Thursday, October 1, 2015

Black Expats in Paris: A Successful Meetup Group - Part 2

Black Expats in Paris is a hugely popular Meetup group that was founded in February 2013 as a means of connecting expatriates of African descent. It is the brainchild of Chicagoan Keenya Hofmaier, a mixed-race woman of German and African-American ancestry. After getting the group off to a solid start, Keenya handed the reins over to group member Bintou Murielle. Bintou subsequently assembled a group of four persons to help her organize events, one of whom is Ebonee Harden.

Ebonee granted Discover Paris! an exclusive interview, allowing us to "peek behind the curtain" and see what makes Black Expats in Paris so successful. Part 2 focuses on some of the group's special interests and a spin-off Meetup group.

Fête National Picnic at Champs de Mars - Ebonee (left) and Abbey (right)
Image courtesy of Black Expats in Paris 2015

DP!: You have different clubs under the Black Expats in Paris umbrella. For example, there’s the African Diaspora Culinary Club. When did you launch this and why?

EH: As someone who has studied African Diaspora culture in college, whose parents were members of the Black Panther party, who is an active member of an historically African-American sorority, and whose little sister is at UC Berkeley earning a Ph.D in African Diaspora studies, I found it odd that the group activities weren’t more focused on enjoying the different cultural aspects of the diaspora like music, food, art, etc. As a self-proclaimed Foodie, I thought food was an easy way to share the diversity of African Diaspora cuisine across the world.

So far, this "club" has been really successful, with 10-15 people joining us monthly to share a meal. We launched it with a 4th of July picnic and over 25 people came! Everyone brought something that represented their culture and it was such a lovely experience to see the diversity and the similarities between our respective cultural dishes.

African Diaspora Culinary Club Picnic: 4th of July
From left to right: Rita, Mohammed, Bintou, Diane, Kehryse, Ola,
Adia, Megan, Ebonee, Abbey, Galem, and Michelle
Image courtesy of Black Expats in Paris 2015

DP!: What kinds of things does the Culinary Club do?

EH: The Culinary Club isn’t really a club, per se. It’s just a bi-monthly gathering to share cuisine from the African Diaspora. However, the last dinner of the year will be a Thanksgiving Dinner hosted in November, which will focus on African-American Thanksgiving culinary traditions.

As of 2016, the African Diaspora Culinary Club will be hosted in a new Meetup group called “La Vie en Black: An AfroDiasporique Experience.” This group will have an accompanying Website and Facebook group to foster cross-cultural exchange across the African Diaspora in Paris through events like the “African Diaspora Culinary Club” and “Black People Who Brunch Club.” In addition, the group will focus on having group members host their own events, share important information (i.e. where to get hair products, Black medical doctors in Paris, etc.), and connect activity partners like those looking for someone to travel with, etc.

The new group is still in the works and many of the new group’s leaders, like myself, will still be active with Black Expats of Paris. However, Black Expats of Paris has a very particular focus and vision and I believe moving the African Diaspora Culinary Club to a different group will make more sense.

DP!: What are some of the other clubs in Black Expats in Paris? When did you launch them and why?

EH: The only other club is “Brunch Club,” which is the also hosted by me. While living in New York for 4 years, I became an avid bruncher and when I first came to Paris, I was disappointed to find that brunching wasn’t such a big thing here. Moreover, when I did find a place that offered brunch, the cost was astronomical and the offerings left much to be desired.

In addition, I hated being the only Black person at brunch and so I started the club to have people to go to brunch with. It’s been super successful, with a bevy of women from all over the diaspora coming out to brunch on a monthly basis. The last “Brunch Club” of the year will be in October (see the Meetup group for more information).

In 2016, like the “African Diaspora Culinary Club,” the monthly brunch events will be hosted by “La Vie en Black: An Afro-diasporique Experience.”

DP!: What do you most appreciate about Black Expats in Paris?

EH: I appreciate the opportunity to connect with people who look like me. It’s something many people can take for granted, but it’s so comforting to be in a part of a group where my normal i.e. what I eat, how I do my hair, etc. is their normal too. And, even when there are major differences like language, religion, or politics, there is something about common ancestry that allows us to be fully present in understanding and overcoming these differences.

As a Black American who was raised being very active in my local Black community, it was a shock to come to Paris and not have Black women and men to connect with via church, social organizations, etc. Black Expats in Paris has been a gateway to bridging that gap for myself and many others who either grew up as part of a thriving Black community or who yearn to have the experience.

Most importantly, I believe my new Meetup group, “La Vie en Black: An Afro-diasporique Experience,” will go even further in this area of community building by allowing people to connect by interests, hosting travel opportunities together, and even co-hosting events with other local “Black” meet-up groups.

End of Summer Drinks - Judith (looking at the camera)
Image courtesy of Black Expats in Paris 2015

DP!: Are there any criteria for membership?

EH: Yes, be a human who loves and appreciates (and never appropriates) Black/African culture.

DP!: Tell us where people can find you on line.

EH: Black Expats in Paris can be found at

And as of 2016, ““La Vie en Black: An Afro-diasporique Experience,” can be found on Meetup, Facebook, Twitter and on the Website:

DP!: Any last thoughts?

EH: If you would like to be a member, host events, or sponsor these two meetups, then please contact me, Ebonee Harden, at . Both groups need all the help, love, and support we can get!

To read Part 1 of this article, click HERE.


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

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