Thursday, March 30, 2017

Anna Julia Cooper - First African American to Earn a Ph. D. at the Sorbonne

As the end of Women's History Month rapidly approaches, I thought it would be fitting to write an article about a phenomenal woman who is a major figure in the history of African Americans in Paris. Her name is Anna Julia Cooper.

Anna Julia Cooper in 1892
Photo from A. J. Cooper's book The Voice of the South
Image in public domain

In an article published in Paris on April 28, 1925, the Chicago Tribune wrote the following about her:

Mrs. Cooper won her doctorat d'universite at the Sorbonne on March 23, 1925, and she left Paris for her native city of Washington, D.C. a month later.

The subject of her thesis at the Sorbonne was: L,Attitude [sic] de la France a l'egard de l'esclavage, 1789-1848*.

*The Attitude of France Toward Slavery during the French Revolution

Born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1858, Cooper was the daughter of a white slaveholder and an enslaved mother. She was nine years old when she received a scholarship and began her education at Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh. An excellent student, she went on to earn a Bachelor's degree (1884) and a Master's degree (1887) at Oberlin College.

Cooper completed courses in French literature, history, and phonetics at La Guilde Internationale in Paris during the summers of 1911-1913 and enrolled in a doctoral program at Columbia University in 1914. Her pursuit of this graduate degree was hindered by personal circumstances, but she successfully transferred her credits from Columbia and La Guilde Internationale to the Sorbonne in 1924.

Details of the story vary depending on the source consulted, but Cooper did complete her graduate work at the Sorbonne in 1925. The university shipped her diploma to the U.S. and she received it at a ceremony held at Howard University on December 29, 1925.

Anna Julia Cooper was a master educator, education administrator, writer, community activist, and advocate for women's rights. She was a lesser-known contemporary and peer of Ida Gibbs Hunt and Mary Church Terrell, both of whom also spent time in Paris.

Part of Cooper's legacy is represented by a commemorative U.S. a postage stamp:

and the inclusion of one of her quotes included at the top of pages 26 and 27 in the U.S. passport:

The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or sect, a party or a class -
it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.

Cooper died in Washington, D.C. in 1964 at the age of 105. She is buried in Raleigh, North Carolina.


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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dr. Lee Ransaw's French-inspired Art

As a professor of art at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Lee A. Ransaw developed an honors course called "The Arts of the Harlem Renaissance." Students had to have an accumulative “B” average to enroll. They were required to do extensive research on some African or African-American culture changer in the fields of art, music, literature and dance during the first part of the 20th century, and determine what made them special as well as why the mainstream world embraced them. Not so surprisingly, Josephine Baker was one of the favorite artists that students selected. Baker was also one of Dr. Ransaw’s favorites and the project later inspired him to paint the portrait below.

Lee A. Ransaw
2012 Acrylic on canvas
36” x 74” (91.4 cm x 187.9 cm)
Image courtesy of Lee Ransaw

Ransaw chose to paint a reflective Josephine who became a cultural changer. He describes the portrait as follows:

I chose this quiet and thoughtful pose with a Parisian background, at a quiet moment when Josephine might be realizing that her life’s work had been rewarding. She is elegantly dressed in a curvaceous evening dress; her hair is stylized and accented with designer earrings. To her left, she may be recalling her younger days in her performance of La Revue Nègre where the audience is giving her the toast of Paris. To her right is the Arc de Triomphe, which characterizes and attests to her world success as an entertainer.

Ransaw was inspired to major in art while attending high school in Indianapolis, Indiana. In college, he became interested in examining great works of art created by master artists and felt there was no better place to look for original works than in the art capital of the world, Paris. He received a United Negro College Fund Distinguished Scholars Award for research which allowed him to spend considerable time at the Louvre and the Musee de l’Homme. He toured the city with a group and visited several additional times with his wife, Cheryl.

Cheryl and Lee Ransaw at the Eiffel Tower (Musée de l'Homme in background)
Image courtesy of Lee Ransaw

Artists Lee Ransaw and Louis Delsarte at the Louvre
Image courtesy of Lee Ransaw

Ransaw has created several paintings with a Paris connection or French inspiration. The first one was a tribute to the French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, entitled Tribute to Renoir: Luncheon of the Boating Party. He changed the party-goers to include a more diverse group and replaced the puppy with a parrot.

