Opinion | What France does not understand about racism and safe spaces

In a country where the circles of power are overwhelmingly White and male, the fact that many important decisions are made by exclusively White groups would be a good reason to spark outrage.

Centering spaces around the voices of those who experience oppression is the only way for them to identify strategies to deconstruct structural inequalities.

Mélanie Luce is the first woman of color to lead the UNEF, a progressive student union founded in 1907 in France. When she joined a news show to speak about the precarious social conditions of students, she could not guess that she would soon be the center of national attention. Luce admitted that the union sometimes organized safe spaces to support students of color, and the interviewer labeled the initiative as “closed to White people.”

The outrage quickly spread across the political landscape. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called the meetings “racist,” “deeply outrageous” and potentially “leading to things that look like fascism.” He added he was exploring the legal grounds to prevent the meetings.

In the Senate, the right-wing party the Republicans drafted a letter to the justice minister, claiming the meetings did not comply with “French values,” as if there were no racial issues in France. Legislator Julien Aubert alerted the Paris prosecutor and said in a statement that the interior minister should consider the dissolution of the UNEF, backing the viral hashtag #dissolutionunef. [ . . . ]

Continue at WASHINGTON POST: Opinion | What France does not understand about racism and safe spaces – The Washington Post

Commemoration begins of the bloody weeks of the Paris Commune of 1871

Paris has launched two months of events commemorating a radical experiment in people power, which continues to divide and inspire in equal measures 150 years later.

The 1871 Paris Commune, an uprising against a conservative government by working-class Parisians that was brutally crushed after 72 days, is one of the lesser-known chapters in French history.

But its memory still looms large in left-wing rebellions worldwide and in Paris with the towering Sacre-Coeur basilica in Montmartre, built by the victors on the ruins of the crushed Commune.

The revolt erupted after the Franco-Prussian war and ended in a bloodbath, with government troops massacring between 6,000 to 20,000 people during la semaine sanglante (bloody week) that ended the Parisians’ brief flirtation with self-rule.

Last week, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo inaugurated a programme of 50 events commemorating the Commune, including exhibitions, plays, conferences and debates.

But with public sympathies still divided been the “Communards” and the “Versaillais” government, trying to rally Parisians around a shared reading of what Karl Marx described as “France’s civil war” is proving difficult. Continue reading “Commemoration begins of the bloody weeks of the Paris Commune of 1871”

The cult of Gainsbourg to be consecrated with museum at his Paris home

Thirty years after his death, Serge Gainsbourg remains an icon in France. There are now plans to mark that anniversary with a dedicated museum at the singer-songwriter’s apartment in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood. His former Parisian home is already a place of pilgrimage for the many fans of the artist.

We also take a look at an Oscar-shortlisted French animated short which brings prehistory to life thanks to oil painting and grains of sand, and we find out more about the Chateau of Versailles’ new role as an exceptionally opulent recording studio.

And Paris Fashion Week pivots as designers embrace flexibility and creativity, showing their latest collections in pandemic-friendly ways.

Source: FRANCE 24

Paris eyes three-week Covid-19 lockdown in bid to then ‘reopen everything’

The city of Paris is considering proposing a three-week lockdown in a bid to “reopen everything” in the City of Lights afterwards, the deputy mayor said Thursday, calling the current nighttime curfew a “half-measure” and a “semi-prison” that never ends.

In an interview with French broadcaster Franceinfo, Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said that the left-wing run city hall was considering proposing an independent local lockdown for the French capital to stem the “worrying” rise of new coronavirus infections there, with “the prospect of reopening everything” after, including its theatres, cinemas and restaurants.

Grégoire described the current anti-Covid-19 measures imposed by Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government, including the country’s 6pm-6am curfew, as “half- measures with bad results”, adding that that “we can’t be forced to live in a semi-prison for months”.

Like the rest of the country, Paris has been under a night curfew since December 15, but bars, restaurants and cultural venues have been closed even longer.

Grégoire’s comments came on the heels of Prime Minister Jean Castex’s announcement Thursday that Paris and 19 other regions in the country were placed under “heightened surveillance” and that they risk coming under weekend lockdown at the start of March unless the number of new coronavirus infections drops. The southern city of Nice and the northern area of Dunkirk have already been ordered into lockdowns on weekends. [ . . . ]

 

Continue at FRANCE24: Paris eyes three-week Covid-19 lockdown in bid to then ‘reopen everything’

Paris is Turning Its Dark Underground Parking Lots into Organic Mushrooms Farms

The startup Cycloponics is growing 100-200 kilos of mushrooms a week in underground parking lots in Paris, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux.

What can you do with a dark underground parking lot that isn’t being used anymore? Think fungus.

Unused parking garages around the French capital have been turned into organic mushroom farms, thanks to a company called Cycloponics.

Allowing an extremely nutritious crop to be grown and sold directly in Paris, the initiative is part of a number of renovation projects the City is encouraging and sponsoring.

