Before returning to the City of Light, I turned to my final assignments I wrote 5 years back and this Audre Lorde quote stood out.
In 2009, I was introduced to Paris Noir, a lived experience comprised of multi-faceted concepts of the African Diaspora. I was introduced to an entire expatriate community who fled to Paris to find themselves, all the while contributing to its culture. I was introduced to a new concept of learning — the “jazz framework,” where scholarship is collective and not just about your individual efforts. Five years ago, I learned about the politics of space, ports of entry and the best form of education: looking at two worlds and comparing them.
I evolved, both personally, educationally and professionally, through Paris Noir and the program granted me many opportunities. Through my work in Paris Noir, I was selected to return to Paris for the sixth biennial Toni Morrison conference, “Toni Morrison and Circuits of the Imagination.” The skills I gained through my research independent study carried with me during the rest of my collegiate career at Syracuse University and while I was a graduate student at NYU in pursuit of my Master’s in Public Relations. While I had physically left the city of Paris behind, the program concepts were very much embedded in me.
Five years ago, when I returned to New York City the thought-provoking question “to whom do I owe the symbols of my survival” rung loud. Now, as I unpack my suitcase as this year’s program assistant, the question resurfaces again. I’m very excited to be on this side to assist Dr. Mayes in ushering 14 students into the Paris Noir experience and to work on the social media with the SU abroad office to capture every moment of the program.
”To whom do I owe the symbols of my survival?” I owe it to my community and these 14 students. In the words of Dr. Mayes, “Paris Noir is on the move!”
Natasha J. Benjamin is a digital public relations consultant, as well as the 2014 Paris Noir Program Assistant. Natasha holds her M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from New York University and her B.A. in Political Science and African American Studies from Syracuse University.