Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Entrée to Black Paris!

Today is Christmas Day!

For those of you who are not here to enjoy the season, here are some images of Christmas 2014 in Paris.

Printemps Christmas display
© Discover Paris!

Christmas tree at Palais Garnier
© Discover Paris!

Chocolate Bûche de Noël
Image courtesy of Un Dimanche à Paris

Christmas Eve on rue Mouffetard
© Discover Paris!

Eiffel Tower viewed from rue Saint-Charles
© Discover Paris!

Have a blessed day!


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

James Baldwin's Unhappy Paris Christmas

James Baldwin's first years in France were filled with adventure, tribulation, merriment, and hardship. He describes what may have been the greatest transformational event during this time in his essay "Equal in Paris":

On the nineteenth of December, in 1949, when I had been living in Paris for a little over a year, I was arrested as a receiver of stolen goods and spent eight days in prison...

After having been hospitalized in Aix en Provence, Baldwin returned to Paris and moved into the Grand Hôtel du Bac on rue du Bac in the 7th arrondissement. (The exact address of this hotel is unknown.)

Rue du Bac, Paris
Britchi Mirela
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License

An American acquaintance moved into the hotel as well, bringing with him a bed sheet from the Hôtel des Deux Arbres, where he had previously lodged. He gave the sheet to Baldwin, who had been having difficulty in obtaining clean sheets from the staff at the Grand Hôtel du Bac. Baldwin promptly placed the sheet on his bed.

On the evening of December 19, feeling lonely and depressed, he went to his friend's room. He found two policemen there. They politely asked if they could see his room and he accompanied them there without fear or concern. It was only when one of the agents approached the bed and reached for the bedspread that Baldwin realized what was happening:

Sadly, and without a word to me, the inspector took the sheet from the bed, folded it under his arm, and we started back downstairs. I understood that I was under arrest.

The policemen accompanied Baldwin and his friend to the police station and placed them in a cell, where they stayed overnight. The next day they went to the Préfecture de Police on Ile de la Cité, where they were fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding "cell" that Baldwin described as a

great enclosed shed in which had been gathered the very scrapings off the Paris streets.

Later that day, he and his friend were led out of the Préfecture and into a police van that took them off to separate prisons. Baldwin went to Fresnes (located in a Paris suburb); his friend went to La Santé (located in Paris' 14th arrondissement).

Suffice it to say that things went downhill from there.

Baldwin's first trial was scheduled for the day before Christmas Eve. He was brought back to Paris to stand before a judge at the Palais de Justice. He and his friend waited most of the day for their case to be called, only to have the trial postponed because there was no interpreter present. The new trial date was set for December 27.

Palais de Justice
© Discover Paris!

Thanks to the kindness of a prisoner who had been acquitted of the charges he faced, Baldwin was able to send word of his plight to the outside world. His contact, an American patent attorney for whom Baldwin had worked as an office boy, came to the prison on Christmas Eve and told Baldwin that he would send an attorney to defend Baldwin at his trial on the 27th. He would also send character witnesses to testify, and assured Baldwin that he would be one of them.

At the trial on December 27th, the case was dropped. Baldwin says that when the full story behind the incident was told, it

caused great merriment in the courtroom, whereupon my friend decided that the French were "great."

But Baldwin found the laughter in the room to be chilling.

When he returned to the Grand Hôtel du Bac, he was told that he needed to pay his hotel bill within the hour or leave the premises. Despairingly, he took one of the dirty bed sheets that had been the cause of the entire incident and used it to try to hang himself from a water pipe in his room.

The pipe gave way, spraying the room and Baldwin with water. At this, he began to laugh. He gathered his belongings and left the hotel, never to return to it again.

James Baldwin
1955 Carl Van Vechten

Baldwin wrote "Equal in Paris" in 1955. It was first published in a magazine called Commentary. The information about his last visit to the Grand Hôtel du Bac was published in the biography James Baldwin by David Leeming (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Designer Fashion Accessories by Cheryl Pegues - A Photoreport

All photos in this post are © Discover Paris!

Cheryl Pegues held her annual Christmas trunk sale of custom-made scarves and earrings last weekend. It was a private show hosted at the home of a long-time friend of Cheryl.

Cheryl Pegues

As usual, the quality and variety of her creations were breathtaking!

Cheryl discussed how she selects her fabrics and demonstrated how she wears her scarves.

Then guests at the show selected items that struck their fancy.

Cheryl answered questions and helped attendees make selections.

Lots of items were purchased.

