to Black Paris. I signed up to receive information Ms. Wells posted on her blog, and for nine months I followed her informative posts. I also read her books – Black Paris Profiles and Paris Reflections: Walks through African-American Paris. I had read and heard stories of black Americans living in Paris and wanted to learn more.

This was not the usual run-of-the-mill tour! This walking tour focused on the lives and accomplishments of Black Americans along with other black expats. Monique’s casual style made for a wonderful stroll through the streets of Paris that other tours did not offer. She was a wealth of knowledge about noted persons such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and Alexandre Dumas. Her stories made for a visual of how black people lived their lives in Paris after WWII. She peppered facts with tidbits of little known information, most quite humorous. If you know anything about the great black writers, poets, artists, performers, and political activist of post WWII, this tour will enhanced your understanding of their lives.

I wish that I had scheduled a longer time for the tour, because I felt that Monique was just getting started. The walk was so intriguing that I had a renewed interest in many of the persons mentioned.

The Entrée to Black Paris tour was the highlight of my dream vacation, so if ever you plan a visit, be sure to include it in your itinerary. On my next trip, I definitely will!


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Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Little Bit of Africa at Fair Trade Show

Last Sunday, Tom and I visited the Paris suburb of Alfortville to attend the last day of the 13th edition of the Journées du Commerce Equitable (Fair Trade Days) at the Mairie (town hall). Alfortville is proud to have won the title of "Fair Trade Territory" in 2009 and 2012, and is committed to raising awareness of the importance of responsible and socially-conscious commerce.

Trade show banner
© Discover Paris!

We partook of a light "brunch" of products donated by Artisans du Monde, including honey, jams, chocolates, and fruit juices, then took a tour of the many stands that bordered the square in front of the town hall. We enjoyed a mini-concert by the group PARADISE, which regaled participants with Antillean music,

© Discover Paris!

and then visited three stands that were of particular interest. The first was for AKAME, an association that promotes products made from Cameroonian cloth.

© Discover Paris!

The next was ARTOK PARIS. This group, along with several others in Paris and the surrounding suburbs, supports the Humaine Promotion of Tokombéré Project. Tokombéré is a town and commune in northern Cameroon. The women of this area create fine baskets, pocketbooks, tablecloths, and other items. Two French women were selling these products at the fair.

© Discover Paris!

Finally, we stopped by the stand for BAŠTINA VOYAGES, an organization that promotes equitable tourism. We met Stefan Buljat, president of the organization, several weeks ago on a walking tour of the Château Rouge quarter of the 18th arrondissement called "Petit Mali" ("Little Mali"). Baština's mission is to encourage the French to travel to countries such as Mali, Senegal, Georgia (former USSR), and Croatia by introducing them to a slice of culture from the destination country before they ever leave Paris.

Stefan Buljat, president of Baština Voyages
© Discover Paris!

In keeping with its mission, Baština is participating in Paris Ville Monde, which is being billed as "a month to tour the world in Paris." Beginning on May 31st with the Bal de l'Afrique Enchantée (Enchanted Africa Ball), the event runs through June 30th. For more information, visit


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Leroy Haynes: Memories of My Father

Several weeks ago I learned that Dorothy Haynes-Griffin, daughter of the legendary Paris expat and restaurant owner Leroy Haynes, faithfully follows the Entrée to Black Paris (ETBP) blog and Facebook page. Dorothy wrote to me to ask whether Leroy was included in any of the ETBP walks that I've created and I was pleased to answer "Yes - he's part of our 'In the Shadow of Montmartre' walk." We struck up a virtual conversation and she subsequently granted me this exclusive interview about Leroy and her memories of him. Enjoy!

