Please join us in congratulating our 2021-2023 National Officers and Voting Representatives for Democrats Abroad France! Thank you to all the amazing candidates who stepped up to #RunForSomething!
National Chair – Jonathon Holler. Jonathon supports the Equal Rights Amendment, Medicare for All, and strengthened labor unions, and a DPCA charter providing for more equitable voting and more inclusive gender parity rules.
First Vice-Chair – Danielle Follett. Dani is committed to continuing the work DAF accomplished to broaden the organization by welcoming new voices, expanding membership and raising voter turnout.
Second Vice-Chair (Chapter Liaison) - Drew Lombardi. Based on his past organizing experience in New York and Boston, Drew plans to launch a “50 state strategy” across all 12 local chapters to boost active engagement, recruit new members and deliver decisive electoral victories to Democrats.
Secretary – Alejandra Roman. New to France, Alejandra was DA Mexico City chapter Membership Chair and aided GOTV efforts leading up to the 2020 elections.
Treasurer – Marjorie Bernstein. A past Treasurer and Secretary of DA France, Marj will apply her qualities of thoroughness, dedication, and enthusiasm (as well as her degree in Mathematics!) to her reprised role as Treasurer.
Counsel – Julia Grégoire. Julia is licensed to practice law in both France and the US and begins her second term as Counsel. She has assisted with two thorough revisions of the DA France Bylaws and ensured compliance with French law governing non-profit organizations.
Database/IT Manager – Max Dunitz. Max begins his second term as Database/IT Manager. He added many new tools to our digital organizing toolkit, from peer-to-peer texting to state voter file data to inform voters about ballot deadlines, rejected ballots, and voter assistance options.
GOTV Officer - Dori Schwartz-Laboune. During the 2020 election cycle Dori recruited and engaged volunteers, doing outreach and phone/text banking. She is committed to increasing our efforts to turn out voters for the midterm primaries and 2022 elections.
Communications Officer – Amy Porter. Amy’s objectives are to build out the Comms team; coordinate the use of our multiple channels—social media, website, email—for recruiting new members, increasing current member engagement levels and helping members to vote, and to work closely with the chapters and caucuses in support of their communications efforts.
Issues, Program and Events Coordinator – Gretchen Pascalis. A founding member of the DA France Rhone-Alps chapter (now Grenoble) and organizer of many memorable events in her region, Gretchen believes that events make organizations come alive, energize and inform members, and help recruit new members.
Membership Outreach / Volunteer Coordinator – Florent Marchais. Flo has a record of dynamic, energetic youth organizing in Texas and France. In his new role, he plans to engage alongside the GOTV and Events officers to mobilize volunteers to participate in phone-banking, social-media activism, and in-person volunteering and rallying in solidarity for international causes like climate action and Black Lives Matter.
DPCA Voting Representatives
Alex Rehbinder (Alternate)
Susan Fitoussi (Alternate)
Ricky J. Marc (Alternate)
Gretchen Pascalis (Alternate)
2021 DA FRANCE NATIONAL ELECTION CANDIDATES
The nominations period for the 2021 DA France National Election has now closed. Thank you to everyone who has expressed an interest in running for something. Please find below statements for the candidates standing for election.
The National Election will take place online as part of the 2021 National Election and Annual General Meeting on April 17, 2021 starting at 2PM. RSVP here. All members of Democrats Abroad France are welcome to attend the meeting, hear candidate speeches, and to vote at that time. Additionally, all members of Democrats Abroad France will also receive a link to the Early Voting ballot via email. Voting early in advance of the Election on April 17, 2021 is optional, and is provided to encourage all members to vote even if they cannot attend the Election Meeting. As a result, no nominations from the floor will be accepted.
You must be a member of Democrats Abroad France in order to vote. New members are welcome but must join by April 15. To join: www.democratsabroad.org/join. You must be a US citizen 18 years of age or older by Nov. 2, 2021. Questions? Contact the DA France Election Board at [email protected]
If you are a member of Democrats Abroad France and do not receive a link to the online ballot but would like one, please email [email protected]Read more
UPDATED MARCH 17: THE DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS AND CANDIDATE STATEMENTS IS EXTENDED TO THURSDAY MARCH 25
Democrats Abroad France will conduct its Annual General Meeting and National Leadership Election on April 17, 2021 (via Zoom). RSVP here.
The nominations period for candidates is closed -- see Candidate Statements here.
