It’s officially the holiday season here in Paris, which always starts earlier than I’m ready for. I enjoy what I call the “buffer” holidays – Halloween and Thanksgiving – which we celebrate enthusiastically, avoiding decorating for Christmas until after they’re done. This year, with tourists back and events happening again (we were in lockdown until mid-December last year!), it’s feeling festive and spirited again.
Getting together this week with a bunch of Americans in Paris to rendre hommage to Josephine Baker, the American performer and Resistance member who entered the Panthéon on November 30. She is the 5th woman and the first American to be memorialized there. (Due to old nationality laws, she actually lost her American citizenship when she married a French man in 1937.)
There is a long history of Americans moving to France because they were enamored with France and French culture, and there is an especially rich history of black Americans, from Baker to writers Richard Wright (of Native Son and Black Boy) to musicians like Cole Porter to activists like James Baldwin distancing themselves from oppressive Jim Crow laws and co-creating the vibrant history we know. As I speak with more current-day Americans who have made the move in the Profiles in Franceformation podcast, I find myself becoming more and more curious of those who came before and how they have shaped our history and our community.
Here are this week’s announcements: