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Paris is Singing! and Burning?

A packed house at the American Cathedral yesterday afternoon didn’t have a clue that outside the city’s “Périférique” and in towns across France, serious unrest ensued. Georgia native singer and composer Ammon Moore took center stage and led a talented crew of singers and musicians in performing Negro spirituals, gospel and blues in a concert organized by a long list of Franco-American organizations and volunteers to raise funds for Katrina Relief organizations: “Foundations for Recovery” and “Oxam America,” http://www.katrinafundfrance

News of the concert fundraiser had spread far and wide — even my mother now in her home in New Orleans had read about it in the local Times Picayune! At 30 euros a ticket, it drew an impressive showing of the American community. I hobbled in on crutches, one leg in a cast from last week’s fall tearing ligaments and damaging my mobility, taking the almost-front-row seats just behind the Ambassadors Connie (Constance A.) Morella to the OECD (Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development) and Craig Roberts Stapleton, appointed by President Bush as the U.S. Ambassador to France.

The audience intently listened, clapped their hands and sang in unison to brilliant performances by Ammon Moore, Broadway musical star Ursuline Kairson, actress and Paris club singer Cynthia McPherson, opera diva Adèle Belmont, child prodigy 15-year-old Brian Levisalles, the Gospel Dream Choir and Louisiana native René Miller of the Wedding Band that regularly performs on the Pont Saint-Louis. Meanwhile, the rioting, car-burning and general unrest continues to spread outside Paris for the 12th night of violence.

To ignore the Paris riots would be irresponsible on my part, but I must tell you, that if it weren’t for my CNN news alerts, I wouldn’t know they were happening. That’s not to say that my head is “in the sand,” but living in central Paris, there has been no sign of the angered destruction taking place in the “banlieue” (suburbs) or in other parts of France — until last night, when a car was burned in the Marais.

I caution all those watching and reading American media so as not to overexaggerate the true situation. Remember that the American media is run by entertainment organizations that tend to sensationalize the news to build ratings. Remember that they usually take the same 20-second “sound bite” and run it every hour on the hour or more often leading you to believe the event is happening in continuous motion, rather than done and past. Remember that in Paris, the rich live in the center and the poor live in the suburbs — the opposite of the U.S. condition of the inner cities vs the wealthy “burbs.”

There is no question of the seriousness of the situation. For a very long time the poorly treated immigrant pot has been simmering and predictions of it coming to a boiling point have been whispered about. Now the time has come for France to pay for its mistakes vis a vis its poor and suffering immigrant population, mostly of North African and West African origin, who are jobless and grossly discriminated against. I remind myself that I, too, am an immigrant in France, but my white face and western background don’t threaten the French middle class.

Craig S. Smith of the New York Times reminds us that “Just two months ago, the French watched in horrified fascination at the anarchy of New Orleans, where members of America’s underclass were seen looting stores and defying the police in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

In his article “France Has an Underclass, but Its Roots Are Still Shallow” published November 6, 2005, he continues, “The corrosive gap between America’s whites and its racial minorities, especially African-Americans, is the product of centuries: slavery, followed by cycles of poverty and racial exclusion that denied generation after generation the best the United States could offer. France, on the other hand, is only beginning to struggle with a much newer variant of the same problem: the fury of Muslims of North African descent who have found themselves caught for three generations in a trap of ethnic and religious discrimination.”

Now both sides of the Atlantic are getting a taste for their just rewards. While the rioting is destructive, just like Katrina was, it sheds new light on problems that need to be addressed NOW, not tomorrow, and for our pain and suffering will come renewed enlightenment. Just like my cast will help heal my torn ligaments, so shall the uncorralled and violent expression strengthen the cause.

Call me the ultimate opt

imist as one of France’s more welcome immigrants, but I see a brighter future for an ailing community from a more tolerant government.

Paris is still Paris. Paris will always be Paris and this, too, shall pass.

Aa la prochaine…




Adrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Don’t forget to meet with me and other Parler Paris readers at Parler Paris Après Midi, tomorrow 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. For more information, visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html


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