All members of Democrats Abroad France may stand for election. People from under-represented communities are encouraged to apply. Candidates are sought for the following positions, per the DA France Bylaws of March 2020:
The Chair shall be the chief executive officer of Democrats Abroad France (DA France), shall call and preside at all meetings of members and of the Executive Committee, establish the agenda of such meetings, and shall be responsible for carrying out the programs, policies, and activities duly approved by the members and the Executive Committee. The Chair is also the primary Officer representing DA France in Democrats Abroad and shall attend Democrats Abroad Global and Regional meetings to the extent practical.
The Chair and First Vice-Chair with the advice of the other Officers may allocate between themselves the duties of the Chair.
The Chair or any Officer delegated by the Chair to do so, shall be entitled to sit on all Standing and Ad Hoc Committees, with full voting privileges. Decisions or actions taken by the Chair may be overruled by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of the Executive Committee. The Chair is an ex-officio member of Democrats Abroad and should attend meetings to the extent practical.
The First Vice-Chair shall assist and support the Chair in the execution of the Chair’s duties, and shall, in the absence of the Chair call and preside at meetings of members and of the Executive Committee.
The First Vice-Chair shall be a member and represent DA France in Democrats Abroad at the Global and Regional level, should attend meetings of such bodies to the extent practical, and shall report monthly to the Executive Committee the current activities of the Democrats Abroad leadership.
In addition to the shared responsibilities of the Chair allocated to the First Vice-Chair, if the office of Chair shall become vacant the First Vice-Chair shall assume the responsibilities of the Chair and the Vice-Chair-Chapter Liaison shall act as First Vice-Chair.
Second Vice-Chair (Chapter Liaison)
The Second Vice-Chair (Chapter Liaison) shall be charged with monitoring the activities of, and supporting the Chairs of the Chapters and Subchapters, and implementing the decisions of the Executive Committee and Officers insofar as they pertain to the Chapters and Subchapters.
The Second Vice-Chair (Chapter Liaison) shall upon election to the office of Second Vice-Chair be a Voting Representative and member of Democrats Abroad, and shall with the Chair and First Vice-Chair attend meetings of Democrats Abroad to the extent practical, and shall report monthly to the Chapter and Subchapter Chairs the current activities of the Executive Committee and Global and Regional Leadership of Democrats Abroad.
The Secretary shall take and archive minutes of Executive Committee meetings and all Annual General and Special Meetings of the members and maintain the current list of members of DA France in collaboration with the Database/IT Manager.
The Secretary shall maintain and safeguard all files and administrative records of DA France. The minutes of all meetings shall be made available to all DA France members without undue delay. The Secretary shall notify the members of the results of all national and Chapter and Subchapter and Caucus elections and of the admission or change in status of any Chapter, Subchapter or Caucus.
The Secretary shall be responsible for direct communication with members on matters that concern the entirety of DA France, in collaboration with the Communications Coordinator.
The Treasurer shall manage the finances of the organization, prepare a budget and cash flow forecast as required by the Chair for approval by the Executive Committee, request and receive financial periodic reports from the Chapters, maintain its financial reports to members, make and maintain such financial reports as may be required by law, and have joint signature authority with the Chair on all DA France bank accounts. All such records shall be available for review by the Executive Committee and by the International Treasurer of Democrats Abroad.
The Treasurer shall consult with the International Treasurer of Democrats Abroad from time to time on matters concerning the maintenance of financial records and financial reporting (notably to the United States Federal Election Commission).
The Counsel shall be available for consultation by the Executive Committee and the Chapters on legal and procedural questions relating to DA France and its activities. The Counsel shall consult with the International Counsel from time to time on relevant matters, including notably questions on voting issues and financial record keeping and compliance with the rules of the United States Federal Elections Commission (and any successor thereto) by DA France and its activities.
The Counsel with the Chair shall ensure the organization is in compliance with French laws and regulations.
National Membership Database/IT Manager
The National Membership Database/IT Manager will be responsible for maintaining the membership database and for maintaining the operation and integrity of the national organization’s and each Chapter’s website and other multimedia platforms such as Facebook and its successors. The Database/IT Manager will be familiar with and act as the administrator of the platform system or systems used by Democrats Abroad to maintain its membership. The Database/IT Manager will collaborate with the Membership Outreach Coordinator during the organization’s membership verification exercises. The Database/IT Manager will advise the Executive Committee on available measures to protect the security of the database and communications against data theft and malicious infiltration and corruption. The Database/IT Manager shall upon request provide data to members of the Executive Committee.
