The article “African Americans in Paris,” published in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (Facts On File/Infobase Publishing) begins with several compelling observations:
“From the 1920s to the 1940s, and even well into the 1970s, Paris, France — often called the City of Light — provided a haven of racial and creative freedom for African-American artists. Lucrative, satisfying careers such as the dancing art of Josephine Baker were established in Paris, something that could not have been possible in the race-obsessed United States.
“Even before the Harlem Renaissance, African Americans traveled to Paris, especially for conferences, and were awed by the independence and encouragement they experienced there. In New Orleans, Louisiana, early in the 19th century, a Paris-educated Creole named Armand Lanusse organized a black literary society called Les Cenelles. Members of the society sailed to Paris to study because people of color were not allowed to pursue literary education in Louisiana.” — Sandra L. West (Facts on File History Database)
This tradition of welcoming those who have been oppressed in other lands perhaps stems from a sense of empathy borne out of Parisians own historical struggles to maintain freedom and independence. Having asserted their collective will and intellect to fashion unique applications of justice and liberty, they are also (despite charges of unbearable snobbishness) observers of inspiring compassion.
The city consistently ranks among top destinations for tourists and is a favorite subject of historians. With an estimated 23 percent of its population of 2.3 million people having been born outside of France, it is obviously a favored location for transplants and migrants as well. In fact, because Paris has nurtured the genius of numerous striving creatives and provided shelter for so many weary pilgrims, the previous statements about African Americans can be made in regard to almost any cultural demographic in the world. That realization is only one reason the attacks on the city November 13, 2015, are so difficult for millions of people throughout the international community to comprehend.
Flower of Compassion and Nobel Laureates
Any country’s debatable political policies are components of official (or corrupt) administrative processes. The choice to exercise compassion is an expression of a people’s love for humanity and life itself. Should such love not be answered in kind rather than with soul-demolishing bloodshed?
The attacks on Paris may have been smaller in scale than what the global community experienced on September 11, 2001, but they have proven no less galvanizing. Even as French military aircraft took to the skies in retaliation, citizens of the world continued to converge in the City of Light and cover it with flowers of compassion while embracing citizens (literally) with hugs of solidarity.
Paris has given the world much to celebrate, such as Nobel Laureates in every category: physics, chemistry, medicine, economic sciences, literature, and, endeavors to establish and sustain peace. Therefore, it has ironically enough tended to produce the very kinds of minds most likely to help resolve the issues that make some feel compelled to abandon the higher callings of their conscience in favor of lesser instincts to feast on horror.
In addition to being one of the French locales where the motion picture industry got its start, Paris remains an important setting for movies in modern times. Most would prefer to believe these well-known reasons for loving Paris do not also inspire the re-occurring attacks on it. Yet in this day and age of fluid human migrations — both from choice and due to war — that which represents a beacon of intelligent discourse in one cultural mindset too often represents an eclipse of ethical proprieties in another. Fear takes over at the precise point when grace should be allowed to steer the heart toward faith, and reflection employed to expand the mind with more substantive awareness. Why do so many instead continue to adopt a much more sinister response?
NEXT: For Love of Paris and a More Compassionate World Part 2
Aberjhani, co-author Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance and of Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love
@ 20 November 20, 2015 Bright Skylark Literary Productions