This past summer I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Paris. One of the best experiences of my life. I can honestly say it super exceeded my expectations, especially considering that this was my first international trip. The only regret I had was that my schedule didn’t allow for me to take a Black Paris Tour.
What’s a Black Paris Tour? Julia Browne, founder of Walking The Spirit Tours, says a tour of Black Paris reveals the places and stories that shaped the Black experiences in Paris. “It highlights the challenges and achievements as they played out in various areas of the city. There are very few markers for our expatriates, but there are so many stories we tell as we walk through the narrow streets, along busy boulevards, drive past famous sites and stop to take photos.”
Paris is a very diverse and culturally developed city. Blacks played an important role in that development. According
to Browne, jazz was introduced to Paris and France in 1918 by the segregated troops of World War I. They played this never-heard-of music through the towns and villages across the country. The music that was 100 percent black American lifted the spirits of the war-weary citizens.
Great African American writers Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay collaborated closely with Diaspora writers like the founders of the Negritude Movement Leopold Senghor (future president of Senegal) and the publishers of La Revue du Monde Noir a bilingual, influential literary magazine run by the West Indian Nardal sisters. “They shared and influenced each other’s’ diverging ideas of Blackness in America, Africa, the Caribbean, translated and published each other’s work,” Browne shares.
And, of course, there’s Josephine Baker.
“She symbolized the beauty and vitality of Black American culture at a time when French artists, sociologists and musicians channeled into their own work. Designers fought to dress her. French women imitated her style and purchased her skin and hair cream for themselves and the Josephine doll for their daughters.”
Walking The Spirit Tours offers several types of Black Paris experiences. There are walking tours through the popular districts like the Latin Quarter, the Champs-Elysees, and Lower Montmartre. The Spirit of Black Paris bus tours take in a wider geographic area, allowing guests to hear the inspiring stories around the most iconic sites.
Tourist can also design customized itineraries.
“Because I lived in France for well over a decade, raised my family there, and make research trips several times a year, I really love helping travelers to experience the traditions and lesser known delights. With the tours, my aim is to create a personal connection to the Black heritage. Through the trip planning, I make it easy for individuals, families, groups and travel agents not to miss fantastic culinary, cultural, adventurous activities they may not know about or have access to.”
For more information, visit www.walkthespirit.com.