The Database/IT Manager may be appointed by the Executive Committee and if so appointed will be a non-voting member of the Executive Committee.
The GOTV Officer will be responsible for designing and supervising the execution of the organization’s national voter registration and GOTV strategy on multiple platforms including “on the ground” efforts and via social media. As such, this officer will liaise with both the Global GOTV committee and with the persons responsible for GOTV activities in each Chapter and Subchapter.
The GOTV Officer will be familiar with the relevant federal and state laws and regulations concerning absentee voting and voting from abroad (including the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) and be available to consult with members concerning voter registration requirements and deadlines in each State.
The Communications Coordinator will be responsible for designing, implementing and coordinating the communications activities of the organization, including direct contact with members and interested persons via the international, national and local websites, use of social media, notably Facebook and Twitter and similar, French and English press communications, and a monthly newsletter to members.
The Communications Coordinator will collaborate with Officers and other members having appropriate skills and experience to assist in the implementation of a coordinated Communications strategy both on a national and Chapter level. The Communications Coordinator will report to the Chair monthly on activities undertaken and planned.
Issues, Programs and Events Coordinator
The Issues, Programs and Events Coordinator will design and coordinate the organization’s initiatives, including global and national town halls, debates and speaker events, to educate and advance discussion on contemporary U.S. political issues. The Coordinator will assist Chapters to plan and organize local events such as lunches, dinners, wine-tastings, holiday gatherings, venues for significant speakers, etc. for membership development and fund- raising, and shall help promote these events on the website and social media in collaboration with the Communications Coordinator and Database/IT Manager. The Coordinator at the close of each month will notify the Executive Committee of the result of any activities undertaken.
Membership Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator
The Membership Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator designs and implements the strategy for developing the Chapters, Subchapters and member base and to recruit and organize volunteers to be involved in projects identified by the Executive Committee. The Coordinator will be responsible for contacts with American groups in France, including study abroad programs, and participate in networking activities with a view to developing new members. The Coordinator will collaborate with the Secretary and Database/IT Manager to assure that the membership of DA France is validated annually, and shall coordinate all volunteer outreach activities, including phone-banking.
The Charter of Democrats Abroad (Article 2 and Article 3) and the DNC provide for participation of DA France and other Country Committees in certain conventions, meetings and candidate and policy selection. Membership in Democrats Abroad and voting rights are allocated to the Chair, the First Vice-Chair and Voting Representatives elected by the members of DA France at the Annual General Meeting.
Voting Representatives are required under the Democrats Abroad Charter to be elected in accordance with the gender balance rules of Democrats Abroad.
[Note that a total of 9 Voting Representatives will be elected.]
Candidates should be members of Democrats Abroad France, US citizens 18 years or older, living in France from the time of their nomination, and be able to serve a full term of two years. Every eligible member with interest, ability, conviction and ideas is encouraged to run. Previous organizing experience is welcome but not necessary. Those from under-represented communities are encouraged to apply. To join Democrats abroad, go here: www.DemocratsAbroad.org/join.
Interested parties may self-nominate, or nominate someone by Thursday, March 25 to [email protected].
- If you are self-nominating, please include your name and the position for which you are running. If you are nominating another person, please be sure to copy them on the email.
- Candidates are asked to provide a candidacy statement not exceeding 200 words about who they are, and why they are running. Please also indicate your gender (male, female, or non-binary), and also whether you can be contacted by voters for questions about your candidacy. Final candidate statements should be submitted by March 25th. The information provided will be published on the DA France website, and providing this information to us affirms your consent for this use and purpose.
- Optional endorsements are permitted. An endorsement should include the endorser’s name, title (if any), and an endorsement statement not exceeding 100 words. US citizens only please. Limit 3. Endorsements should also be submitted by March 25th.
- Early voting will be made available via online ballot after Candidate Statements are published on Saturday, March 27.
- *(UPDATED) “Meet the Candidates” Mixer on Sunday, APRIL 11 @ 3PM for one hour via Zoom. Attendance is optional, but it is offered as an opportunity for voters and candidates to connect. RSVP here.
- RSVP for the Election & AGM on April 17, 2021. Candidates should be prepared to attend the Leadership Elections and AGM and to speak for their candidacy (1-2 minutes). The Election Board will contact candidates to confirm the length of time allotted for speeches prior to Election Day, as this depends in part on the number of candidates participating. Results will be announced at the meeting after the close of voting, and time needed to tabulate results. RSVP here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
We are hosting two informational meetings to answer your questions about running for office. Please join us on Sunday, March 14th at 11am and/or Monday, March 15th via Zoom. (Updated March 17: These sessions have passed, but you can see the slide presentation here.) Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!