Tribute to Renoir: The New Luncheon at the Boating Party
Lee A. Ransaw
1998 Oil on canvas
24" x 30" (60.9 cm x 76.2 cm)
Image courtesy of Lee Ransaw

Luncheon of the Boating Party
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
1881 Oil on canvas
51.2" x 68.1" (130 cm x 173 cm)
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

The second painting is entirely conceptual. Ransaw portrayed a gathering of well–to-do Blacks, who had moved to Southern France in the middle of the 20th century, as high rollers.

A Feast in Nice
Lee A. Ransaw
2002 Acrylic on canvas
36" x 48" (91.4 cm x 121.9 cm)
Image courtesy of Lee Ransaw

Dr. Ransaw’s artwork can be found in institutional collections such as Hampton University, Clark Atlanta University, The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University, The APEX Museum in Atlanta, The Georgia Museum of Art, The Auburn Avenue Research Library, Morris Brown College, Bowie State University and in many private collections. His work can also be found on Fine Art America.


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Thursday, March 16, 2017

BAO - A New Afro-Créole Supermarket

The sister-brother team of Sona, Kossi, and Lemba Muluala recently opened what many people in Ile de France likely consider a godsend - a modern, full-service Afro-Créole supermarket.

BAO storefront
Screenshot from BAO video

BAO, which is "short" for BAOBAB, opened on December 10, 2016. It is stocked with more than 2,000 items sourced from producers and distributors in the Caribbean, Africa and the Indian Ocean.

The Mulualas, who are Franco-Congolese, were inspired to launch their store because of their childhood memories of how difficult it was for their mother to find ingredients for their favorite recipes in their neighborhood. Not only did she need to travel an hour to get into Paris, she also had to shop in multiple places to find everything she needed and contend with merchants who were not familiar with the products they were selling. It often took a good half-day to get the shopping done and return home.

Sona and Kossi Muluala
Screenshot from BAO video

The Mulualas are committed to providing authentic, high quality items at the best possible price. They sell fresh and frozen foods, including Hallal meat, fruits and vegetables, cooking oils and condiments, spices, juices and other beverages, and Créole specialities such as pigtails, turban squash, breadfruit, Créoline sauce, and Floup ice cream.

Stocked shelves
Screenshot from BAO video

African eggplants
Screenshot from BAO video

Palm oil from Congo
Screenshot from BAO video

Frozen goat-filled samossas from Reunion Island
Screenshot from BAO video

To watch them present BAO on video (in French), click HERE.

BAO is located in the Paris suburb of Bobigny. The supermarket is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 8 PM.

Centre Commercial Bobigny 2
Boulevard Maurice Thorez
93000 Bobigny


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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Hidden Figures Released in France

On March 8, the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures was released in Paris.

Hidden Figures ad in metro
© Discover Paris!

On March 2, Tom and I had the opportunity to see a preview of the film at a private screening at the U.S. Ambassador's residence.

Chargé d’Affaires Uzra Zeya and Cultural Affairs Specialist Randianina Peccoud welcomed guests at the door and indicated the path to the reception, where cold and hot hors d'oeuvres, miniature desserts, and a variety of beverages were available. This was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and meet new ones.

Randianina Peccoud and Curtis Robert Young
© Discover Paris!

One of my new acquaintances is Julia Fendrick, Counselor for Cultural Affairs. Fendrick assumed this role at the Embassy in June 2016.

Raina Lampkins-Fielder, Monique Y. Wells, and Julia Fendrick
© Discover Paris!

She excitedly told us about another preview of the film that took place earlier in the day. This one was at a Gaumont cinema and the attendees were hundreds of French school children. She shared the following details about the event:

Four hundred (400) middle and high school, vocational school, and science club students filled every seat of this theater to watch the soon-to-be released film “Hidden Figures” and it appeared to spark a great deal of interest in STEM studies.

Following the film, students stayed for almost an hour of questions with the panelists Timothy Tawny of NASA, Fabienne Casoli of the Center for National Space Studies (Centre national d’etudes spatiales), and Fatoumata Kebe of the Paris Observatory (Observatoire de Paris), addressing issues of space exploration, engineering and science studies, and gender equity questions. Panel members reinforced the film’s message of striving to achieve and not underestimating one’s abilities.

