Thursday, January 26, 2012

Black History Month at the American Library in Paris

For the past few years, the American Library in Paris has celebrated Black History Month with a month-long exhibit and an evening presentation on a unique aspect of African / Diaspora history.

Join me at The American Library in Paris on

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

for my presentation entitled

Following the Flavors of the African Diaspora

Details at the end of this article!


In 2009, the Library asked Cheryl Ann Bolden – artist and curator of the private traveling museum "Precious Cargo" – to present “Images of Blacks in Western Art.” It also mounted an exposition of the same name that was on view from January 26 through March 2, 2009.

Image from Cheryl Bolden’s 2009 Presentation*
Photo courtesy of the American Library in Paris

Bolden, who was a student at Sotheby's London and a research associate at the Cambridge University African Studies Center, spoke about Western artists’ portrayals of black people “as saints, sinners, heroes, and villains -- in a number and variety to astonish even scholars.” She explored the hidden meanings of these images and talked of how each lies open to the interpretation of the individual viewer.

The year 2010 brought Swoosh! Crack! Roar! - Celebrating the Negro Leagues and the All-American Girls Baseball League to the exhibit case at the Library. It was on view from February 2nd through March 20th in honor of Black History Month and Women’s History Month. On February 3rd; artist and author Kadir Nelson spoke about his first book entitled We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. Nelson spent seven years researching, writing, and painting the history of the Negro Leagues Baseball for this book, in which he relates the story of the life of a Negro League ballplayer both on and off the field in the voice of an elder fictional "every player."

Book cover for We Are the Ship

During his presentation, Nelson poignantly and humorously shared the story of how he developed as an artist and the detailed process of creating the text and art for his book.

On February 9, 2010, I had the pleasure of presenting my signature lecture entitled “Black Paris and the Myth of a Colorblind France.” I provided an overview of over 200 years of African-American history in Paris with a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, speaking of statesmen and solders as well as artists and entertainers. I then presented the story behind the myth of a colorblind France, followed by several images of contemporary Black Paris. The question and answer period at the end of the talk was quite lively!

In 2011, the Library mounted an exposition called Images of the African Diaspora in New York City Community Murals. Curated by Jane Weissmann, it hung from February 1st through March 30th. Weissman is co-author of the cultural history On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City. She created Images of the African Diaspora in New York City Community Murals in conjunction with the publication of On the Wall.

The exposition explored how African and Caribbean art, history, religion and myth have influenced mural themes and content. It focused on the National Black Arts Movement (often considered the cultural art of the Black Power Movement), the artistic philosophy of Ghanaian artist Kofi Antubam, and how the artists drew inspiration from Adinkra and African fertility symbols, Ndebele house painting, Egyptian rituals, and representations of Jesus and his disciples as Blacks.

Laura James, Behold How Good and Pleasant It Is...,
1992 Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York
photo: © Janet Braun-Reinitz

This year, I am honored to be the featured speaker for Black History Month in conjunction with the Library’s exposition entitled Following the Flavors of the African Diaspora. The exhibit encourages visitors to “discover the flavors of the African Diaspora, from Africa to South and Central America, the Caribbean islands, and North America and consider how food has expressed and continues to express identity among groups with African ancestry throughout the world.” It runs from February 7th through March 4th.

In my presentation on February 7th, I will discuss the common threads found among various foods and methods of food preparation in Africa and its Diaspora and their cultural significance among African Diaspora peoples. I will also tell the story of my personal discoveries about several of these food items as I wrote my cookbook Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris.

Illustration from Food for the Soul
© Christiann Anderson

Do come out and join me for this talk! Entry is free!

Following the Flavors of the African Diaspora
The American Library in Paris
Tuesday 7 February 2012 at 7:30 PM
10, rue du Général Camou
75007 Paris
Telephone: 01 53 59 12 60
Metro: Ecole Militaire (line 8), Alma-Marceau (line 9)
RER: Pont de l'Alma (line C)

*Moses and His Ethiopian Wife
Jacob Jordens
c1650 Oil on canvas
Antwerp, Belgium


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dionne Warwick Returns to the Olympia Theater

Dionne Warwick
Photo from Dionne Warwick Web site photo gallery

Dionne Warwick will perform at the legendary Olympia Theater in May 2012. She is no stranger to this stage, having been introduced to Paris by Marlene Dietrich during a concert there in 1963. This performance catapulted Warwick to international stardom.

