Thursday, May 26, 2011

How a Passion for Travel Became a Mission for a More Peaceful World

by Annemarie Osborne

I have always been a proponent of travel as a means of widening one’s horizons, dismantling cultural stereotypes, and sharing what is best about being human on this ever-shrinking planet. These are some of the reasons that inspired my husband Tom and me to launch our travel-planning service Discover Paris! twelve years ago, and they are what motivated me to develop our Entrée to Black Paris walks and activities and to write this blog.

Ted Bravos, co-founder and CEO of the International Tour Management Institute, has an even broader vision—one of travel as an instrument for peace. Read Annemarie Osborne's guest posting below to learn about it.


Maya Angelou
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

Maya Angelou

Ted Bravos, CEO of International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) remembers how inspired he was when he heard President John F. Kennedy say: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Although he was accepted by the Peace Corps and fully intended to teach high school biology in Africa, Ted’s hopes were dashed when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. During his 13-month tour of duty as Marine infantry officer, he made a commitment to dedicate the rest of his life to doing something that made sense and was meaningful.

Upon his return from Vietnam, Bravos indulged his passion for travel by taking a yearlong bicycle trip throughout 17 European countries. This life-changing experience marked the beginning of his career as a tour director and, in 1976, to the founding of ITMI, the first state-certified tour-guide and tour-director training school in America.

Having experienced first-hand the compassion, understanding, and lifelong friendships that develop when travellers connect with people of other cultures, Bravos found the meaningful work that he had sought. What began as a passion for travel has become a mission for a more peaceful world.

Ted Bravos near the Golden Gate Bridge
Photo courtesy of Annemarie Osborne

Ted Bravos often quotes the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was commander of the Allied Forces during World War II. Eisenhower’s slogan for his newly created People to People Program was: “The passport to peace is travel.” Having dedicated his life to training travel professionals, Bravos not only believes that Eisenhower’s motto is true, he has also witnessed it countless times. The thousands of ITMI graduates have related personal stories about the transformational power of travel that speak volumes about the importance of experiencing other cultures and traditions as an instrument of peace.

ITMI carefully selects the students who enter its program to ensure that they have the emotional maturity, intelligence, and personal responsibility to become great tour directors. ITMI alumni are often as passionate as Bravos about their roles as ambassadors of goodwill. They take great pride in gaining a deep understanding, respect, and appreciation of the history, culture, traditions, and protocols of the countries in which they escort tour groups and in relating this information to them. City by city, country by country, ITMI alumni infuse their travel groups with an authentic desire to build bridges of understanding.

Among the many things that continue to inspire Bravos are the stories he hears from former students, who enthusiastically share their experiences and insights. Looking back on his 30-plus years as an impassioned teacher, humanitarian, and advocate for a more peaceful world, he finds it difficult to choke back tears when relating some of the many success stories he has heard from graduates of his program.

Over the past 33 years, thousands of ITMI professional tour directors have collectively led hundreds of thousands of travelers around the world on escorted tours. One can only imagine the impact that this has had on the world. In the annals of human history, Ted Bravos is truly an unsung hero, whose legacy will continue well beyond his lifetime. When someone inspires others to touch hearts, not just minds, miracles are destined to occur. To that end, we salute Ted Bravos, a man who has ignited hearts and spirits with a desire to contribute to a more peaceful world.

To learn more about ITMI visit


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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Remembering Sidney Bechet

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Next to Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, clarinetist and saxophonist, was the most beloved African-American performer in France during the 20th century. He was born on May 14, 1897, and died in France on his birthday in 1959. The following is a brief recounting of his life in France.

Sidney Bechet (1922)

Bechet traveled to Paris for the first time in 1921 to perform at the Apollo Theater with the Jazz Kings during a brief hiatus from a trip to London. He met Baker for the first time in 1925, when he sailed to France as part of the troupe of La Revue Nègre (The Black Revue), which opened on October 2nd at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. He was the star musician of the show; she was the star dancer.

Josephine Baker and the cast of La Revue Nègre
Sidney Bechet is in the back row, wearing a hat – his face is visible just to the left of Baker’s.

La Revue Nègre went on the road in 1926, and Bechet traveled and performed with the show. He returned to Paris in 1928 to play at the club Les Ambassadeurs (now Espace Pierre Cardin) with Noble Sissle’ band. He made a brief trip to London and Frankfurt before returning to Paris to play at Chez Florence, a jazz club in the Pigalle district.

On a fateful December evening in 1928, Bechet was involved in a shoot-out with banjoist Gilbert “Little Mike” McKendrick on rue Fontaine. Both men were sentenced to 15 months in prison. Bechet served 11 months of the sentence and was deported. He returned in 1931 to play briefly with Noble Sissle’s band at Les Ambassadeurs, toured Europe again for a few months, and then returned to the U.S.

The year 1949 was the watershed period for Bechet in terms of his popularity in France. In May, he appeared at the International Jazz Festival in Paris, sharing the spotlight with Charlie Parker. Bechet’s performances were widely acclaimed, and his standing in the eyes of jazz fans grew enormously. He began performing with Claude Luter and his Orchestra (a French jazz orchestra) in the same year, and made the first of numerous recordings of “Les Oignons” (Bechet’s most successful recording). His performances in the fall and winter of 1949 represented the revival of New Orleans jazz in France.

