Meet two of my newest acquaintances in Paris, Dr. Monique Wells and her husband Tom Reeves.
I found this delightful couple when I was looking for a tour that would introduce me to Black Community History in Paris.
I got curious following the internment of American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker at the Pantheon at the end of November.
I found what I was looking for on the couple’s website EntreetoBlackParis.com
The website is a tribute to their relationship; their mutual love of Paris (they are originally from the U.S.) where they have resided for almost 30 years; and to a niche that they felt was underrepresented and in demand for tours and activities that feature the history, culture, and contemporary life of African Americans and the larger African diaspora in Paris.
My Black History Tour In Paris
So, on a cold and drizzly morning, I took their tour.
It was Tom, (Monique joined us later) who arrived masked against COVID and holding a large binder.
Our rendezvous began on Boulevard. St. Michel in the Latin Quarter in front of one of Paris’ most famous jazz clubs, Le Petit Journal.
Although it is closed in the mornings , I recognized it right away, because my friend Shardie and I had gone there for dinner and to listen to music on a previous trip.
I remember that it was the quintessential Paris club.
Once through the front door, we wended our way down into a narrow cave with small tables on either side and surrounding a small stage crowded with musicians.
The music harkened back to the ’20s and ’30s of New Orleans, Chicago and Harlem jazz, where some of the musicians were African-Americans.
With that as our starting point, Tom walked me through the lives of several African Americans who had migrated to Paris since the 19th century pointing out the cafés and restaurants and other spots that they frequented.
These included prominent African American writers, who arrived in Paris, often to escape racism in the United States.
And James Baldwin (Born August 1924, Harlem, New York — Died 1987, Saint Paul de Vence, France), is one of the most singular and important American authors of the 20th century.
Baldwin spent his formative years as a writer in Paris during the late 1940s and 1950s, renting a small room nearby and working on his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953).
As we continued our walk around the periphery of the Luxembourg Gardens, we stopped at the Petit Odéon Theatre. There Tom told me about American playwright Adrienne Kennedy.
Kennedy was best known for Funnyhouse of a Negro.
In 1968, a French adaption of Adrienne Kennedy’s play was featured at the theatre.
( I have to find a play to see there!)
The tour was a great introduction to Black History in Paris, and there was so much more to learn.
It certainly sparked my interest to explore further into this somewhat hidden world.
Thank you, Tom and Monique!
Tom and Monique also publish a free, weekly review of Paris restaurants at the following link:parisinsights.com/restaurants.php.
Join Tom’s Paris Insights Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ParisInsights.
More about Monique Wells:
A remarkably accomplished Woman of a Certain Age in Paris!
Writer of the multi-award-winning Entrée to Black Paris blog, Dr. Wells created twelve of ETBP’s 13 walking tours. She was named an Outstanding Woman in Travel Research by Women in
Travel and Tourism International in 2017 and 2020.
She is the U.S. Delegate for the Académie de l’Art Culinaire du Monde Créole (Academy of Culinary Art for the Creole World).
And she is the creator of Paris – An Afro-centric Perspective, the only continuing education course for travel professionals that features African diaspora Paris.
Thank you so much for your support!
Brought to you by www.womanofacertainageinparis.com
Diana Bishop the founder of The Success Story Program and A Woman of a Certain Age in Paris as well as a well-known correspondent with over 25 years working for CTV, CBC News, and NBC News. She loves travel, writing, and all things Parisienne.