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Sunday, April 02, 2006

c'est plus fort que moi

I step into Place de la Republique and into a mass of people and music.

Teenagers are sprawled out everywhere. One young man sits up on a street light and gives the middle finger to those underneath him. Dozens are perched high up on the statue that sits in the centre of the square, swaying to the music with cigarettes in hand.

Smoke hovers over the crowds as a singer screams in French. They cheer. It’s Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining, and this apparently, is the place to be.

A selection of artists have been chosen to perform in a large concert against racism and immigrants being thrown out of France, and there's no way any of these kids are going to pass off a free concert and an excuse to yell about Sarkozy.

I fight through the crowds, pass the t-shirt stands and find my friends bobbing their heads amongst an array of dreadlocks and rebellious hairstyles.

Eventually I let go and move to the music. Artists take the stage, one after another, in the name of equality. Some sing about what it’s like to arrive as an immigrant in Paris and to be chased by the police. Some scream poetry. Some rap. Some mix their mother tongue with French. One group mixes traditional Arabic music with hip hop, and blow me away. They all speak out about coming to Paris for a better life and finding discrimination instead.

Since I’ve come here I’ve seen racism as much as I’ve seen the Eiffel tower. People slip racist comments regarding blacks and Arabs as if they were talking about the weather.

All of it disappears in the music. The sun beats down on the crowd, bottles and joints are passed around, and bodies move to the beat.

This weekend my surroundings have been illuminated by the spring sunshine.

Everything around me has been shining so brightly that I can't seem to worry about anything.

I’ve been going out as if it were a sin to stay in, the warm air calling my name ever so sweetly.

Saturday night involved beautiful strangers, good conversation, wine, a budding friendship, a flustered waiter and a salad packed with pungent cheese.

Sunday was music in the open air. Blue skies. A friend waiting for me outside Hotel de Ville. The busy streets of the Marais. Cocktails and more good conversation.

I'm stunned by the beauty of my surroundings. Tonight, when a small Asian man sang down in the metro, I dropped coins into his case with tears in my eyes.

It’s stronger than I am. The people, the weather, the sights, the sounds, the feeling inside of me.

I’ve stepped outside of myself and into Paris.

concert SOS racisme
day dreaming
hotel de ville
down the hall
la seine le soir
bateaux mouches


Blogger NWO said...

Terrific images and stories. Glad I found your site.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life really is about collecting the small simple joys... I completely agree with your comment about going out because it's a sin to stay in. I think that our bodies must undergo some sort of physiological reaction when the temperatures warm up - just as the trees suddenly sprout blossoms and the daffodils push their way through the soil, I think we have this innate, instinctive need to get out in the warm air. Love the spring. You would have enjoyed a stroll through Manhattan this weekend for the same reasons. Everyone's happy.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was me, by the way, Jenn (always forget the anonymous log-in deal)

10:53 PM  
Blogger bma said...

Oh, my! Your photos are breathtaking! What kind of camera do you use. Perhaps it's not the camera, but the photographer I think. bma

2:53 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Thanks bma. I've always loved photography and miss my old manual camera where I was in complete control of all the settings, but these days I use a Nikon Coolpix digital camera. I have yet to learn photoshop, but I always alter the photos slightly on iPhoto to get the brightness/contrast I'm looking for.

It could be the camera, the photographer, or Paris itself! Maybe all three?

12:22 AM  
Blogger A Novelist said...

What beautiful pictures! You really do have a talent, not only for writing but for photography as well. Looking forward to seeing more on your site. Take care. :)

10:52 AM  
Blogger bma said...

i hate to bother you with this but i just came on line and this is what i saw. can you tell us what you're seeing in Paris? it sounds bad. are you safe or are they making it sound worse than it really is? bma

"PARIS - Rioting youths swarmed across a downtown Paris plaza, ripping up street signs and park benches and hurling stones and chunks of pavement at police at the end of the largest of massive but mostly peaceful protests Tuesday across France against a new jobs law.

Riot police fired tear gas and rubber pellets and made repeated charges into the crowds of several hundred youths at Place d'Italie on the Left Bank, carrying away those they arrested.

The clashes came as more than 1 million people poured into the streets across the country, including 84,000 in Paris, according to police. Union organizers put the figure in the capital at 700,000 _ and 3 million nationwide."

4:07 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Thanks to everyone for supporting my writing and my photography. It's the boost I need to continue working on both, and I'll do my best to keep dishing it out.

Bma: Living in the 16th, I haven't seen any of the violent manifestations first hand. Although I'm sure the news exagerates a little, it is pretty frightening. Supposebly those causing all the damage are kids from the suburbs looking for an excuse to stir shit up. The worst I've seen is a sad attempt at protesting from highschoolers in my neighbourhood-one bongo drum and a big sign-and a few chants at the concert against racism.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Foreign, but not like you are foreign," is the refrain of my life here, but I still hate the implication.


6:20 AM  

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