We stroll in a park nearing the end of our tour. Our feet caressing the softened grass, the sun’s rays massaging our skin, our eyes breathing in the typical park activity of children playing nearby, but our ears are locked into only one thing. The history of this place.
It’s the ugly part of history, though. The part of the story that’s usually omitted when others tell it. But we sought it out and drink it in greedily, our thirst for truth being our common ground. Well, that and our skin tone.
We’re in Jardin Solitude (Solitude Garden), beholding the woman herself for whom the garden is named. Draped in bronze, head held high, hair flying free, and belly protruding in stark rebellion along with its beholder.
Solitude is a freedom fighter and what our proud tour guide calls a “shero.” Of mixed descent, she joined an uprising against slavery in Guadeloupe while being very much pregnant in 1802. To fight while in such a vulnerable state is in and of itself inspiring, but I guess she figured the need to fight was greater to ensure her unborn child’s freedom. Though the slave trade had ended in France in 1848, Solitude was not publicly honored for her courageous and sacrificial acts until 2022, when this monument was erected. This particular statue was a direct result of sudden international awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement at the occurrence of the murder of George Floyd. It is also the first statue to honor a Black woman in Paris.
It’s here we learn that our historical experiences as Black people transcend the United States of America. Back when we were listed as “furniture” on a white man’s auction list, even in France. Our guide makes sure to include this tidbit as we marvel in awe at our Shero.
May 10th is the National Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and their Abolition, and it is on May 10th, 2022, when Solitude is given her just due.
Killed just one day after giving birth at the hands of French soldiers under Napoleon’s rule, Solitude successfully accomplished her mission to help curate a world of equality and safety for her child, though sadly, it took her own life to do it.
She is joined by other heroes of this fight, such as Alexandre Dumas and his father Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, who we have already learned are a famous writer and general in the French army. Their monuments are also displayed in this haven of freedom, however, as our guide explains, there are mixed feelings regarding La Memoire due General Dumas (In Memory of General Dumas), which is a large set of broken iron chains emerging from the ground.
The original statue of the general was destroyed by the Germans and these chains were put in its place. Apparently, some residents did not agree that chains should symbolize what the general had achieved and contributed to his generation. For them, chains only served as a reminder of their enslavement, even if the chains were broken.
Not too far from the general are his son and grandson, both of which were writers. This area is often referred to as The Square of the Three Dumas’ and is the only family portrait in the world where there are statues of relatives built so closely to one another. The significance of this is even greater since both father and son writers lived near the park.
So much history. So much wealth.
“When a language is buried, a culture is raped, and a name is changed, a people group’s identity is murdered.
I knew that Black men and women had demonstrated tenacity, resilience, and faith on my own birth soil, but now I know it to be true worldwide.
When that same people group relentlessly charges forward in determined faith, well, that can only be called a resurrection. Something new is resurrected. Something new is born. And that newness clothes each individual who is now the recipient of this inheritance of freedom.
That newness now clothes me.
I’m honored to be the recipient of such a lineage.
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