Am I a Parisian already?


This week has been particularly rich in events. It was Bastille Day, and also we had our midterm exams. We started the week with a visit to the Latin quarter where the old black Paris settled. Our tour guide took us to the Pantheon where brilliant men and women have been moved after their death. We spoke notably about Josephine Baker who was the symbol of the emancipated black female artist during the twentieth century. Somehow walking around the streets that so many black writers and activists have walked on about a hundred years ago felt like a pilgrimage to me. The visit was particularly moving to me because it awakened so many emotions about being black in France during colonial times. That time in Paris saw writers from Africa, the French Caribbean islands, and the United States and their conflicting ideas. There certainly were disagreements about how to carry the fight for the liberation of the black people and what exactly that fight encompassed. I stood in front of the Sorbonne thinking about how the founding fathers of the Negritude movement overcame their ethnic and intellectual differences to fight for independence in Africa and its diaspora. After the visit, I went to the Presence Africaine bookstore. This bookstore is crucial in understanding the fight for the liberation of Africa led by black writers after the second world war. It is where many writers of African descent saw their works published at a time when many mainstream editors rejected them because of racism.

Another major event that happened this week was Bastille Day. On July 14th, the day commemorating the French Revolution brings french people celebrate the tricolor flag. People flocked to the Seine river and sat on the bridge to watch the fireworks. And the spectacle was beautiful. For 30 minutes, the Eiffel tower was lit with brilliant colors and the sky changed colors. We were delighted and beautifully pleased. I had the opportunity to reflect on how the French Revolution came to free the French people from their struggles and the working class reclaim their voices over the aristocracy. This kind of struggle is still going on to this day in so many countries around the world. Until economic and racial inequalities are eliminated, the world will always be plunged into unrest.

Finally, the long weekend is over, but I had time to rest a lot and visit some friends and relatives living in Paris. We have about two weeks in this program and I am amazed at how well it is going and how easy it is for me to immerse myself in French culture. The epicurean in me is greatly pleased to discover so many flavors from around the world, and Paris indeed lives up to its reputation.