Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Recent Visit to the Goutte d'Or

Last week, I had the opportunity to guide Professor Saladin Ambar of Lehigh University through the Goutte d’Or, the African/Arab quarter of the 18th arrondissement that is often referred to as Château Rouge and Barbès. The visit provided an opportunity for me to see how the renovation of the area is progressing.

As increasing numbers of dilapidated buildings are destroyed, temporary gardens are cropping up to fill the empty spaces.

Common Garden at rue des Poissoniers
©Discover Paris!

Mobile Garden at rue Polonceau
©Discover Paris!

New buildings throughout the neighborhood are destined to provide social housing as well as commercial space.

New Construction on rue Myrha
©Discover Paris!

The mosque at the corner of rue des Poissoniers and rue Polonceau and the adjacent building on rue Polonceau are scheduled to be demolished.

Mosque - Façade rue des Poissoniers
©Discover Paris!

Info on Demolition of the Mosque and Adjacent Building
©Discover Paris!

The prestigious auction house Drouot has moved into the neighborhood. Located at 64, rue Doudeauville, this site is dedicated to the sale of furniture and “contemporary objects.”

Drouot Auction House
©Discover Paris!

In my opinion, this is a sure sign that the neighborhood will eventually become upscale.

The cobblestones of rue Dejean were replaced in 2006; unfortunately, the arches that formerly marked the entry of the Marché Dejean were never reinstalled.

Arches at Marché Dejean
©Discover Paris!

A couple of my favorite places have gotten a “face lift”! The fishmonger, Les Embruns, now has a new awning.

Les Embruns - Fishmonger
©Discover Paris!

The Cameroonian restaurant Mini Resto has adopted a new name and painted its façade.

New name and façade for Mini Resto
©Discover Paris!

Professor Ambar and I visited the gallery / boutique Eccomusée, where we found an eclectic collection of African masks, Tuareg jewelry, portraits of retired residents of the quartier, two photography exhibits, and other miscellaneous items.

©Discover Paris!

Monique Y. Wells and Prof. Saladin Ambar
Photo courtesy of Prof. Saladin Ambar

Signs that announce new construction in this neighborhood bear the slogan (in small letters at the right of the orange stripe) “Votre quartier change” – “Your quarter is changing.”

Votre quartier change!
©Discover Paris!

This is an understatement! I predict that within the next five years, the area will be virtually unrecognizable, particularly with regard to its inhabitants. If you are interested in seeing the neighborhood before it is completely transformed, I recommend that you visit it soon.


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Black Man is Running for President in France!

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Patrick Lozès, founder and former president of CRAN - the Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noirs - is running for president in France!

Patrick Lozès
Photo by Ed Alcock for the NY Times

With his candidacy, he intends to make heard the voices of those in France who are minorities, non-represented, and invisible. He intends to run his campaign as a platform for equality with emphasis on education and the economy.

Lozès is a former member of the national council of the left-wing UDF (Union for French Democracy) party. He founded CRAN, an umbrella organization for numerous black associations in France, in 2005. He has handed over the reins of the organization to former CRAN first vice-president Claudine Tisserand so that he can be free to run without any conflict of interest.

Patrick Lozès; president of CRAN, surrounded by members of the organization
Photo by Martin Bureau AFP

Although census records in France do not report population by ethnic category, Lozès believes that the black population consists of approximately 5 million persons, of which 80% are French citizens. Similarly, the majority of the "Arab-Maghreb" population of 6 million persons is also French. Though his candidacy will undoubtedly appeal to these segments of the population, Lozès says that he intends to campaign among all of France's approximately 61 million citizens. He says that he believes in France, that he has confidence in its values, and that he knows what he "owes to the Republic."

Lozès will be the second black candidate for France's highest elected office. The first was Christiane Taubira, deputy for French Guiana in the National Assembly (analogous to the U.S. House of Representatives), who ran for president in 2002.

France's next presidential election will be held in April 2012.


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Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Remembrance of Bastille Day with Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman
Screenshot from video

In 1989, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, Jessye Norman was invited to sing the French national anthem "La Marseillaise" in Paris at Place de la Concorde. Her performance was part of a grandiose celebration that was the brainchild of French designer and photographer Jean-Paul Goude. The celebration included a nocturnal parade down the Champs Elysées.

Norman's costume, which represented France's flag "Le Tricolore," was designed by Tunisian-born fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa.

To view the event, click on the video screen below:

A singer with an unusually large range in the soprano register, Norman is an Augusta, Georgia native. She fell in love with opera at a young age after hearing one broadcast on the radio, and went on to pursue formal musical studies at Howard University, the Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Michigan. She made her operatic debut in a 1969 production of Tannhaeuser at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Since that time, Norman has sung in scores of operas, concerts, and recitals, and has been the recipient of many honors and awards. She is an honorary fellow of Harvard and Cambridge universities, and has received honorary doctorates from, among other schools, Juilliard, Howard, Harvard and Yale. In 1990, Norman was named Honorary Ambassador to the United Nations by U.N. secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Jessye Norman is held in very high esteem in France. In 1984, the French government made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, and the National Museum of Natural History (Muséum National de l'Histoire Naturelle) named an orchid after her (Phalaenopsis Jessye Norman). President François Mitterand bestowed the Legion of Honor upon her in 1989.

In 1997, Norman became the youngest recipient to date of the Kennedy Center Honors, the U.S.'s most prestigious award in the performing arts. In 2009, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.


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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Black Paris Profiles™: Granville Fields

Granville Fields, a native Philadelphian, is the founder and owner of Cabinet Fields Juris Traducteur, a firm specializing in legal translation and interpreting services. His story is an example of a common thread among many expatriates – coming to Paris and realizing that “you had to stay,” even if it wasn’t readily apparent how to do so. During our interview, Granville shared the story of his life as a gay man, a language professional, and a single parent, and discussed the place that his African heritage holds in his life and hopefully will hold in the lives of his children.


Granville with his children Aurelien and Zoe
© Nicolas Thépot

The first time that Granville came to Paris was in the summer of 1983 at the age of 19, when he was in transit to the Ivory Coast to study for his junior year abroad. He spent six weeks in Paris studying at the Alliance Française, and was thrilled to be an “outside observer” of French culture as well as to have the opportunity to study French language and culture.


Black Paris Profiles is now available on Kindle.  Only excerpts are available on this blog.
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