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin
Image courtesy of Dorothy Haynes-Griffin

ETBP: Your father, Leroy Haynes, was a Paris legend. So was his restaurant on rue Clauzel. What are your memories of the restaurant?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: Before my sister and I were born, my father and mother were married about 8 years. I have early memories of the restaurant. We would play within the doorways of the famous place. Darting about as kids do. I loved the smell of the spices that came from the kitchen; the cave-like restaurant with its red checkered table clothes had a homey feeling. I remembered sometimes Leroy would occasionally spend his down time reading what I believe was the Chicago Tribune and reacting to the articles he would be reading. It made no sense to me what he was saying, at that time I spoke only French. My mother worked in the restaurant as well as her brother, Uncle Jacques.

ETBP: Your mom moved you and your sister Sophie to New York City when you were four years old. Tell me what you remember about your life in Paris prior to moving there.

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: Prior to living in New York, life in Paris was busy and comfortable. My mother took the responsibility for caring for my sister and me. At the time, we lived in a small flat a few doors down from the restaurant. We were enrolled in a French Pre-K school that was serious, strict and organized. I enjoyed the structure of the little school and found the experience very positive. I remember the teachers gave us a strong sense of being French with little talks about how important it was.

ETBP: Your mother made sure that you returned to Paris during the summer. Tell us about this experience.

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: It would be about four years before we would travel back to France after leaving Paris in 1972. My sister and I stayed with our father at his house. He had a building next door to the restaurant — a huge two-level space where my brother, Richard, shared an apartment with his girlfriend Candy. It was a great place to be as a kid. It had old stairs leading up to the second floor and many rooms to venture into. I remember really enjoying the back yard and playing with my sister.

Sophie, Dorothy, and Leroy Haynes
Image courtesy of Dorothy Haynes-Griffin

ETBP: You mention a brother, Richard. Tell us more about your family.

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: My sister Sophie and I have the same mother, Elizabeth Barthelemy. She was Leroy’s second wife. My brother Richard is the son of Gabrielle, who was my father’s first wife and the one well known for opening the first restaurant with him on rue Manuel. When visiting, I would spend a lot of time with my brother and always wished that we could live closer to each other. Maria Haynes was Leroy's last wife. She was from Portugal, and as a young lady, she caught the eye of Leroy while married to my mother. They never had children. Maria had a daughter from a previous relationship. They stayed married, working together in the restaurant until his death in 1986.

Young Richard Haynes
Image courtesy of Dorothy Haynes-Griffin

Elizabeth Barthelemy and Maria Haynes at the restaurant on rue Clauzel
Image courtesy of Dorothy Haynes-Griffin

ETBP: Would you describe your dad as a family man?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: A family man by today's standards is pretty different from that of the Leroy's generation (he was born in 1914). I don’t think it was clear to him what to do exactly. It seemed like there were some cultural misunderstandings between my mom and him. He took care of the work aspect and earned money and was able to build a career. He experienced life the way he wanted to, unlike his early life in America.

ETBP: When did you realize how popular and important your father was on the Paris scene?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: I always knew Leroy was special, mostly because he was my father. His character and persona was big, robust and sometimes unpredictable, and he was a great story teller. I think it was his nature to try to make people feel good through connecting and feeding them!

As a kid, I never really knew the full impact he made in Paris, not only with the French but within the African-American community that visited France and returned home with many stories. He had lots of friends, and when we went to the market in the morning to shop for the evening dinner service, local merchants would yell hello in French, waving and smiling. They seemed happy to meet my sister and me and of course that made us feel like little celebrities.

Portrait of Leroy Hayes at Haynes' Restaurant, rue Clauzel
© Discover Paris!

There were several times in New York were my sister and I were awakened in the late night to hear "Your father's on TV - wake up," and my sister and I would come running into the living room to see our father shooting at some guys on television. It was funny.

ETBP: Is the fact that you are Leroy Haynes’ daughter important to people in the U.S. today?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: I think for some it is interesting that I am Leroy’s daughter. I have met a lot of older black Americans that remember Leroy well, and they remember the experience they had at the restaurant, the food etc. I am always greeted with a funny story that includes memories of Leroy’s generosity. Younger people, unless they've had the opportunity to travel or research the lives of expatriates, don’t know who Leroy was. That's why what you do (ETBP walking tours) is very important.