Our NASA colleague also spoke about the excitement of the new frontiers in space and that all achievements in space research today will need the power of young minds from many countries working to solve problems together. Students left with NASA pins and badges, but also with the message “Dare to Try” in their heads.

Watch the reactions of several students to the film (in French) below:

Fendrick also shared that the Embassy helped the American Presence Post (the U.S. Consulate) in Toulouse do two screenings of the film. They welcomed approximately 500 people, including middle school and high school students, at Cite de l’Espace, a theme park focused on space and the conquest of space. Claudie Haignerie, the "marraine" (godmother) of Cité de l'Espace and the first French woman in space, introduced the film.

After about an hour of socializing at the Ambassador's residence in Paris, we were directed to the screening room.

What would a movie be without popcorn? We were encouraged to take cups of the freshly popped snack into the screening room.

Monique enjoys her popcorn
© Discover Paris!

Zeya addressed the audience prior to the start of the film.

Uzra Zeya announces the film
© Discover Paris!

Then the lights went down and we settled in for the evening.

I read the book Hidden Figures several months ago. As I expected, the film did not come close to delivering the detail found in the book and it took considerable artistic license with the stories of Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Goble Johnson, and Mary Jackson. Nevertheless, I thought it did a great job of presenting the long untold stories of these remarkable women!


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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole Hosts First Event for U.S. Travelers

On February 23, 2017, the Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole hosted its first event for a group of U.S. travelers to Paris!

As the Académie's Ambassador to the U.S., I was pleased to propose a culinary workshop to Jacqueline Cofield, founder of J Rêve International, for J Rêve's second Paris Global Arts and Culture Exchange Program for educators. This professional development excursion took place from February 19-25, 2017 and Cofield was excited to include culinary arts as part of the activities for attendees.

Isabelle Tulle, the Académie's communications consultant, arranged for the workshop to be held at La Canne à Sucre - an Antillean and Reunion Island restaurant of long standing in Paris' 18th arrondissement.

La Canne à Sucre
© Discover Paris!

Jacqueline Cofield at La Canne à Sucre
© Discover Paris!

Chef Stéphane Sorbon, winner of the Académie's 2016 Trophée Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur Trophy) for traditional Créole cuisine, was the creative force behind the event. When we arrived, he was busily setting up the preparation stations for the afternoon.

Chef Stéphane Sorbon sets up for the atelier
© Discover Paris!

On the menu were the following Caribbean classics:
  • Punch Planteur (Planter's Punch) - cocktail
  • Accras de Morue (Cod fritters) - starter
  • Colombo de Poulet (Colombo Chicken) - main dish
  • Blanc Manger Coco (Coconut pudding) - dessert

Preparation Stations:
Upper left and right - Punch Planteur and Accras de Morue
Lower left and right - Colombo de Poulet and Blanc Manger Coco
Individual photos and collage © Discover Paris!

The eight participants formed four teams of two persons. Each team was responsible for preparing one part of the meal.

To make things even more interesting, each team was asked to evaluate the appearance, presentation of the preparation, and taste of the dishes prepared by the other teams. The team with the highest score won a prize.

Chef Sorbon instructed each team in turn. Because he does not speak English, I served as translator.

We began with the Blanc Manger Coco because it had to cool and set in time for dinner. Team members Autumn Scroggin and Bobby Couch took turns grating, chopping, stirring, and cooking the ingredients for what turned out to be a delectable finish for the meal.

Team Blanc Manger Coco: Autumn Scroggin and Bobby Couch
© Discover Paris!

Upper left and right - Bobby grates nutmeg; Autumn grates lime zest
Lower left and right - Autumn stirs the milk mixture; Bobby cooks the milk mixture
Bobby cooks the milk mixture - © Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole
All other photos and collage - © Discover Paris!

Next, we turned our attention to the Punch Planteur. Chef Sorbon told team members Maria Pascual and Jonathan McBride the order in which to add the spices, fruits, juices, cane liqueur, and rum. They carried out his instructions to the letter!

Chef Sorbon and Team Planteur: Maria C. Pascual and Jonathan McBride
© Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole

Left to right - Preparing spices, chopping fruit, adding juice
© Discover Paris!