The National Election Board for Democrats Abroad France
Kate Barrett (Chair)
Proposed DA France Bylaws Changes - Public Comment
A proposed draft of changes to the DA France Bylaws is now available for review and public comment. We will review the major changes to the draft at the DA France AGM on April 17, 2021 prior to voting on whether to approve. Questions? Please email the DA France Bylaws Committee at [email protected].
- To view the current DA France Bylaws of March 2020, see here.
- To view the 2021 proposed Bylaws changes, the "Markup" version, see here. This version shows where the text is being changed.
- To view the "clean" version of 2021 proposed changes, see here. This version shows how the final text reads with changes accepted.
- To provide comment and feedback to the Bylaws Committee, please use this Public Comment form, here.
The 2021 DA France Bylaws Committee
Julia Grégoire, Committee Chair
The French media has always had a fascination with the American presidential election system. Every four years, they trot out “US experts” who explain the arcane Electoral College to their baffled French viewers, and point out what the red and blue areas on the map mean. And, being French, they engage in one of their favorite exercises: moderating debates.
We had a hunch that French media interest in the 2020 US Presidential election would be particularly intense, and we wanted to ensure that we were ready to meet the triple challenge of explaining the role of Democrats Abroad in helping overseas Americans vote, educating the French public about the American election system, and promoting the Biden-Harris ticket as well as the down-ballot Democratic candidates. To do so, the DAFrance national leadership prioritized expanding the experienced spokespersons pool so that it better represented the diversity of our leadership and our regional geography.
If you’ve never been a press spokesperson, you probably can’t imagine what a perilous exercise it can be to go on live TV and radio to answer questions from journalists who excel in getting their guests to say something controversial. You must be careful about every word that comes out of your mouth, because you are there not to give your personal opinion, but rather to “carry the word” of the organization you represent. [The French word for spokesperson– “porte-parole”– expresses this perfectly.]
To be an effective spokesperson for an organization such as Democrats Abroad, there are many elements to master: knowing what to say, knowing how to say it, answering difficult questions, and, of course, skillfully wielding the spokesperson’s specialty: NOT answering certain questions, but rather pivoting to a slightly different topic. (If you’ve ever watched a politician being interviewed and thought “well, what he just said was interesting, but he didn’t really answer the question”, you know what a pivot is.)
So, the DA France leadership and Comms team recruited leaders who had relevant experience, or were willing to learn, and would have the time to devote to the team’s effort once the requests started pouring in. We set up a training program, led by former professional spokesperson, Amy Porter. It quickly became clear to all that you don’t magically become a media spokesperson: it involves training, homework and practice.
From top left (clockwise): Joe Smallhoover, Philip Breeden, Amy Below, Didier Moutou, Gretchen Pascalis, Kate Barrett, Julia Grégoire, Fred Hoffman, Amy Porter.
Our team of 18 trained spokespeople, reaching every corner of l'Hexagone, was comprised of diverse profiles: from teachers and fitness coaches to former State Department staffers, lawyers, and constitutional law experts. They each attended practice sessions where we tried our darndest to get them flustered! Armed with frequently updated Talking Points, the team handled more than 130 media hits by election day, of which 100 were done between November 3rd and 8th. In this whirlwind of activity, some spokespeople did as many as 5 interviews per day, including:
- Panel discussions, interviews, and debates with Republicans.
- National media outlets, such as LCI, BFM, M6, FranceInfo, RTL, FranceInter, France24, Libération and Le Parisien as well as numerous local television, radio stations and newspapers.
The appetite for debates in the French media was seemingly endless, as was the stream of Republican spokespeople. But we outmatched them: the people invited to TV studios had not benefited from the professional training that our spokespeople had undergone, and were armed only with “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories. In that respect, they accurately represented their candidate… Some of those debates got a “bit” heated. But our team rose to the occasion time and again, showing calmly and patiently that truth prevails over lies.