Warwick returned to the Olympia’s stage in 1965/1966, where she performed with French music idol Sacha Distel:

She recorded her Top Ten hit “Message to Michael” at this time. The story (from YouTube) about this song goes as follows:

Warwick's association with the song began when she recommended it as a concert number to Sacha Distel, with whom she was headlining at the Paris Olympia Theatre in 1966. Jacques Denjean prepped a backing track to which Distel was to sing the song in concert; when Distel decided against performing the song, Warwick considered availing herself of the prepped instrumental track to record the song herself. Both Burt Bacharach and Hal David, when contacted by Warwick, were opposed to her singing what they maintained in its English version was a man's song. David also mentioned to Warwick that the only male name that could be subbed for "Martha" was "Michael", a name David disliked. Warwick took David's comment as a suggestion, recorded "Message to Michael" in a Paris recording studio, and added her vocals to the track prepped for Distel. Warwick would say that the most difficult part of the recording session was getting the French background vocalists to pronounce 'Michael' correctly.

Although originally relegated to B-side status for Warwick's recording of a new Bacharach-David song "Here Where There is Love", "Message to Michael" was promoted to A-side status upon the single's March 1966 release, and Warwick introduced the single to American audiences on the 9 March 1966 broadcast of Hullabaloo.

Here is a YouTube video of Dionne Warwick singing at the Olympia in Paris in 1966:

This year's performance will be held on Wednesday 23 May 2012 at 8:00 PM:

Olympia Bruno Coquatrix
28, boulevard des Capucines
75009 Paris
Metro: Opéra (Lines 3, 7, 8)
Ticket prices: 67.50 euros to 117 euros

Purchase tickets on site from 12 noon until 7 PM or reserve on line by clicking here.


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Paris' Human Zoos Exposed at the Musée du Quai Branly

L'Invention du Sauvage (The Invention of the Savage) opened at the Musée du Quai Branly on November 29, 2011. This exposition “unveils the history of women, men and children brought from Africa, Asia, Oceania and America to be exhibited in the Western world in circus numbers, theatre or cabaret performances, fairs, zoos, parades, reconstructed villages or international and colonial fairs.”

I have yet to see the exhibit, but definitely intend to do so. Until I am able to write a firsthand report, I want to share with you a brief video filmed by BBC in which curator Nanette Snoep explains the concept behind the exposition. Click on the link beneath the image below to view the video.

Screenshot from BBC Video

I also want to share some of the fliers that were created to publicize the zoos and the theatrical renditions of battles that France waged to establish itself as a colonial power in Africa.

Note: The Casino de Paris, the Folies Bergère, the Champs de Mars, and the Grand Palais are sites that are included in Discover Paris’ Entrée to Black Paris self-guided and private, guided walking tours. Multiple additional facets of the African/Diaspora experience in Paris are associated with each site.

L'Invention du Sauvage runs until Sunday June 3, 2012. Stay tuned for a future posting in which I’ll present my personal impressions of it.

Musée du Quai Branly
37, quai Branly
75007 Paris
Telephone: 01 56 61 70 00
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11am to 7pm; Thursday through Saturday 11am to 9pm


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Black Paris Profiles™ : Patricia Laplante-Collins

Patricia Laplante-Collins is the undisputed doyenne of the Paris salon scene. She once spent a lot of energy working as a volunteer in American organizations and helping them organize fundraising events, but then created a vision for her own events. She began with evenings focused on Paris’ ethnic communities and moved on to black literary events more than sixteen (16) years ago. Now, with her Paris Soirées, she focuses on gathering Paris expats, English-speaking French, and visitors of all ages to the city for eclectic evenings filled with food, camaraderie, information sharing, and entertainment. The soirées are now into their 13th year. Patricia calls them “My teenager.”

Patricia Laplante-Collins (center)
and the Yale Red Hot and Blue Singers
Photo courtesy of Patricia Laplante-Collins


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.

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