Jon then placed the punch in the refrigerator so it would be cool in time for dinner.

The Colombo de Poulet was the most complicated dish to prepare. Team members Louis King and Lancey Alexander gave it their all.

Team Colombo de Poulet: Lancey T. Alexander and Louis King
© Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole

Lots of herbs, spices, and peppers go into a Colombo dish.

Colombo Herbs, Spices, and Peppers
© J Rêve International

Louis and Lancey scored the chicken to allow the marinade to penetrate, then chopped and combined the ingredients for the marinade. Chef Sorbon browned cumin seeds and mustard seeds in the oil that would be used for cooking the chicken, then Louis did the cooking. Both team members chopped the vegetables that went into the pot once the chicken was browned.

Upper left and right - Lancey scores chicken; Louis cuts shallots
Lower left and right - Louis cooks chicken; Lancey chops vegetables
Upper level photos and collage - © Discover Paris!
Lower level photos - © Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole

Once these were added to the pot, we gathered around the team that would prepare the starter.

Team Accras de Morue: Patty L. Frazier and Robin Lyons-Couch
© Discover Paris!

There was lots of chopping to do to prepare the cod mixture. While the peppers used for the chicken dish were mild, the variety used for the accras was spicy. Chef Sorbon warned team members Patty Frazier and Robin Lyons-Couch not to include seeds when they added the pepper.

Once the vegetables were chopped, Robin mixed them into the fish by hand. She continued mixing as Patty added the flour and baking powder. She then took the preparation into the kitchen, where she deep fried it by the spoonful.

Upper left and right - Monique translates for Chef Sorbon as Patty listens;
Patty chops garlic
Lower left and right - Robin mixes the fish and vegetables; Robin fries the fish mixture
Upper and lower left photos - © Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole
Upper and lower right photos and collage - © Discover Paris!

Chef Sorbon had the members of Team Planteur and Team Colombo work on a surprise mise en bouche (appetizer) called Sucettes de Tomates Cerises - an innovative preparation of cherry tomatoes topped with caramelized sugar and dipped in sesame seeds.

Preparing Sucettes de Tomates Cerises
Left: Louis, Jon, and Maria spear cherry tomatoes
Right: Louis and Lancey dip tomatoes into caramelized sugar
© Discover Paris!

Finally, everything was ready and we prepared to sit down and enjoy the meal.

Preparing the table
Left: Robin and Patty bring the accras to the table
© Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole
Right: Maria and Jon prepare glasses of Punch Planteur
© Discover Paris!

Sucettes de Tomates Cerises
© Discover Paris!

Punch Planteur
© Discover Paris!

Accras de morue
© Discover Paris!

Chef Sorbon plated and served the chicken dish.

Colombo de Poulet
© Discover Paris!

The blanc manger coco, which had been prepared with and without a pineapple topping, was retrieved from the kitchen at the last possible moment.

Then we ate.

Enjoying the meal
© J Rêve International

Blanc manger coco
© J Rêve International

Patty repeatedly declared that the meal was the best she had eaten during the entire time she'd been in Paris!

The evaluations were quickly tallied at the end of the workshop and we waited to hear who would emerge victorious from the afternoon's activities. The winner was Team Accras de Morue.

The prize was a gift bag of Chef Sorbon's homemade banana marmalade, Colombo spices, bitter almond extract, and vanilla extract. Chef proudly informed us that these products will be available for purchase on line in the near future.

Robin and her prize
© Discover Paris!

The sun was setting as we left the restaurant. Everyone agreed that the afternoon had been magical!

Paris Global Arts and Culture Exchange Culinary Workshop Participants
© J Rêve International


Chef Stéphane Sorbon - private chef, caterer, and gourmet boutique owner
Telephone: 07 69 69 23 25

Chef Stéphane Sorbon
© Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole

La Canne à Sucre
2 Rue Coysevox
75018 Paris
Telephone: 01 42 26 51 28
Tuesdays through Fridays from 12:00 noon - 3:00 PM and from 7:00 PM - midnight
Saturdays from 7:00 PM - 2:00 AM
Sundays from 12:00 noon - 9:00 PM.
Closed Mondays and Saturdays at lunchtime

La Canne à Sucre restaurant (interior)
© Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole


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