Cheryl was quite pleased!

For information about purchasing Cheryl's designer accessories, contact her at .

Read about Cheryl in Black Paris Profiles.


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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Adelaide Hall's Paris Years

I recently had the occasion to review some notes on performer Adelaide Hall's Paris years that I had taken from the biography called Underneath a Harlem Moon by Iain Cameron Williams. To remind myself of the details behind these notes, I took up the book and re-read several passages. The energy and passion with which Williams recounts Hall's life story are infectious and I was once again quickly swept up in the story of the time Adelaide spent in Paris.

Book jacket for Underneath a Harlem Moon

Underneath a Harlem Moon vividly describes the summer of 1929, when Adelaide and the troupe of Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1928 took Paris by storm. Beginning with the splendor of the ocean liner SS Ile de France that transported the cast from New York to Le Havre, Williams paints a vibrant picture of Montmartre, the performance run at the Moulin Rouge, and the accolades from the press and the public that gave Adelaide a new and broadened view of what her ideal lifestyle could be. She vowed to return to Paris to live and a few years later, she did just that.

Adelaide Hall in her "Diga Diga Do" costume
Image by Waléry Paris (public domain)

Williams presents intricate details of Hall's return to the City of Light with her husband, Bert Hicks, in 1936 and recounts how the couple came to dominate the nightclub scene during the year 1938. After a couple of false starts, including a short-lived upscale club on the Champs Elysées, they settled on a location at 73, rue Pigalle. They opened the doors of La Grosse Pomme (The Big Apple) on December 9, 1937 and weathered a slow start to become the toast of Paris. Joseph, their Senegalese doorman, was the man to impress if you wanted to gain entry. Within a short period of time, Adelaide became known as the "Queen of Montmartre" and the club was dubbed the most fashionable of the city.

During its heyday, La Grosse Pomme employed almost 40 persons. Even the great Bricktop worked their briefly, just a few yards from the club that she had to close for lack of business.

The loom of war and the September 28th announcement by the U. S. government that American citizens without a compelling reason to remain in Paris should plan to return home prompted Bert's decision to sell the club. It closed on December 10, 1938.

Williams punctuates the narrative in these sections of the book with information about the activities of Josephine Baker, Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, and other stars of the French stage. He pays particular attention to the relationship forged between Adelaide and Maurice Chevalier. He also provides a compelling back story by highlighting the feud between Josephine and Mistinguett and reveals the influence that Adelaide's success in Paris had on it.

Williams knew Adelaide and Josephine personally. Both he and Adelaide anticipated that she would be alive when the book was published, but she died nine years before it went to press.

Underneath a Harlem Moon is a fun and fantastic read. I recommend it!


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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Discover Paris! wishes Americans all over the world a


We'll be back next week with more stories about
African Diaspora history, culture, and contemporary life in Paris.


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Three expos feature Africa during Paris Photo Month 2014

The 18th edition of Photo Month is taking place in Paris this November.

Out of 124 expositions, three feature images of black subjects in Africa:

Go de Nuit

Through photography, Eliane de Latour chronicles the lives of the "'Go' de Nuit" - girls aged 10 to 24 years who prostitute themselves in the ghettos of Abidjan. Predominantly Muslim, illiterate, and without birth certificates, they are a product of the sociopolitical upheaval that resulted from the first Ivorian Civil War in 2002.

De Latour mounted a first exposition of the girls at the Maison des Métallos in 2011. She raised 10,000 euros from the exposition, which she took to Abidjan and used to establish social projects that benefited the girls. The current exposition includes new photographs and videos.

Maison des Metallos
94, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud
75011 Paris
Tel. 01 48 05 88 27
Metro: Couronnes (Line 2), Parmentier (Line 3)
Hours: Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 7 PM, Saturday from 2 PM to 7 PM
Free entry
Through December 7, 2014

Anonyme Ultramar

The images shown in this exposition come from six rolls of B&W film that were discovered in 2001, buried under the pavement of a street in Lisbon. They are portraits of young Africans and young Portuguese soldiers in Angola. The name of the installation, Anonyme Ultramar, comes from the Portuguese word for "overseas." The photographer is Romaric Tisserand.

Momo Galerie
26, rue Beaurepaire
75010 Paris
Tel. 01 42 39 46 92
Metro: République (Lines 3, 5, 8, 9, and 11)
Free entry
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM, Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM
Through December 6, 2014

Inner Sight

Finnish photographer Meeri Koutaniemi built this photographic expo around the life of Aster, a 12-year old Ethiopian girl who was accidentally blinded at the age of three. Aster was abandoned and subsequently welcomed into an orphanage in Addis Abeba.

