Thursday, February 23, 2012

Black History Month 2012 at the American Church in Paris

On February 17, 2012, the American Church in Paris hosted a Black History Month event for the first time in its history: a presentation on African-American pioneers in science and technology by Ellen Kountz.

Ellen Kountz at 2012 Black History Month presentation
© Jean-Marc Cresson

Ellen is a 21-year resident of Paris. She selected the theme of African-American scientists for her talk in part because she wanted to honor the legacy of her father, Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, who excelled at performing kidney transplants. Dr. Kountz was instrumental in advancing the cause of organ donation and transportation in the United States.

Ellen presenting the biography of Dr. Samuel L. Kountz
© Jean-Marc Cresson

Beginning her presentation with a quiz, Ellen asked the audience to select the date (out of four possibilities) that Black History Month began and the person who was responsible for its inception. She then went on to present the biographies of several African Americans from antebellum times to the present that were notably accomplished in science or technology. Some of the persons featured were Benjamin Banneker, Madam C. J. Walker, Granville T. Woods, Mae Jemison, and Norma Merrick Sklarek. The insights and anecdotal information that she shared about each of her subjects were poignant, sometimes ironic, and always inspirational.

Senior Pastor Reverend Scott Herr attended the event and shared a story about an African-American geneticist who is currently a member of the congregation of the American Church. It served as a reminder that often, African Americans in the sciences are working quietly, without fanfare, and are making significant and far-reaching contributions to science and medicine.

As well as addressing the general public on Friday night, Ellen gave her presentation to the Youth Group and the African Fellowship at the American Church. Encouraged by the interest that other organizations have shown in the talk, she is making plans for presentations at the American Library in Paris and the American Library in Nancy during Black History Month in 2013.


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

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