We continued to comment on the election results through mid-November, and expected a quiet few weeks until Inauguration Day. That calm came to an abrupt halt with the Capitol Insurrection on Jan. 6th, which we were compelled to comment on in real time as the events of the day unfolded! No amount of training or talking points could have prepared us for that… But we persisted, and were again asked to comment on TV, radio and print through the Biden-Harris Inauguration Day, doing an additional 49 hits in January, after which we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Here are a few examples of DA France spokespeople in action (and a trip down memory lane):
November 1: Le Progrès (Lyon) with Diane Sklar
November 4: France 24 with Amy Below
November 5: France 3 (Paris/IdF) with Didier Moutou
November 6: FranceInfo with Fred Hoffman
November 7: France 24 with Gretchen Pascalis
November 7: Libération with Ada Shen and Amy Porter
November 8: BFM with Philip Breeden
January 19: 20 Minutes (Toulouse) with Scott Stroud
January 20: LCI with Julia Grégoire
February 9: LCI with Amy Porter
DA France is proud of the work done by the Media team, which has led to a higher profile in France for Democrats Abroad, supporting our mission around the world. Now, we stand ready for whatever the news cycle throws our way.
Thanks to our spokespeople! (in alphabetic order)
Following are the National, Caucus and Chapter elections taking place this Spring 2021 across Democrats Abroad France. Public election notices with details will go out to every Chapter and Caucus member as well as Nationally. (Updated March 6)
National Caucus Annual General Meeting & Elections
- Diversity Caucus - Sat. March 6, 2021 • RSVP
- LGBTQ+ Caucus - Sat. March 27, 2021 • RSVP
- Veterans & Military Families Caucus - Mon. March 15, 2021 • RSVP
- Women's Caucus - Thu. March 11, 2021 • RSVP
- Youth Caucus - Sat. March 13, 2021 • RSVP
- Avignon Chapter - Sat. March 6, 2021 • Election Board Contact
- Bordeaux Chapter - Sun. March 14, 2021 • Election Board Contact
- Brittany Chapter - Sat. March 20, 2021 • RSVP
- Grenoble Chapter - Sun. March 21, 2021 • RSVP
- Lyon Chapter - Thu. March 4, 2021 • RSVP
- Marseille Chapter - Sat. March 13, 2021 • RSVP
- Montpellier Chapter - Sun. March 14, 2021 • RSVP
- Normandy Chapter - Sat. March 20, 2021 • RSVP
- Paris Chapter - Sat. March 13, 2021 • RSVP
- Riviera Chapter - Wed. March 3, 2021 • RSVP
- Strasbourg Chapter - Sun. March 7, 2021 • RSVP
- Toulouse Chapter - Sun. March 7, 2021 • RSVP
Democrats Abroad France National Annual General Meeting & Elections
- DA France National Officer & Voting Representative Elections - Sat. April 17, 2021 - RSVP
- Interested in running for office? Find out more here, or join a public information session. Nominations close March 18, 2021.
Democrats Abroad Global Annual General Meeting & Elections
- Democrats Abroad Global Meeting & Elections - Sat. - Sun. May 15-16, 2021 - Save the Date! Details TBA
Voting Members of the Democratic Party Committee Abroad, or DPCA, vote on matters such as Resolutions, Charter Amendments, and other business at the DA Global Meeting, as well as the Global Executive Committee Elections. The DPCA Voting members of France will be the newly elected Chair, Vice Chair, Second Vice Chair, and nine Voting Representatives.
Black History Month Essay: Destination Paris 2020
by Florence Ladd
While packing my household goods and clothes for shipping, I am interrupted frequently by telephone calls from a vast network of friends. “Are you really moving abroad?” “Is it wise at your age?” “Your friends are here. How will you find such good friends there?” “Are you really giving up your lovely Cambridge apartment?” “Do you realize how much Paris has changed?” “Why move now when we’re making progress on racial matters here?”
I am in sound health, of sound mind, and at age eighty-eight, if not now – when? My third and last husband of thirty-five years died six months ago. My only child, poet/musician Michael Ladd, has lived in Paris since 2003. He and his translator wife, Fanny, live in the 9th arrondissement with their two children. I want a closer connection to my adolescent grandchildren. Weekly visits via Zoom are not entirely satisfying. And admittedly, I want relief from my profound emotional involvement in the struggle for racial justice and my distress about political responsibility and civility in this country.
The circumstances of my moving usually convince doubters that the move is necessary, indeed, inevitable. The move is not only inevitable, it seems preordained. On my twelfth birthday in June 1944, I told my parents that I intended to go to Paris before I turned twenty. Neither my father nor my mother had ever been abroad. I believe Dad was amused by my imagination and, at the same time, proud of my ambition. Mom took me seriously; she also took me shopping for a Moroccan leather shoulder bag for the future trip abroad.
