Black tourism (and beyond) in Paris

In Paris it’s easy to get lost in the picture perfect images of clichés, but there’s so much depth to this city “beyond the bubble” and images we typically are fed. In the times of Black Lives Matter, I thought it only fitting to celebrate Black tourism, history, businesses, and voices in Paris.

Even if you don’t plan to visit Paris soon, I hope this post can help inspire you to explore another layer of the city and travel vicariously. These are people, businesses, creatives, and experts whose work I’ve discovered along the way that I find inspiring from their approaches, business models, and stories they tell. In no particular order…

Kévi Donat of Le Paris Noir offers Black history walks in both French and English specializing in stories which are typically invisible. His current street tour offerings explore La Rive Gauche and the Pioneers (Pantheon to Saint Germain de Près), Pigalle and La Goutte d’Or (Pigalle to Chateau Rouge), and Le Paris Noir (Pantheon to Chateau-Rouge), and he also offers a tour looking at the Pantheon and abolition, and another explores the (de)colonized Louvre.

 

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Yaqui (short for Jacqueline) is the French author of the city guide Little Africa: Afrique à Paris (available in French and English). She also offers experiences including Made in Goutte d’Or (a neighborhood to the east of Sacre Coeur she describes as a crossroads of African fashion, design and spices), Gentlemen Fashion Tour, and a Taste of African food tour. You can listen to her talk about the future of tourism after a pandemic on The New Paris podcast.

Yannick is an American has called Paris home since 2007 and runs My Parisian Life: your guide to life in Paris. She offers custom itineraries, tours, hand delivered Paris foodie bags for picnics, monthly meet ups, and event planning and experiences. She also has her own YouTube channel capturing her adventures around Paris.

 

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Maya is a Californian turned Parisienne entrepreneur who runs La Vie Locale, her company which helps provides a range of services from event and trip planning, to administrative and mentor support, to content creation for individuals and brands to make their trips and moves to Paris more seamless. Her YouTube channel Almost Parisienne highlights adventures around Paris along with food lover and style addict friend Hanna.

 

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Jennifer Padjemi is a French independent journalist who writes everything from Paris to pop culture and lifestyle stories in both French and English. She’s a contributor to the Washington Post’s digital travel section By The Way, where she wrote A Local’s Guide to Paris.

 

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Tanisha Townsend is the wine and spirits educator behind Girl Meets Glass and  host of the podcast Wine School Dropout. Girl Meets Glass aims to empower individuals with the knowledge of wine (& spirits too) so they will feel knowledgeable about their specific tastes and confident in their purchasing choices. She also teaches wine at universities.

 

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Youssef Fontana and his brother Mamadou founded Maison Chateau Rouge, one of my favorite Parisian fashion brands a few years ago in the Chateau Rouge neighborhood of Paris. It’s founded on community values and social responsibility. The brand has gone on to have major collaborations with Monoprix (like a French version of Target) and even made a special shoe with Nike. While it’s easy to get lost in the the brand as something hip and trendy, the brand was founded with a secondary mission, Les Oiseaux Migrateurs is the non-profit wing that supports small businesses in Africa.

 

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WAX in the City is a documentary exploring fashion through African wax fabric, while taking the viewer on a trip around Europe and Africa. I caught it at the Nigerian Film Festival in Paris, and now it’s available on Vimeo On Demand. (I’m not sure if it’s still valid but there was a free code on their FB page).

(There are also countless retoucheries—tailor shops—in the Chateau Rouge neighborhood if you’re ever looking to have your own clothes made. And that’s where you find all the fabric shops full of amazing and colorful African wax fabric patterns can be found.)

Nothing But the Wax is a French media site founded by Chayet Chienin that celebrates and gives a voice to the untold stories of afrodescendent youth and Black millennials. The blog turned media site is in French and English, but not all of the same posts appear in both languages. (Chayet also offers African Fashion in the City through Airbnb Experiences.)

Jessi aka Etta Vee is an American who found her voice as an artist in Paris (and recently moved to Strasbourg) and has grown her company into an international brand. Her work is colorful, fun, and full of joy and appears on walls (as paintings and murals), products in shops, clothes, and more.