Along with shitake, oyster, and white button mushrooms, Cycloponics grows chicory—a French delicacy that can grow in the dark—as well as microgreens like mini broccoli. These are delivered via bicycle to local organic grocery stores.

Their location in Paris is called “The Cave,” and it’s one of three such converted garages that have been co-founded since 2017 by the coincidentally named Theo Champagnat. Continue reading “Paris is Turning Its Dark Underground Parking Lots into Organic Mushrooms Farms”

How Paris Created a Cycling Boom

It’s no Amsterdam, but the City of Light is catching up.

By Erik Nelson

When Lone Andersen lived in Paris in the 1980s, she says she saw “almost no cyclists. I saw one once and I almost felt that I should take a picture.” Despite the fact that France’s most iconic athletic symbol is a bike race, its capital city has never been known as a biking mecca the way Amsterdam or Copenhagen are.

Today, through a mix of new infrastructure, bike sharing and public transit frustrations, that’s changing. In fact, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation, Christophe Najdovski, recently reported that:

PARIS SAW A 54 PERCENT INCREASE IN CYCLISTS BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 2018 AND SEPTEMBER 2019.

That’s according to counts by digital meters set up at 56 sites around Paris to monitor biking. The Copenhagenize index, a comprehensive assessment of bike-friendliness, gives the French capital high marks for adding exclusive bike lanes and pushing bike sharing. But this year’s index says that with a paltry 5 percent of its commuters biking, Paris is a long way from catching up to Copenhagen’s 62 percent.

What could account for the explosion? Paris officials told local media that vélotaf — slang for bike commuting — is a big reason for the increase, while Najdovski touts the city’s plan vélo, or bike plan. The plan has realized amenities like the new two-way cycling path along the Seine’s Left Bank, running 1.5 miles from the Quai d’Orsay in the central city to Alma Bridge. It’s among nearly 200 extra miles of bike paths and lanes in the 2015 plan, along with a $780 million bike-sharing system — one that has admittedly been beset by delays and malfunctions.

If you ask longtime Parisian cycling campaigner and municipal cycling adviser Isabelle Lesens, those new commuters aren’t switching from cars. “It’s very well known that people living in Paris are really fed up with the subway because it’s absolutely crowded,” she says. “So when they discovered it could be possible to go by bike, they tried it.” That incentive can only grow with each public transit strike, like the one this week.

And while more liberal municipal governments vow to accommodate cyclists, even more conservative politicians are jumping on the two-wheeled bandwagon, Lesens says, because of the proliferation of app-based bike sharing. They’ve made it possible to be simultaneously bike-friendly and pro-business, while “nobody dares to be opposed to cycling because of the climate problems,” Lesens explains.

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Still, Paris’ Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is taking heat in local media for failing to put the mettle to the pedal after completing less than a quarter of the 43 miles of bike pistes separated from cars by curbs that she’d promised in 2015.

Nevertheless, Hidalgo’s determination to “turn Paris into a global cycling capital” seems to be working. In 2013, Paris was ranked 19th on the Copenhagenize index’s list of best cycling cities. This year it’s ranked eighth. Hidalgo has also famously declared war on the electric scooters ubiquitous in the French capital, setting new rules to regulate the machines that riders often abandon in bike lanes.

Cycling in Paris isn’t for everyone, even those who are fit enough to stay balanced and keep pedaling. Frank Andrews, a 26-year-old journalism graduate student, grew up in London and calls the two cities’ biking environments “kind of comically different.”

Back in England, there are rules: “Most of my friends and myself have been fined for running lights,” Andrews says. Not so in Paris, where “it’s a bit survival of the fittest out on those streets.”

It’s easy to see how Andrews, a resident of the 6th Arrondissement, can hold his own on les rues moyennes, commuting with an expensive fixed-wheel bike like ones used in velodromes. Brakes are his only concession to convenience.

Andrews attributes the ridership growth to delivery services and “Uberized” cycling via sharing apps. As for the latter, Andrews sniffs, “I feel like I see them more on their sides, discarded on a bridge.”

And Andersen, now a traffic engineer in Copenhagen, says her more recent forays onto Paris streets haven’t been encouraging: “I have never felt an urge to ride a bike in Paris — simply because I think it is too dangerous.” In April, the prefecture of police released figures indicating bike accidents had increased about 12.5 percent over the previous year, with 147 cyclists hurt (though none killed) in three months.

What the city needs, she believes, is more lanes with solid curb separating bikes from motorized vehicles. “If the infrastructure isn’t there, you will not get people to [cycle] on a large scale because they don’t feel safe,” she says.

The more Paris is willing to sacrifice space occupied by its Citroëns and Peugeots, Andersen adds, the more it’ll be able to coax even the faint of heart to pedal onto the city’s grand boulevards.

Source: How Paris Created a Cycling Boom – OZY | A Modern Media Company