Letter from Paris
Text: Rokhaya Diallo
Illustration: Camille Blachette
Rokhaya Diallo (1978) is a French journalist, writer and filmmaker, recognized for her work on racial, gender and religious equality. She is the author of several books and essays, such as Racisme: mode d’emploi (Racism: a guide) (2011), À nous la France! (France Belongs to Us) (2012) and, together with photographer Brigitte Sombié, Afro! (2015).
Camille Blachette is an illustrator from Perpignan (France), who presents herself as a sneaker addict. She draws the outfits of the day of strangers in the street and in public transport, but also scenes of daily life – the life of a twenty-year-old fan of street culture, wearing sneakers while fighting against discrimination and for a better environment. At the moment, she is preparing a graphic novel with the activist journalist Rokhaya Diallo.
“We shall overcome…”, the lyrics of this song, which has accompanied so many struggles, has always echoed like a fair announcement in my ears, like the affirmation of a future that can only be welcoming to us. The current context is in no way comparable, but we are facing unprecedented adversity, which will affect contemporary memory as this climate feeds many anxieties.
The anxiety that accompanies people who have to go on with their professional missions and continue to leave the safety of their homes braving the danger of exposure to the virus on a daily basis. The anxiety in the stomachs of those affected by the economic consequences of the suspension of their activities. Fear for the health of loved ones, which paradoxically must be kept at a distance, without knowing whether this will be enough to preserve them. The anxiety and pain in the face of loss, grief, and this cruel inability to pay tribute to the deceased as one would have wished.
This period, while nerve-wracking for many of us, is, in my view, an opportunity to shift our focus to appreciate what really matters.
In nations largely untouched by the permanent feeling of insecurity, the state of uncertainty weighs and worries. For the first time in our history, half of humanity has been placed in a situation of confinement, in an unprecedented form of expectation. Waiting for a better tomorrow, but with no real certainty that it will happen. What will our tomorrows be made of? What world awaits us?
Here and there I hear voices calling for an “after-world” supposedly different from the world we experience today. A world full of promise that would open up to us as soon as the health crisis is over. As if the after could erase the before, as if our salvation could only come from the near or distant future. I believe, on the contrary, that we need to look at the world we live in today. We have all the resources we need to make sense of the aftermath. The question is not so much one of rethinking the world of tomorrow as it is of reconsidering the world of today. The crisis has shown how much we have regained the ability to appreciate what we were no longer seeing. People in essential but undervalued professions have taken a central place in the functioning of society. The “knowledge” that counts is no longer simply that which comes from university education. This is a salutary inflection of the hierarchies with regard to the social usefulness of the professions, which will hopefully be appropriately upgraded.
Let us not content ourselves with calling for a hypothetical “after-world”, let us think about what already exists and let us continue the beautiful spirit of solidarity…
Awareness of the absolute priority of taking into account health and the care of our bodies over any other economic imperative has once again become an evidence that should have never ceased to be. The meaning of the word profession suddenly seems to become tangible; it is the real function of the people who carry out the tasks that allow us to satisfy our most essential needs, namely, to take care of our humanity.
This period, while nerve-wracking for many of us, is, in my view, an opportunity to shift our focus to appreciate what really matters. It is time to understand that it is today’s world that we should be concerned about. Environment and humanity hold enough accessible richness to ensure the happiness of us all. The spontaneous solidarity that has been expressed on a daily basis demonstrates how much dedication we can show when it comes to protecting the lives of people around us. Let us not content ourselves with calling for a hypothetical “after-world”, let us think about what already exists and let us continue the beautiful spirit of solidarity… “We shall overcome”.
Translation: Canan Marasligil
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