My attention had been drawn to Paris by broadcasts during World War II. On radio, Paris was described as a prime city of dramatic events in the European theater. It is also likely that my interest was influenced by what I read of “Negroes” in Paris in our household newspapers, The Afro-American and Pittsburgh Courier. These weekly papers featured articles about black literary figures, journalists, actors and musicians in Paris. I was fascinated by photographs of Josephine Baker, whose designer gowns, plumes and stories fueled my Paris fantasies.
In my junior year at Howard University, I applied for a travel fellowship. A psychology major, I proposed “observing psychological test procedures in clinics for children in France and Switzerland.” I was awarded a fellowship, given additional funds from parents, and a letter of introduction from my advisor, Professor James A. Bayton to Professor Henri Wallon at the Sorbonne.
In May 1952, aboard the M/S Nelly, the shoulder bag at my hip, I waved to my parents who returned the wave from a pier in New York harbor. I was not yet twenty and on my way to Paris. The nine-day crossing on a ship of college and university students afforded time to share stories of preparations for the journey, maps, family photographs, clothes and to practice my French. We disembarked at Le Havre. From there, I took a train to Paris. I had the Paris address of a classmate’s older sister, Lunette Cato. I located Lunette in a gloomy student hotel on rue Cujas in the 5th arrondissement. We shared a double room. We also shared the only toilet on our floor and made appointments with the desk clerk for once-a-week baths. Paris, at that time, was recovering from Nazi occupation, wartime horrors and other hardships. I appreciated the advantage of not having had that war cross the Atlantic.
At the Sorbonne, I presented my letter of introduction to the venerable, bearded Professor Wallon. He read it and on it he wrote: Dr. Nadine Galifret-Granjon, Hôpital Henri Roussel, along with a street address. I was being forwarded to another psychologist, a woman based at a clinic, which I found after a lengthy walk along streets that seemed endless.
The clinic's receptionist presented me, along with the letter, to Dr. Galifret-Granjon. With a warm smile, alert blue eyes, and lyrical voice, she welcomed me. She appeared to be in her mid-thirties, a very mature age from my nineteen-year-old perspective. In French, she explained that she and others at the clinic were engaged in research on dyslexia. This much I understood. When she realized I was unable to follow her rapid speech, she slowed and in English began an inquiry into my competence. Immediately, she discovered that my French was inadequate; that I knew very little about child psychology, and nothing at all about psychological testing or dyslexia. She asked a few more questions and learned that I also knew nothing about cuisine, wine, contemporary art, or European politics; and that I was misinformed about Communism and unaware of existentialism. Her eyes filled with pity; at the same time, her smile broadened. At that moment, I became her project!
As we toured the clinic, she introduced me to her colleagues and students, with obvious enthusiasm about the arrival of an American student -- a black American sent to France by a black university. She was intrigued; and I was flattered, although apprehensive about the prospect of being an observer in the clinic; and even more apprehensive about having my shortcomings observed. I was given a schedule of cases to monitor.
Nadine (with her permission, I used her first name) also proposed a schedule of cultural and social events to take in after clinic hours. On several occasions, she invited me to join her and her colleagues for an apéritif. She facilitated my comprehension of restaurant menus and wine lists; and she improved, that is, corrected my French. She recommended museum exhibitions, films, and concerts; took me to lectures on Communism, and urged me to attend political demonstrations. My cultural and political education was expanded and enriched tremendously under her guidance. [She smoked cigarettes. I had been advised to take a carton of Camels abroad—useful currency in post-war Paris. She called Camels les cigarettes reactionaires and introduced me to blue packaged Gauloise.]
At the clinic, I also observed Nadine. Her professional style was impeccable. She was precise and clear in her conversations with colleagues. With children who came for observation and tests, she was kind, supportive, and reassuring. After work hours, at cafés she was an uncompromising intellectual who debated ideas with authority and confidence in the company of men and other women. She became important to me as a model of professional womanhood.
To be sure, growing up in segregated Washington, D.C., I had encountered other professional women – all black. My mother, an elementary school teacher, was my first and nearest model of professionalism. I admired many women teachers in the public schools I attended. At Howard I had a few women professors, but none in psychology. Our family pediatrician was a woman. In those relationships, I was not accorded treatment as an adult with ideas that mattered. That my recognition of my maturity and awakening of my intellectual being occurred in Paris explains, in part, my early attachment to the city.