Koutaniemi portrays Aster's daily life - swimming, walks, conversations with roommates at the orphanage, doing homework... in B&W.

Institut Finlandais
60, rue des Écoles
75005 Paris
Tel. 01 40 51 89 09
Metro: Cluny - La Sorbonne (Line 10)
Free entry
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM, Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM
Through December 31, 2014



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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Black Pantheon

Paris' Pantheon is a landmark site in the 5th arrondissement that we have included on two of our most popular Entrée to Black Paris walks. It sits at the top of rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève (Saint Genevieve's mountain), only a few hundred meters away from the Luxembourg Garden.

Pantheon viewed from the Luxembourg Garden
© Discover Paris!

From a "black Paris" perspective, the Pantheon has many interesting features:

It is the final resting place of two men of African descent - Alexandre Dumas, père and Félix Eboué. Information boards on both men can be found in the crypt.

Dumas' remains were relocated there with much pomp and ceremony in 2002.

Pantheon in red, white, and blue for the interment of Alexandre Dumas
© Discover Paris!

Three black men are honored by inscriptions in the crypt - Toussaint L'Ouverture, Louis Delgres, and Aimé Césaire.

Inscription in honor of Toussaint l'Ouverture
© Discover Paris!

L'Ouverture's inscription reads:

Freedom Fighter - Artisan of the abolition of slavery
Haitian Hero - Died in deportation at Fort-de-Joux in 1803

There are images of blacks in the Alexandre Cabanel mural depicting the life of Saint Louis found inside the building.

The Life of Saint Louis (detail)
1874-1877 Alexandre Cabanel
© Discover Paris!

While its interior is not the most beautiful, the Pantheon was spectacularly transformed for the ceremonial events held in honor of Aimé Césaire after his death in 2008.

Homage to Aimé Césaire
© Discover Paris!

Black French have contributed to the current renovation of the monument. Their photos are displayed on the north gate along with those of several other donors.

Four contributors to the Pantheon restoration
© Discover Paris!

The Pantheon remains open during its restoration. It is located at:
Place du Panthéon
75005 Paris
Telephone: 01 44 32 18 00
Closest public transporation: RER B - Luxembourg
Entry fee: 7.50 euros; 4.50 euros for non-EU persons between the ages of 18-25

Pantheon dome under restoration
© Discover Paris!


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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Erma Manoncourt - Part 2

Part 2 of this Black Paris Profile™ focuses Dr. Erma Manoncourt’s career at UNICEF and her thoughts about living in Paris.

Dr. Erma Manoncourt
Image courtesy of Dr. Manoncourt

Erma worked for UNICEF for 16 years, fulfilling various roles at posts in the U. S., India, and Egypt. Yet joining the UN was not part of her original vision of her professional life. She planned on a career in academia and early on, held the position of Associate Professor and Chair of the Health Communication/Education program at Tulane University in Louisiana. But “life happened” – she married a French physician (Serge Manoncourt), moved to West Africa, and subsequently realized that she enjoyed the practical application of behavior and social change theories and skills in the field more than teaching others about it.

A colleague convinced her to apply for a UNICEF position. Because she assumed that the internal competition was stiff, she was surprised when she received the job offer. She carefully weighed her options (she was attracted by UNICEF goals and approaches and considered the opportunity of living and working in other cultures to be a strong lure) and finally accepted a position in New York to lead the organization’s social and behavior change work.

When she left her post in New York, she went to New Delhi to serve as Deputy Representative, Programmes of UNICEF in India. She subsequently accepted a post in Cairo as Country Representative of UNICEF in Egypt before retiring from the agency and founding M & D Consulting, Inc.

She faced many challenges in “switching cultures” in these posts, but emphatically states that she enjoyed her life as a “rolling stone” because of the opportunities and challenges brought on by these changes:

…there was the excitement of learning about ancient cultures of these countries and people perceptions of the world and foreigners who come to live and work I their land, as compared to the “younger” United States. At the same time, I had to be a quick learner on what is and is not acceptable behavior, what works/doesn’t work and with whom one should engage, when, where, how and why. Living in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution in the spring 2011 will never be forgotten – it was an experience of a life time. The first six months reflected rapid social and political change in a “blink of an eye."

In fact, Erma found traveling for the UN to be as natural as taking a breath of fresh air!

