The history of Paris as a haven for African-Americans

By Tylisa C. Johnson

I was standing in front of my apartment bookshelf, eyes darting between the shelves, trying to decide which two novels to pack in my carry-on. My eyes landed on James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name. I had to smile.

I was heading to Paris on the eve of Valentine’s Day, in the early days of Black History Month. Alongside a handful of outfits, a conversational repertoire of French, and fading European history lessons, I’d packed a deep curiosity about my African-American ancestry in Paris.

It was Paris where, for decades, countless African-American intellectuals and creatives crossed the Atlantic, hopeful and drawn by the possibility of freedom, an escape from American “Blackness.” For many, it is still sought for its history and culture.
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Paris Chic: Photos To Make You Want To Visit France Next Year

In this time of being grounded at home in the United States due to the novel Coronavirus, American lovers of Paris can still enjoy the City of Light. Here’s how.

In this wing-clipped year of being grounded at home in the United States due to the novel Coronavirus, American lovers of Paris can still gaze eager eyes and open their hearts to the City of Light via Paris Chic, an elegantly hefty book published this month by stylish Assouline. With more than 200 photographs by Oliver Pilcher and text by Alexandra Senes, this heady tome abundantly delivers images and words artfully woven with sophistication and seduction: unfolding broad cityscapes and intimate corners, well-known hot spots and mysterious hideaways, lively action and lovely stillness, intriguing perspectives and personalities.

With Paris Chic, you can rejoice in the role of armchair traveler, taking flight while staying in place for now. Appreciate the thick feel-good paper as your fingertips turn 280 pages. Go slowly, as though you are strolling next to the River Seine, noticing every detail. Throughout Paris Chic, understand the appeal of the city’s tantalizing temptations as well as its poetic comfort, its centuries-old splendor and its of-the-moment energy. Revel in enchanting voyeurism, looking at behind-the-scenes gatherings in homes, offices and restaurants.

Imagine yourself (oui, fantasize!) slipping inside the images of Paris Chic as well: Peering over the edge of a hotel balcony; striding Avenue des Champs-Élysées; meandering public gardens; exploring galleries and workshops and bookstores; nosing around boutiques (a perfumerie!); indulging in treats (macarons!); relishing bistro meals that leisurely linger; meeting fab fresh amis. This is not a guidebook, although it certainly points in inviting directions. Like the best of travel-themed coffee table books, Paris Chic offers a sumptuous portal that woos and nurtures wanderlust.

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Paris Is About to Change

The city was hit hard by the pandemic, but French leaders know transformation is necessary.

The pandemic hit Paris hard. It hit poor Paris suburbs harder. Paris had already staked its future on merging with a wide ring of banlieue towns to form the new Metropolis of Grand Paris—an environmentally resilient 21st-century capital. But the coronavirus made clear how urgent that transformation really is.

Last year, more than 38 million people visited Paris. This summer, international travel bans sent hotel occupancy down 86 percent. The greater Paris metropolitan area has seen economic activity fall by more than 37 percent during the pandemic compared with the same period last year. In Île-de-France, the region that metropolitan Paris calls home, 100,000 jobs have been lost since mid-March.

The strict national lockdown from mid-March to mid-May did succeed in reducing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. But after it was eased, the virus began to spread once more. Though current hospitalization rates remain manageable and death rates are relatively low, the number of new cases has risen alarmingly in recent weeks, with cases surging in the Paris metropolitan area. On August 27, Prime Minister Jean Castex declared 21 of France’s 101 administrative departments, including Paris and its neighboring departments, COVID-19 “red zones.”
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French prosecutors open rape probe against former deputy mayor of Paris

French prosecutors said Tuesday they were opening a preliminary rape investigation into a former deputy mayor of Paris after a man accused him in a newspaper article of years of sexual abuse.

The probe against Christophe Girard will look at charges of alleged “rape by a person in a position of authority”, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement.

The move came swiftly after the New York Times reported the allegations of Aniss Hmaid, now 46, that Girard had sexually abused him over nearly a decade after they met in Tunisia when he was 15.

Hmaid claimed Girard sexually abused him when he was 16, and then coerced him into sex on about 20 further occasions over several years.

The prosecutor’s statement said the investigation would aim to determine if the allegations “could be characterised as a crime” and also, given that the alleged events date back several decades, whether they can still be prosecuted.

Girard resigned as deputy to Mayor Anne Hidalgo in July afer opposition politicians and women’s groups demanded his suspension over ties to Gabriel Matzneff, an award-winning writer who has never hid his preference for sex with adolescent girls and boys.

After the prosecutor’s announcement, Girard said he would also step back from his remaining duties as a member of the Paris city council “for the duration of the preliminary enquiry and to better defend myself”.

His lawyer, Delphine Meillet, criticised Hmaid Tuesday for having gone to the media with his story rather than the authorities.

Now, she said, “the prosecutor feels obliged to open an investigation in the light of media pressure, which is particularly sensitive on these subjects…”

But Meillet insisted “there is no offence” and even if there had been, it was legally too late to prosecute now [ . . . ]

Continue at FRANCE24: French prosecutors open rape probe against former deputy mayor of Paris

At a workshop near Paris, migrants train to upcycle used designer clothes

In the Parisian suburb of Villejuif, a workshop run by the French NGO Renaissance trains unemployed people – including migrants – to create luxury fashion pieces from castoff clothes and linen. It’s a transformative experience as participants embark on a journey of acquiring professional integration skills in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner.

“My dream is to sew a dress for Zinedine Zidane’s wife,” reveals Ibrahima, a 32-year-old football fan and Guinean refugee who arrived in France just two years ago. Ibrahima may be new to France, but he already has a very precise goal: to make sewing his profession

It’s an objective shared by participants at a workshop run by Renaissance, a French NGO that promotes sustainable and eco-friendly recreations of luxury clothing.

The workshop is held in Villejuif, a southern suburb of Paris. Here, Ibrahima and his colleagues are in the process of reintegrating into the workforce. Some are long-term unemployed, others are young people without degrees and still others are asylum seekers or refugees.

Trained by Philippe Guilet – the founder and head of Renaissance who worked for leading fashion designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld – the team of around 10 women and men have been learning haute couture techniques since September. Continue reading “At a workshop near Paris, migrants train to upcycle used designer clothes”