In 1952 Paris my skin color was a distinguishing feature. With few African American women there, my race was an asset. It offered occasions for conversations with Parisians curious -- in a kindly fashion -- about my experience of segregation and discrimination. Strangers, recognizing my race and foreignness, frequently asked, “D’où êtes vous?” When I replied Washington, D.C. or America or, as I began to say, les États Unis, I was drawn into sidewalk and café discussions about the treatment of (les Noirs) blacks there, about my experience as black in America, and had me speculate about how and when U.S. race relations might change. Once I was “picked up” on Boul’ Mich by a family-- a couple with three children -- and invited to join them for their Sunday déjeuner in a Latin quarter restaurant. I hardly ate, as I recall, because I had to answer their many questions: “Was slavery still practiced in the American south?” “Could blacks go to restaurants, concerts, films, and museums with whites?” “Were schools and churches segregated? And neighborhoods?” “Could blacks own property?” “What was the president doing about the condition of blacks?”
In gatherings with Nadine’s associates, the discussions were different. They were acquainted with the history of blacks in the U.S. and the political and racial climate in the USA. Their remarks were about the malevolence of capitalism, threat of McCarthyism, and the works of Richard Wright, exiled in Paris. They adored Mahalia Jackson, lingered over her every phrase, every chord.
For Wright, Paris was “a perch from which to examine” his native land. Viewed as American, I began to examine the complexity and contradiction of race and citizenship. Feeling “American” in Paris stirred a large measure of my discomfort with my national identity. I was aware of my ambivalence about being a U.S. citizen and my embarrassment about U.S. history.
My sojourn in Paris wasn’t entirely about my time with Nadine. I also did what tourists do: visited Notre Dame, explored the Louvre, Musée de l’Homme, and several other museums. I was photographed with the Eiffel Tower in the background. From a Vassar student, tired and sore from cycling across England, I bought a bicycle – an almost new Rudge. I cycled in and around Paris; and I made a memorable and beautiful day-long solo trip to Chartres. At Nadine’s suggestion I spent a weekend in Burgundy. She said I had to see Dijon and Beaune. But my idea of France was defined by Paris and particularly by scenes in the 5th and 6th arrondissements – their café culture, bookstores, and intense conversations.
In that year, I visited other cities as well: Geneva, Florence (to be sure), Rome and London. Tours, public encounters and personal contacts in each city expanded my notions of the essentials of urban life; and, more personally, the relevance and irrelevance of race.
Decades of travel abroad, with the advantage of a U.S. passport, have sharpened my perspective on aspects of national character, social class and race. Living in Turkey in the early 1960s, specifically in Eskişehir and Istanbul, where I taught psychology, afforded exposure to an Islamic culture in which gender-segregation and discrimination shaped social, cultural and economic relations. Later in the ‘60s, with my archeologist husband, I traveled in the Caribbean, Mexico, Guatemala, and Brazil. In the ‘70s, I went to China with a group of women architects and city planners. The culturally multi-layered Francophone countries I visited in West Africa, especially Senegal, in the ‘80s had an ethnic appeal. On an educational assignment in apartheid South Africa, I witnessed the ruinous effects of an extremely oppressive racist system. In India, to survey projects sponsored by Oxfam America, I recognized how the complex dimensions of caste, class and religion mattered. I have visited several Western European countries, frequently returning to France, to visit Nadine until her death in 1987. (I’ve sailed up the Danube and down the Nile.) This abbreviated overview is to say I have seen enough of the world to know where I want to spend my last years and leave my ashes.
I have spent considerably more time in the United States than abroad. I struggled with racism as a graduate student in upstate New York. For many years in liberal New England, I have picketed, marched and taken part in demonstrations for freedom and justice.
I know I am not moving to the Paris of 1952. Paris 2020, now more cosmopolitan, is under clouds of pandemic predicament, socio-economic protests, and now the Black Lives Matter movement. Race and religion are salient aspects of discrimination in contemporary France, where the history of slavery in France is under study; and where liberté, égalité, fraternité ring as paradoxical slogans to people of color in France’s major cities. Since the 1960s, the black and brown population of Paris has increased markedly with arrivals from the Antilles, North Africa and Francophone West Africa. The class resistance of les gilets jaunes is another expression of change in Paris and throughout France.
I try out terms describing my future status: exile, immigrant, expatriate, or simply living abroad. Exile implies having sought refuge in another country, usually for political reasons. As an immigrant, one enters a country with the objective of establishing permanent residence. I have applied for a long stay visa. Expatriates are thought to renounce allegiance to one’s native country. Have I ever felt such allegiance? I’ll be content with living abroad – living in Paris.