 

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Carole Fredericks was an African American singer who made it big in the French music scene and became a member of the Fredericks Goldman Jones trio (listen on Spotify) before branching out to a solo career, which ended abruptly after she died of a heart attack after a concert in Senegal. I only became aware of her work after a chance encounter with her sister and brother in law in the Paris post office. My helping them with the stamp machines became an introduction to Carole’s work, and a friendship. Carole’s sister Connie runs a foundation in her sister’s name which uses her sister’s music and story to teach French. (The foundation website is currently down for a revamp, but linking it in hopes its up again soon.)

Les Déterminés is an entrepreneurship program founded by Moussa Camara which seeks to provide opportunities for all, particularly to those in less favorable suburbs of Paris and rural areas (and now has expanded to other cities around France). I first discovered Moussa’s work on cultural analyst and marketing expert Gregory Pouy’s podcast Vlan (episode in French).

More reading:

  • Kasia put together a blog post of other Black owned businesses in Paris.
  • Messy Nessy Chic explored the “other” lost generation of Black American artists in Paris.
  • While not Paris specific, Travel Noire is a digital media company serving millennials of the African Diaspora that uses inspired content to help discerning travelers, discover, plan and experience new destinations.
  • We Are Black and Abroad is a travel and lifestyle company highlighting the Black experience drive to explore, embrace, and empower.
  • Be Girl World is a Philly-based organization that empowers teenage girls through global education and travel. bGw challenges girls to think beyond their neighborhood, dream bigger than their city limits, and create possibilities outside their country borders. Each cohort spends two years in the program, culminating in an international trip.

 

This list only brushes the surface. Please help me build it out. I invite you to share names, businesses, links, and a sentence or two about Black businesses in travel, and in Paris in the comments below.

Even if we can’t travel in traditional ways at the moment, I encourage you to do some digging and see how you can support the tourism industry, be it supporting a business through buying products, discovering online experiences, or something we haven’t considered yet. (Even if you don’t see an offer, sometimes the best ideas come from [potential] clients inquiring about a service. Who knows they may be able to create custom offers…)

Also, keep in mind we can all support our local economies and learn more about the places we live—be it Paris, or anywhere in the world. I for one have a lot I could learn about the Black experience and history in Paris.

8 comments

  • Thank you so much for this! As a long time reader of your work, it is so rewarding to finally see the spotlight on POC voices within Paris. I can’t express what this means to us. Unfortunately, there is not enough publicity on the experiences and businesses of POC in places around the world – its always presented in the lense of what white people see and want. Please continue to cover the work of POC’s more often. Our voices and experiences are worthy of inclusion. Please continue to help us so we can truly be equal. Much love!

    • Thank you for your note, Adam. It was a pleasure to put this post together. My writing for @99U tries to integrate POC perspectives as much as possible (including 2 more pieces in the pipeline).

      • And all that being said, yes, I plan to keep doing my part to share other voices. I hope others will too!

  • Anne this is such a good way to use your voice. I will certainly be looking into to many of these when I bring my next tour group to Paris. Hopefully 2021:) xx

  • This is not a travel-oriented business but I needed to share my friend Christelle’s sewing business in Paris. I met Christelle when we moved to Paris this past fall because I walked by her sewing atelier in the 11th and went in to find out more about her business because I was looking to meet more sewists in Paris. She’s designed her own fashion line (http://www.kimpaa.com/) but mostly focuses now on sewing classes (https://coudresimplement.com/) and has recently introduced her first pattern for home sewists. She’s delightful! You can find her on IG @christelle.bahezi and @coudresimplement_

    • That’s great, Hannah! For me travel also includes local businesses we can support :) Thank you! Happy to discover her work!

  • Hey Anne, I love the way you express your voice in such a tough topic. It’s very important that we value humans, not the color of their skin, their cast and their language.

    Last year, I traveled to Paris and trust me I absolutely loved that. As an Indian, I have seen some much racism in my country but the way Paris ( France ) treat their people, its heart-melting.

    I would love to visit this place again ( For sure after Covid-19 ). Also, keep writing. Following you on Instagram. :)

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