Thursday, November 3

Paris Is Burning -- did hip-hoppers light the fire?

Torched autos and buildings in Paris's African suburbs and extending into the city are signs of a marginalized people fed up with the status quo. I've long been intrigued by the activist nature of hip-hop lyricists and fans in Paris. So when firey youth riots broke out there a week ago -- and continued nightly -- I paid attention. The anger is in reaction to the deaths of two teens who were electrocuted while allegedly fleeing the police. However this melting pot seeking equality has been boiling for a long while. A BBC.UK report says this:

The riots have exposed the despair and anger in France's grindingly poor suburbs where unemployment is rife, gangs of drug dealers control tough estates and police hesitate to venture. Terrorism experts warn this makes fertile terrain for Islamic extremists.
Authorities in Paris fear a heightening of terrorist activities, which was a staple there long before 9/11 awakened us here.
Police said as many as 228 cars were torched on Tuesday night throughout France, 180 of them in the greater Paris region. Sixty-two cars were set ablaze in Seine-Saint-Denis, home to many impoverished communities and large numbers of immigrants, mainly of North African origin.
Re: the "North African" reference... When I visited Paris a few years back our superb, Harlem-born sister-tour-guide informed us that the Algerians there are treated "like n****** in the fifties" by the establishment. It's a bad scene, so this unrest should surprise no one. But this week in flames has seen Muslims from all over Africa stand together to express their frustation with marginalized lives in Paris.

Neighborhood Tension
Paris Riots: 7 Days and Counting
French-Algerian Relations

An American In Paris Hip-hop

Read more:

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like


Blogger Mr. Techjitsu said...

My wife and I have discussed living abroad and realized that there is NO PLACE the is without some sort of racial or socio-economic struggle. Europe has been exposed for harboring resentment against North-African immigrants for a considerable amount of time. We as African Americans think with nostalgia of the Euro-topia stories provided by Jazz musicians after WWII, but we are seeing increasingly that we just happen to have an acceptable accent or 'origin'...

8:43 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

mr. tech,
so true. i've gotta say about my experience in paris though, it proved unusual and freeing for me. i felt ZERO of that whites-kind-of- watching-blacks in stores, etc. so for me to not feel that irksome, stealth suspicion of my color was deeper than i can convey.

travel abroad has seriously opened my eyes to so much junk that we're saddled with here. stuff is unnatural here and so deeply entrenched that few even realize there are other ways to "be."

but clearly, there are other issues over there, and they ain't pretty.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Lili said...

Wow! I had no idea but then whenever I hear or read about atrocities abroad, or here for that matter, it affects me so deeply that I have to shut it off. My first instinct always being outrage and then what can I do to help. It all seems so futile and while I once considered a position in politics I saw how fucked up and corrupt it was and opted out. (as if they were knocking on my door, right?)
How can we make a change here or anywhere for that matter?

10:53 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

Garsh, You don't want to be the next Governator?

An American acquaintance who lives in Paris says the lack of jobs (and therefore some of the racial tension) stems from their socialist gov't's universal healthcare for all. Affording this is like an 800 lb. tax gorilla sitting on the profitability of every French business. So they hire as few people as possible. Which too often leaves out people of color.

What can we do? Be verrry careful about the Dems and their vision for universal health coverage here. Sounds excellent, till you find out how it's screwed up the job market over there.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Mr. Techjitsu said...

The problem is in the details; mixing Socialist theory [universal healthcare] with Capitalist reality [the healthcare system] is a recipe for disaster. In order for it to work, you have to control the COSTS associated with healthcare. Just PAYING for it doesn't solve the problem. You have to reign in the prices for the services and products as well.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

mr. tech,

once again, you are right on!! what's sad is that i can think of only one politician -- maybe two -- who've been vocal about putting the health care & insurance systems and pharmas in check: ralph nader and maybe al sharpton. and both are written off as quacks, so have little to no chance of ever leading the charge to take back america from corporate interests.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Mr. Techjitsu said...

We allow the media to marginalize the guys that have the balls to talk about the '3rd rail' issues HONESTLY. I was telling my wife that the REAL problem with American politics is the VOTERS themselves; they want everything boiled down to simple yes\no votes and soundbites. What ever happened to politicians needing to REALLY debate issues [a la Lincoln vs. Douglass] and the winner was the person who could explain his position clearly and sway people to change their opinion- not simply make the other guy sound more crooked...

3:25 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

ha! "more crooked"... how right your are. that's all these debates have become: finger pointing and smut slinging.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Mr. Techjitsu said...

There is no longer any ORATION. Case in point, watch a Clinton speech, then watch a Bush speech... feel proud of our #1 public official's speaking abilities?!? With skills that bad, no wonder there is NO DEBATE.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Berry said...

There was a great film I saw about Algeria and the tensions with the French. I think it is available on About to hunt it down and provide the link. I didn't hear anything about this but I just came from A Different Kitchen and apparent some hip hoppers have already recorded songs about it. I was wondering what was behind that. Thanks for the info. Off to hunt the film information now.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Berry said...

Okay, THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS and here is a link where you can view the trailer. This film is powerful!!! and it available through Netflix. The film was based up a book and actual events.

Ian had a link to this article in Time Europe:

9:56 PM  
Blogger obifromsouthlondon said...

You only have to watch the cult movie "La Haine" to understand the undercurrent of this whole situation. doesnt help that France is leaning hardcore to the right.

the point on jobs is spot on. I've made loads of french friends in the last three years. all economic migrants.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Berry said...

I'm firt tip off that things weren't so glorious for non-euros was the film La Noire De...(Black Girl) by Ousmane Sembene (1966). It was mindblowing. I had never seen anything like that before. Two great films worth checking if you haven't already seen them. BTW, La Noire available on

8:17 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

Wow, all of these films somehow snuck past my radar. I'll definitely check them all out. Thanks much Obi & Berry. Good lookin'.

8:24 AM  

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