But where in Paris? My son said, “I know your friends live on the Left Bank in the 5th, 6th and 7th, Mom, but you can’t afford to live there.” I have six women friends – French, Swiss and American – all on the Left Bank. He added, “Besides we want you in an apartment within walking distance of our place.” They live in the 9th, near Place Saint Georges. Their market street, rue des Martyrs, gained literary fame in The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino. My favorite hairdresser, Bettina’s Hair Élégance, is around the corner on rue Clauzel. I plan to revive my association with WICE (Where Internationals Connect in English), where I directed a writing workshop at the turn-of-the-century. I’ll enroll in an intermediate French class, attend public lectures, and join a club for water aerobics.
I was ambivalent about returning to the U.S. in 1963, an epoch comparable to this period, with respect to social and political upheaval. My sentiments, published in the March 1965, Negro Digest, under the caption “Return of a Native Daughter,” included this exchange:
With the inflection of surprise, the young Turkish woman said, “Well, you are the very first American I have ever met who was not looking forward to going home.” Then came her candid second thought, “But you are the first American black I have known.” I considered my bleak past as a Negro in America and the uncertain future for me and my generation of blacks. “Of course, my color has a great deal to do with my reluctance, my dread of returning to the United States.” I did not speak of returning as “going home.” The country had never provided me with the safety, the comfort, the freedom that the word “home” implies.
When I board the flight from Boston to Paris, will I feel I’m going home? No, I will be leaving the country to which I have had an attachment my entire life. It is the country where my first generation-emancipated grandfathers worked at menial jobs to ensure sturdy foundations for my parents. They, in turn, with their best efforts, afforded my son and me the privilege of choosing how and where we want to live. I will leave with gratitude for their sacrifices, carrying baggage loaded with the ongoing struggle against U.S. racism and concern about the nation’s destiny.
Florence Ladd attended public schools in Washington, D.C. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in psychology from Howard University and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Rochester.
Dr. Ladd has had an extensive career as a teacher and administrator. She has taught at Simmons College, Robert College, the American College for Girls in Istanbul, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She has held deanships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Wellesley College. Ladd also has a great deal of experience working abroad as she has spent time in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Turkey, China
Florence Ladd is the author of numerous nonfiction and fiction works and has served as the overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of Hampshire College. Previously, she served on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Among other honors she received the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University in 2018.
As is tradition, on this Veterans Day/Armistice Day/Remembrance Day, the Democrats Abroad France Veterans and Military Families Caucus laid wreaths in cemeteries in Suresnes and Neuilly to honor our fallen soldiers. Here are a few photos from yesterday. Thanks to Anna Marie Mattson and Tilly Gaillard for their efforts on behalf of all Democrats living in France.
In addition, the DA France Veterans and Military Families Caucus held a well-attended Zoom event where thoughts and memories were shared, including these two videos:
Democrats Abroad Global Chair Julia Bryan has issued the following statement:
"Tonight Joe Biden reminded us that 'It ain't over until every vote, every ballot is counted.'
It is going to take time to count the votes, and some states are still waiting for a sizeable number of mail-in votes to arrive. Trump may declare that it's over and no more votes will be counted, but he has no standing to carry through with that statement.
Even in 'normal' years elections results take time, and that the overwhelming number of vote by mail ballots by necessity will take even longer than usual to tabulate."
Ada Shen, Chair of Democrats Abroad France, underscores this point, saying that "there is a process in place by which the United States conducts elections. It is only normal to expect that each state will follow the vote counting procedures and to adhere to the protections in place for all voters, including overseas absentee voters."
You can listen to Joe Biden's full statement here.
Here are some of the recent appearances by Democrats Abroad France representatives and mentions of DA France in the news!
November 8: LCI with Gretchen Pascalis (French language)
November 8: BFM with Philip Breeden (French language)
November 7: CNEWS with Philip Breeden (French language)
November 7: Libération with Ada Shen and Amy Porter
November 4: LCI- Brunet Direct with Julia Grégoire
November 4: RFI podcast with Fred Hoffman (French language)
October 26: TV78 Patrice Carmouse and Friends with Amy Porter (French language)
November 1: Le Progrès - Diane Sklar (French language)
October 31: NPR - Joe Smallhoover (English language)
October 27: Direct Citoyen - Didier Moutou (French language)
October 23: CNEWS - Amy Porter (French language)
October 20: ESCP Debate - Jonathon Holler & Ada Shen (English language)
October 22: INSPIRELLE - Voters Abroad
October 9: France 24 - Amy Porter (English language)