I love that Leroy touched so many people, as I can still get a sense of that through the stories that are told to me. It turns out that one of my closest friends, Delorys Welch-Tyson, knew Leroy. He helped her out with changing her American currency to French Francs. It was an ironic moment when she discovered I was his daughter. This kind of thing has happened a lot over the years. Another friend and actress, Juliette Farley, had a father in the military who ate at the restaurant and knew of Leroy during the war. Mr. Farley also married a French woman and they now live in Texas. In a lot of ways, I have built on friendships that were originally started by Leroy.

ETBP: Did Leroy's "fame" impact your life as a child?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: Leroy’s success was a story that I connected to the more I researched his early life in America. Because of a huge generation gap, family members in America were never really mentioned. I spent some years piecing together the puzzle of his early life that gave me a bigger picture of him. A lot of his family members were much older and had passed by the time I became really interested in our genealogy. One of his uncles was James “Bigstick” McCurine who played for the Hartford Giants, Chicago Lincoln Giants, Chicago Brown Bombers, Chicago American Giants and retired suddenly after an arm injury. There was his mother, Lena McCurine-Evans, my grandmother who lived in Chicago and was a vowed Christian. She spent her older years devoted to her church in Chicago called the Greater Union Baptist Church. I never did meet ol’ Lena!

ETBP: When did Leroy pass away?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: April 1986. I was on the M104 bus coming home from junior high school. I sat next to a woman who was reading a magazine named "Chocolate Singles," a known black single's magazine at the time. As the woman turned the page I saw a full article on my father and Chez Haynes Restaurant. I saw the picture of Leroy in the middle of the article. He looked so old and unhealthy and I had a sudden panic attack when I saw it. A few weeks later, my brother called to tell us Leroy had died. There were many calls from Paris, from my brother. Sadly we were unable to go to Paris that year.

His resting place was Cimetière Père Lachaise until 2005. Then he was moved to the Jardin Cinéraire de Thiais by his wife Maria.

ETBP: What is your fondest memory of your father?

Dorothy Haynes-Griffin: It was the early afternoon and Leroy and I sat at a table in the restaurant, the one by the door and the very big windows covered in white lace. I was about 7 years old, and somehow we landed on a conversation about food. He asked me what I liked to eat (he was trying to figure out what to cook for me); I replied I was a vegetarian. He disappeared to the restaurant’s kitchen and returned several minutes later with a fried zucchini…delicious!


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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bob Tomlinson: Divas & Heroes

I am pleased to share the following information about the upcoming art exposition of
Black Paris Profiles
' Bob Tomlinson.

Bob Tomlinson and Anna Comnena
Image courtesy of the artist

Chelsea, NYC: Viridian Artists is pleased to present recent oil and collage paintings by Bob Tomlinson on the ironic theme "Divas & Heroes." The exhibit opens May 21st with a reception on Thursday May 23rd, 5-8pm PM. The work will be on view through Saturday June 8th. The artist will also be at the gallery on Saturday, June 1st, for coffee and conversation from 3-4 PM.

The dictionary defines "diva" as "a great woman singer, a prima donna." These are present in the person of Josephine Baker etc. but the word is also taken in the broader sense of a flamboyant heroine, here historical or literary. The same holds true for the heroes. Whether heroes and heroines are possible in the modern world is open to question. The paintings are of modest format; the focus is on single or three-quarter figures. Having said that, the usual suspects are present, Prince Genghi, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette (at least in painted versions) as well as James Baldwin, Lena Horne, Chet Baker etc.

