Thursday, June 2, 2016

International James Baldwin Conference in Paris

From Thursday, May 26 through Saturday, May 28, the American University of Paris opened its doors to scholars from around the world to celebrate the life and examine the writings of James Baldwin.

This phenomenal conference, entitled "'A Language to Dwell In': James Baldwin, Paris, and International Visions," was co-directed by Alice Mikal Craven and William E. Dow of the American University of Paris. Four plenary sessions and over 150 presentations in 44 concurrently running panels placed "special emphasis on the Paris Baldwin inhabited, both what it was and what it is today as a result of the marks he left behind."

The opening session was held in the sanctuary of the American Church in Paris. Seven scholars participated in a round table discussion on "Presence and Legacies: The State of Baldwin Studies." This was followed by a reception and a "Welcome Show" organized by Samuel Légitimus, director of Collectif James Baldwin - a French non-profit organization that has preserved and promoted Baldwin's legacy since 1993.

Panel for opening plenary session
© Discover Paris!

Samuel Légitimus, Director of Collectif Baldwin
© Discover Paris!

Welcome Show Performers - from left to right:
Inside Voices Choir, Gladys Arnaud (Sister Margaret - the Amen Corner),
Rick Odums Dancers
© Discover Paris!

Highlights of the conference included screenings of Joanne Burke's video documentary Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light and Karen Thorsen's documentary Price of a Ticket, as well as Jake Lamar's reading from his screenplay Brothers in Exile.

Jake Lamar reads from Brothers in Exile at the Hôtel Talleyrand
© Discover Paris!

I had the pleasure of presenting "Beauford and Baldwin: Paris Stomping Grounds" on Saturday afternoon. This talk featured the favored haunts of Beauford and Baldwin, with a focus on the Montparnasse and Saint-Germain areas of the city. I also spoke about the recent Beauford Delaney art exhibition at Columbia Global Centers, Reid Hall.

Monique shows the Beauford Delaney catalog
© Discover Paris!

I sat on a panel with Ed Pavlić of the University of Georgia, who presented a paper entitled "Who Can Afford to Improvise?: Black Music as Heard Listening Over Jimmy Baldwin's Shoulder." Pavlić looked at how music influenced Baldwin's writings and distributed a playlist of "music to accompany James Baldwin's career (and beyond)." During the question and answer period, he and I realized that we corresponded about Baldwin's Istanbul addresses eighteen months ago when I was preparing for a visit there. The information he shared with me helped me write the blog post that I published about my trip in March 2015. We were pleasantly surprised to have this opportunity to meet in person.

Monique Wells and Ed Pavlić shaking hands
© Discover Paris!

At the end of the conference, it was announced that a final international conference on Baldwin may be held in Istanbul within a couple of years. Previous conference venues include Montpellier, France (2014); New York City (2011), and Boston (2009).


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Teri said...

Ah....seems like it was a terrific time had by all. I am sure Mr. Baldwin would have shared his broad smile upon realizing the impact he has left behind....

Unknown said...