Being a “military brat,” I traveled a lot with my family at an early age and as a result, developed the love and excitement of “uprooting” oneself to discover new cultures, different ways of thinking about life and the work, and starting over again with a new home, a new school and new friends.

I am fortunate in that I have a husband who has been supportive and encouraged me in my work while maintaining his own professional career. I have been lucky in having a partner who understands me and has been willing to undertake the life adventure and “nomad” life together. He is my rock.

While serving in Cairo, Erma was asked to do a talk about international development work for TedXCairo. She entitled her talk “Learning to Walk on Shifting Sands” and her intent was to interest young people in the audience to consider a career in international development working with a UN agency of their choice. She wanted to share with the audience her pride and joy in working on behalf of children and women for the United Nations, what it means to be a “global citizen,” and the importance of remaining open to new learning experiences and viewpoints different than one’s own.

Though Erma retired from UNICEF in 2010, she is returning to work for the UN to support the fight against Ebola in West Africa. Taking up a temporary assignment in Accra, Ghana, she will create and coordinate a communication/social mobilization strategy that can be applied in the affected countries by working closely with behavior change professionals located in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Conakry.

Erma’s initial interest in France was born when she was a high school student living in Turkey. This was where she first learned French. Her first undergraduate degree was in history with a specialization in the Haitian Revolution and she continued her study of the language because she intended to visit Haiti and France. She later married Serge and they eventually moved to Paris. Her favorite area of the city is Bastille, where they now live.

Place de la Bastille
© Discover Paris!

Everything is here – easy access to public transportation and services, lots of funky, cozy restaurants and a constant flow of people, both tourists and natives. Something always seem to be happening - I enjoy the great marché on Boulevard Richard Lenoir every Thursday and Sunday, the demonstrations or protest marches that either start or end at the Place de la Bastille, and even the tourists trying to find their way around and practicing their French.

I asked Erma whether she considers the U. S. or France to be home. She replied:

I was born in Denver, Colorado. My parents moved to Las Vegas in 1969 and I lived there for only two years after graduating from college. “Home” has a dual meaning for me – my family home is Las Vegas but my home is Paris, where I have settled and established new roots.

I may have been born American, but my soul has always been French, I think! I love the immense complexity of the culture and am still discovering new aspects of different regions in France, even today. I like the freedom of being able to be who I am and the heady mix of being cross-cultural and bringing my “American-ness” to my French way of life, as well.
Because she married a French man, Erma has dual (French and U. S.) nationality. She finds that this has advantages and disadvantages:

The advantages - It means being somewhat of a schizophrenic in a positive sense of the word – I see both sides of an issue and have access to strengths that both nationalities bring. On the French side, I see the long view, I relish the debate of discussing and arguing with someone who holds different ideas then my own and I appreciate that “old” still has a place in the world. As an American, the brashness, the willingness to take risks and try something new and belief that “nobody” can become “somebody” is still in my DNA, too. Of course, since I travel a lot, having two passports comes in handy when trying to get multiple visas at the same time. Plus I have more freedom of travel.

The disadvantages – On a practical level, taxes of course! Both the US and France have high taxes and sorting out who gets what can be painful, especially given the current tax laws in both countries. At times, I feel the misconceptions of who I am – an American in Paris on one side and in the US, folks who sometimes ask what country I come from because I don’t sound or act as they thought I should. I no longer fit the easy classifications and that can be a challenge, but it’s one I enjoy.

For those who want to move to Paris and work in the public sector – particularly people starting their careers – Erma has the following advice:

Competition is stiff so I think it is important that one holds at least a Master’s degree and is fully functional in French. If one has a third language besides French and English, that’s an additional asset.

In my area of work, it is probably easier if one already has had some experience in related areas such as working with immigrants or low-income and/or ethnic communities in the U.S. Seeking one’s very first job here would be extremely difficult but not impossible – I must admit though, that I don’t know what it takes to obtain a work permit.

Do your homework – read up on France and employment opportunities in the public sector (who is hiring and with what type of profiles), look to interact/engage French citizens who are living or studying in the U. S. (look up community groups, foreign exchange programs etc.) and try to make connections or contacts with employers prior to coming to France. Some American universities have great contacts and strong alumni networks here so it is worth exploring that option and a number of American companies have branches in France. Besides the U.S. Embassy website, search other websites such as or American Church in Paris for information about living here. There are several social networking associations in which Americans living abroad are involved, such as InterNations and Meet Up that might be useful as well.

To read Part 1 of Erma's profile, click here.


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