Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Black Paris & Beyond - 3 New Contributors Share Their French Life

 New Section!   
 Ma vie à la Française

I’ve invited three France-based contributors : African American, American and an African French to bring us into their world. Every week you’ll hear the ups and downs of someone fresh to Paris, a Parisian journalist of Cameroonian background, and an African American cultural associate living in Nantes.

Through them you'll catch a glimpse of the French life from different perspectives.

Without further ado, let me introduce them and their first posts.

Luna Vincent White  - Student

      Hi, my name is Luna Vincent White
I was born in Chicago and when I was eight I moved to Los Angeles so that my mom could pursue her dreams of writing for television.
     I go to the University of Southern California, studying a combination of history and sociology to look at racism (hopefully) with a minor in cinematic arts as well as French.  I am also studying film because eventually I want to become a director, whose films encourage empathy and cultural understanding.

     I have always loved traveling, and because I moved so much through out my life, I have grown used to the feeling of changing locations a lot.  I was so excited to travel to Paris and I have taken French since I was in high school. Hopefully I will become fluent and perhaps understand a bit of how racial prejudice and xenophobia play a part in Parisian life.


Looking For a Dance Floor

     So far, I have been here 6 weeks.  I had really high expectations of the city… I do not know if they have been fulfilled thus far.   I really miss home.  One thing about home that I do miss, is the black community at home, and the music, dancing, and parties that come along with that specific community at the University of Southern California.  Searching for a place to dance in the city (I will address the dancing in this city later), I found myself at hip hop night (Wednesdays) at a club in the Bastille called Sanz Sans.  While the music was very fun (nineties hip hop), I did not have as good of a time as I had expected or wanted.  I can feel that I am searching for something here that I have yet to find.

     So the dancing, I have gone out a few times since I have been here, and one of my favorite things to do is to go out with my girlfriends and just dance off all my calories of the day!  

"So far, I have found the dance scene hilarious."
 I love to be silly and just have fun, and apparently so do many Parisians.  I am not sure however if they mean to be silly, I see so much crazy movements and jerky arms flings here passing as dancing.  

     At hip hop night I saw a few legitimate 80’s b-boy-looking dancers (complete with kangol hats and everything) as well as people, (possibly descendants of people from islands colonized by the French) getting down with the island-inspired hip rolls and hand claps.  Strangely though, I had a more fun at other clubs!
     Honestly though, I am really interested in finding places where people with more rhythm go to dance! At the same time though, sometimes it feels pretty great to just let it all go be silly, and not be judged because everyone else looks equally silly or, sometimes, even more so.



 Epee Hervé Dingong – Journalist  
     Epée Hervé Dingong is a freelance writer from Paris, of Cameroonian origin. He graduated from the prestigious C.F.P.J.journalism school in Paris.     During his time as a staff writer and freelancer he interviewed a lot of Hip Hop and R&B artists from US, France, Holland, UK and Germany.

     His work appeared in different print publications such as Radikal magazine, Tracklist, The Source France, Musique Info Hebdo, Lady Caprice magazine, Juice Magazine,  to name a few. He has collaborated with American print magazines and online publications such as The Source magazine, The Ave Magazine, Mugshot Magazine,, and He writes about music, politics and social issues.


Staying Healthy For Little
     Getting sick in Paris, you can not enjoy the city. Instead it makes you weak and sad. But I have not really experienced that feeling since 1989.  
"That year the sore throat cut my appetite and not eating in Paris is blasphemy."

     This time, I didn’t go to the doctor  (22 euros (about $28 US) for the consultation ). I went directly to the pharmacy late afternoon with a precise knowledge of medicines. Doliprane [a type of aspirin] or paracetamol are the best remedies against fever and headache. These drugs are reimbursed by the French Social Security when you are equipped with your “carte vitale” chip health card.

      October is a month of transition between summer and autumn is characterized by increases and decreases in temperature. It is the best way to get sick but in the end nothing serious. This experience showed me that I can recover quickly for about 6 euros. The French health system is reasonable and prices are not abusive; it is also why some say it is one of the safest in the world.



Anna-Karina Caudevilla, Associate of The Shackles of Memory                   

      Anna-Karina Caudevilla is a native from Washington DC currently living in Nantes, France (north-west coast).  A long time traveler, insatiable  learner, Jane-of-all-trades and militant believer in living life creatively, she has set up roots in the United States, Spain and France.  

     Anna-Karina is currently finishing a Masters in Art and Cultural Management in Nantes which led her to discover The Shackles of Memory Association – Resource & Study Centre for the Study of the Slave Trade, for whom she is now an active member.


Prepping An Exhibition in Nantes  for Cape Town
      Back to school always creates a rather hefty whirlwind of activities, lots of projects of every type getting placed into motion.  Considering how much goes on in Nantes, this past September and current October are no exceptions.  The cultural season is underway!  At present I am working on co-translating the latest photographic exhibition of Philippe Monges. It was designed and produced in partnership with The Shackles of Memory. His “Places of History, Memory of Places” exhibition opened in May 2012 at UNESCO headquarters, Paris.  (

      We are preparing it for exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa as part of the French Cultural Season organized every year by l’Institut Francais.  Poems, stories, narratives, speeches and photographs of slave sites intertwine to tell of a past not so distant but yet too often forgotten. Although an extremely motivating undertaking, I am a bit apprehensive as I want to make sure that the essence of the words rings clear. 
" I cannot simply translate the words as they are too important.  But how?"
   I am not a slave.  I have never been subjected to such forms of criminality.  To put yourself in one’s place is not easy.  Identity runs much deeper than symbols scrawled on paper.

      For those who did not know (I happened to be one of those when I first moved to this city in 2010), Nantes is the main port in France involved in the transatlantic slave trade.  Growing up in the US on the Atlantic coast, having learned about slavery from a very different perspective than that of Europe’s, I felt like a huge piece of a puzzle had finally fallen into place when I was told this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very insightful comments from very young travelers and students. Older, more experienced travelers find France just as magical. Iwas thrilled to hear of the lives and see where African American artists lived, worked, wrote and ate in Paris. I cannot wait to return!