Click here to listen to a recording of “Les Oignons”

Bechet departed for the U.S. toward the end of the year, but returned to France in June 1950 to establish permanent residency. He resumed performing with the Claude Luter Orchestra, and began to spend summers performing in Juan-le-Pins on the French Riviera. In 1951, he married a German woman whom he met during his first tour of Europe during the 1920s and settled with her in the Paris suburb of Grigny. He would subsequently take an apartment in Paris.

By 1953, Bechet’s concerts were attracting record crowds. In 1955, he held a free concert at the Olympia Theater in Paris to celebrate successful record sales (they topped 1,350,000). The crowd that gathered was far larger than the theater could hold, and the agitated young fans ended up rioting! During that year, he also appeared in a French film with Claude Luter – L’Inspecteur Connaît la Musique. Yet his attempts at writing operettas and scores for ballets were not well received by the French public.

In 1956, Bechet moved to the Paris suburb of Garches with a mistress named Jacqueline and their son, Daniel. The Sidney Bechet Fan Club was founded that year. Two years later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His health deteriorated over the subsequent months, and despite radiation therapy, he succumbed to his disease on his birthday, May 14th. He died at home in Garches.

Bechet Funeral Procession
May 19, 1959


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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Invitation to the African-American Community of Paris

When I was interviewed by Joe Langley for his radio show The Universe of Joseph Langley in March, Joe mentioned a gala event that would be sponsored by “The Brothers Paris” later in the spring. Read the guest posting by Romello Rivers below to find out what it is all about!


The Brothers Paris Spring Gala!
By Romello Rivers

Romello Rivers
© Franz Fox Kennedy

“The Brothers” is an organization of African American men in Paris that has been in existence since October 1995, when Tannie Stovall – civil rights activist, PhD, writer, historian, and film producer – began hosting weekly receptions for African-American men after being inspired by the “Million Man March.”

Over the years, Stovall’s guests have included a steadfast group of African-American men based in Paris, and have also included guests from the U.S. and other parts of the African Diaspora. These guests come from all walks of life, and include prominent businessmen, men of letters, social scientists, entertainers, writers, painters, artists, fashion and media personalities…just to name a few.

The topics of discussion and passionate debates usually center on issues relating to African Americans, including Africa, politics, history, philosophy, business and current events. One night, during a discussion of the fantastic history of African Americans in Paris, the idea was put forth that we should organize a cultural celebration!

Now, for the first time in Paris, the African-American community will come together to celebrate its culture...and share that celebration with the world!

Please consider this your personal invitation to join the festivities of “THE BROTHERS PARIS SPRING GALA!” The event will take place on Sunday evening, May 22th, 2011 on a beautiful riverboat called Le Café Barge, which is docked just behind the metro Gare du Lyon. The festivities will include an exquisite dinner, live jazz, blues, and R&B concerts, jam sessions, DJs, dancing, poetry, book signings, a vernissage featuring African-American artists, and much, much more…

Le Café Barge docked on the Seine
Photo courtesy of Le Barge Café

Over 15 entertainers and a few "surprise" celebrity guests will be performing! Everyone is welcome!!!

The Event and Admissions

Dinner includes:
Apéritif, starter, main course, dessert, wine, mineral water, and coffee

(Wine is one bottle per 3 persons.)

55 Euros per person, 11 Euros per child (there will be a children’s menu available)

Reservations are required.

Or you may just come for the music, concerts, dance and events:

Concert, DJ, dancing starts at 9pm

Admission: 15 Euros per person (Includes one free drink)

Date: Sunday May 22
Time: 8pm until…

Location: Le Café Barge
5, port de la Rapée
75012 PARIS
Metro: Gare du Lyon or Port du la Rapée

Dinner at twilight on Le Café Barge
Photo courtesy of Le Barge Café

Dinner and Show Reservations:

Send your RSVP to
then send your check made payable to Cafe Barge to the address below:

Zachary Miller
25, rue des Apennins
75017 - Paris, France

Dress code: upscale casual, semi-formal, dress to impress!

“Tell a friend to tell a friend!”

At the very minimum, The Brothers Paris Spring Gala! will be a fun, elegant affair, with delicious food, passionate music and dance, inspirational art and words.... Reaching its maximum potential, this will be nothing less than an "historic event" and a "signature moment" in the ongoing story of African Americans in Paris!

Sincerely yours, we remain,
The Brothers

The Brothers Paris Spring Gala! May 22, 2011

"Say it loud!"

a "third floor" production

For information about The Brothers, visit The Brothers Paris Facebook Page or The Brothers Paris Web site.


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

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Black Paris Profiles™: Laurence Choko

Laurence Choko is the owner of Galerie Intemporel, a delightful space near the Centre Pompidou that features the works of African and African Diaspora artists. I first heard of her and her gallery when I began the fundraising effort for Beauford Delaney’s tombstone in 2010. In getting to know her, I discovered her fervor for promoting Diaspora artists. Laurence was pleased to grant me an interview for Black Paris Profiles™, and I am equally pleased to share what I learned from her below.


Laurence Choko
© Morgan Roppers

Laurence Choko was born in Fort de France, Martinique. She spent her childhood and adolescence in Le Havre, and subsequently moved to Paris to study art. She returned to Martinique in her twenties, and discovered the art of the Caribbean at that time. In particular, she credits “the spontaneity of the artistic universe of Haïti” for helping her to understand Western art better. As a result, she began to collect art and decided to represent artists who had little visibility in Europe. In fact, her decision to represent these artists stemmed directly from the fact that they were not known in Europe.


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.