Thursday, October 10, 2013

James Emanuel Interred at Père Lachaise Cemetery

On October 4, 2013, funeral services for James A. Emanuel were held in a chapel at the Père Lachaise cemetery Colombarium. Friends gathered outside while waiting to be ushered to the chapel.

Gathering at the Colombarium
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Wendy Johnson and Gary Lee Kraut
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Jim Haynes
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Kim Powell
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Tom McKenzie and Bobby Few
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Nicole Mathieu, Chansse Evans, Bobby Few, and Wendy Johnson
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Chansse Evanns
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The ceremony was led by Gary Lee Kraut, who read a poem written by James' nephew, Jim Smith. Later during the program, he read James' poem "Lovelook Back."

Gary Lee Kraut
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Chansse Evanns performed a saxophone solo.

Chansse Evanns plays a saxophone solo
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Several additional poems by James were read by Ricki Stevenson ("The Treehouse"), Wendy Johnson ("Emmett Till"), Brandyn Barbara Artis ("Jazzanatomy"), and Ariane Selassie Crochet ("L'Artiste à Ma Fenêtre" - French translation by Godelieve Simon of "Artist at My Window").

Ricki Stevenson
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Wendy Johnson (standing)
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Brandyn Barbara Artis
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Ariane Selassie Crochet
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Julia Wright was unable to attend the ceremony. She has graciously allowed me to reprint the tribute that she wanted to make that day:

Welcome, here, dear Brother James, to the diaspora Pantheon of Expatriate African-American Writers. Richard Wright, my father, is a few yards away* to greet you. I imagine both of you story-telling and haiku-spinning through time. Ancestors now.

You are the last of the generation of our fathers who chose expatriation to live, write, love and die on their own terms. That is what you did, a discrete jeweler of our blues, a giant amongst giants. And now an ancestor like Richard Wright, Stretch Johnson, Nina Simone and the others who knew how to create an intersection between their personal pain as black men and black women - and the larger History with a capital "H." Between our literary history and McCarthyism for instance. I remember our laughing to tears at your favorite café as we exchanged Black List stories....

My father and you were both African-American literature pioneers, the first to transpose the Haiku form into the language of back home. You are home now.

You also shared another sensitivity in common with Richard, who had saved the life of an African-American musician scheduled to die on the electric chair back in the forties. So when I approached you fifty years later and asked you to help us save Mumia's life, you did not hesitate. You lived long enough to hear that through an international movement buttressed by your own generosity, Mumia has escaped the death sentence. Stretch helped us put ten thousand French people in the streets of the City of Lights and you sent Mumia a Haiku of Hope every month beautifully illustrated by Godelieve, a gesture of such beauty and constance that the prison administration tried to put an end to it.

Thanks on behalf of Mumia, my Brother.

Meanwhile you are at last meeting up with your own son, your son lost when he was so young at the mercy of a violence so unnameable that only your poetry could redeem a lifetime mourning.

You are now reunited. Bless both of you.


Barbara Chase-Riboud read her poem "Requiem."

Barbara Chase-Riboud
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Attendees were then invited to recount their stories about James or otherwise remember him.

Finally, Wendy Johnson read James' poem "'We Shall Overcome': A Smile for the 1960s".

Wendy Johnson
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The ceremony ended with the song "We Shall Overcome" by Joan Baez.

After the service, the casket was taken away and James' remains were cremated.

The disposition of the remains took place on Monday, October 7, 2013. James' remains were placed in Niche 16412** in Corridor K on the second underground level (2ème sous-sol) of the Colombarium. Flowers were laid.

Niche 16412
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Jake Lamar spoke a few words of remembrance and then read James' poem "Deadly James."

Jake Lamar reads "Deadly James"
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The ashes were then sealed into the niche.

Plaque for James A. Emanuel
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The quotation on the stone comes from James' poem "Mysteries, I," published in The Force and the Reckoning (reprinted with permission by Jim Smith):

She slipped me a kiss:
for years my fresh secret. Why
do I tell you this?

No plant lover,      yet
I water it, give it sun.
What risk do I run?

Inside a smooth stone,
without smashing it open
I found this. Just think.

*Richard Wright's remains are in Niche 848; it is found on the western wall of the Colombarium arcade.
**James Emanuel's niche is directly beneath the niche of Darling Légitimus, the famed Martinican actress, and Gérard Légitimus.


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Anonymous said...

May Mr. Emanuel rest in peace. He grew up in the same small town where I did. I live here still and though the name sounded familiar never heard about him until his passing. I wrote a newspaper story about Mr. Emanuel and hope people who read it take time to learn more about his life and work.

wyleyp said...

I didn't meet Jim until he was in his mid-80s and saw him only a few times. How I wish I could have known him longer and better! His deep intelligence and quiet dignity always impressed me. Hearing about the tragic loss of his son was profoundly saddening. The world is far from perfect but Jim left it a better place. May he rest in peace. Wyley Powell, Toronto

Unknown said...

I first met Professor Emanuel in 1969 when I begin teaching at CCNY. For many years, he stored his books, etc. in my garage. Every moment I spent with him was joyous and enlightening.He introduced me to good Scotch whisky. I last saw him in Paris, 1992. His poetry is powerful and needs to be honored.