Josephine Baker 29"x 20" 2013
Image courtesy of the artist

The paintings are combinations of painted areas in oil, elaborately textured and printed papers, as well as computer manipulated photographs. These papers are collaged on canvas and represent elements of anatomy, costume or abstracted background areas. The painter believes the frontier between figuration and abstraction to be an illusion. There is no monolithic distinction between the two modes. Whether naturalistically depicted or abstracted in various degrees, the "object" perceived in a painting (a figure or a bowl of fruit) is in fact only a combination of visual cues: colors, lines and shapes. As art critic Lawrence Downes wrote: "Tomlinson employs classical anatomy as a vehicle for gestural abstraction." Focusing on form and rhythm as formal autonomous entities, the artist sets his figures hovering in baroque atmospheres awash with subtle color harmonies. His themes are substantial and implore us to search our memories and connections to myth as well as to reality, but they are executed with an elegant surface treatment that often belies the anguish & emotions that lie deep in the layers of the work.

James Baldwin 24"x 24" 2013
Image courtesy of the artist

Bob Tomlinson is a Jamaican-American painter born in Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of Pratt Institute and the City University Graduate Center, he is also a scholar of French Literature and Aesthetics. Tomlinson has shown widely in Paris, London, Amsterdam and New York and is represented in many international public and private collections including those of the Clark-Atlanta University Museum, Dr. Maya Angelou, Lord and Lady Hirshfield, M. Franco Trecanni di Montichiari, M. Pierre Cochet and Herr Waldo Klick. He figures in the recent books 100 New York Painters by Cynthia M. Dantzic (Schiffer, 2006), Black Paris Profiles by Monique Y. Wells (2012) and is also the subject of a projected film by the well-known documentary filmmaker Louis Massiah.

Viridian Artists - A Contemporary Art Gallery
548 West 28th Street, 6th floor
New York, NY 10001
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12-6PM

For further information please contact Vernita Nemec, Gallery Director at 212-414-4040 or .


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Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Evening of Readings Inspired by Tannie Stovall's Book Collection

On the evening of Saturday, April 20th, a lively group assembled at the home of Kathleen Dameron to listen to a series of short readings inspired by the book collection of Tannie Stovall. Kathleen is the guardian of what is now the Tannie Stovall Memorial Library, a collection of ~170 books that Tannie entrusted to Kathleen for safekeeping. His desire was that his books, including those that he authored, be the source of stimulating conversation and the instigators of lively debates on sociopolitical and cultural issues.

Kathleen and Cheryl Pegues co-organized the event and five people read that evening. Each explained why he or she thought the passage selected was appropriate for the event and then proceeded to recite it for the group.

Cheryl Pegues and Kathleen Dameron
© Discover Paris!

Ellen Kountz read from an essay called "Blacks Don't Read: They Are Still Our Slaves." It has become somewhat of an urban legend. Though its source is unknown, it is powerful food for thought.

Ellen showing a photo of Tannie and friends
© Discover Paris!

Curtis Robert Young reminisced about his hometown of Chicago and talked about his son, who worked for the Obama administration, before reading a passage about a community meeting at a church in Chicago from Obama's Dreams from My Father.

Curtis Robert Young
© Discover Paris!

Cheryl selected a passage from the first chapter of The Spook Who Sat by the Door, a novel by Sam Greenlee. The book is a favorite of her current beau and coincidentally is one that Tannie read and loaned to someone. Cheryl donated her copy to the library.

Cheryl standing before the audience
© Discover Paris!

Randy Garrett read from Tannie's last novel, Two Centuries in Two Weeks. He selected a passage that explains why Ralph, the African-American protagonist of the book, has decided to take his own life.

Randy Garrett
© Discover Paris!

Finally, Jake Lamar read from Chester Himes' The Quality of Hurt, fondly remembering how Tannie expressed disdain and disbelief when Jake admitted that he had not read any of Himes' work prior to coming to Paris.

Jake Lamar
© Discover Paris!

After the readings, a scrumptious Indian-Mauritanian buffet was served and the group danced and chatted for the duration of the evening.

© Discover Paris!

The Tannie Stovall Memorial Library will eventually become a lending library.

The Library
© Discover Paris!

To learn more, contact Kathleen Dameron at .


Tannie Stovall, Cheryl Pegues, Ellen Kountz, and Jake Lamar are all featured in the Discover Paris! publication Black Paris Profiles. Click here to learn more about the book.


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