Thursday, December 27th, 2018
Black Paris Profiles II™: Echo Brown - Part 2
Cover image: Echo Brown (courtesy of Echo Brown)
In Part 2 of my interview with Echo Brown, Echo talks about her TEDx talks, what she likes about Paris, and more.
ETBP: You are working on yet another project called “I Followed James Baldwin to France.” What inspired it and with whom are you collaborating to bring it to fruition?
EB: This is a video docu-series project that will come out in the Spring of next year. It basically tells the story of how I got to Paris, the spiritual work I did here, and the socio-political forces that drove me from the United States. I’m collaborating with a filmmaker from Canada, who I’ve worked with before and a local black director who has been in Paris for 8 years.
ETBP: Tell us about your TEDx talks. How did you come to give them?
EB: I have given two TEDx talks, each by invitation. The first one explores how you combine pain and joy in various spaces. I was asked to give a talk because my show is known for being hilarious and deeply moving. The audience feels like they’ve have a cathartic experience: they laugh, they dance to Beyoncé, and they cry. So the show managed to integrate many emotional experiences and tones.
Echo Brown - There Are No Promised Lands
Screenshot from YouTube video
The second TEDx talk explores the loss of my youthful idealism and how I had big hopes for each place I’ve lived in – Dartmouth, New York City, and the Bay Area – but how all of those hopes were not fulfilled in some way and the impact that had on me as a young person. Ultimately, in the talk, I reach the conclusion that there are no promised lands, no perfect places here on the earth. The best we can hope for in terms of reaching our idealized versions of the world is to try and make it better for the people coming after us. Maybe, if we all work hard enough to change and re-shape the world, those coming after us will come to know what its like to live in a real promised land. May it be so.
ETBP: You are interested in yoga and meditation. Where do you go to practice these in Paris?
EB: I mostly have a home practice because yoga is so expensive here! But I’ve practiced at a couple of Bikram places here in the city and at a place called Affordable Yoga. I’ve also recently taken up swimming and swim at the Les Halles pool often.
ETBP: Your Web site lists workshops that you run. Most are about some form of creative activity. Are you offering these in France and the U.S.?
EB: Not yet. I’m still trying to figure out the creative landscape in Paris and where I best fit. I have taught workshops in the past on developing and performing a one-person show, reconnecting to your creative spark, and using writing to explore and overcome trauma.
ETBP: What is your favorite leisure activity?
EB: Sleeping and watching my cat generally be cute and ridiculous around my apartment. I spend a lot of time wondering what he’s thinking and how he see’s the world, ha!
ETBP: What is your favorite place in Paris?
EB: République. I just love the open energy of gathering. It reminds me of Washington Square Park in NYC. I love to people watch and learn about all the demonstrations that happen there. I also was there when France won the World Cup this year and it was truly an amazing sight to behold. It was the first time I could truly sense the collective human spirit that people talk about feeling after something tragic or victorious happens. I stood in the middle of this huge crowd and it was like one energy, one spirit that connected and moved through all of us. I’m not a sports fan at all generally, except I love LeBron James because I’m from Cleveland, but I’m really glad I got to experience France’s World Cup victory.
Place de la République
Image in public domain
ETBP: How would you advise someone who would like to come to Paris to establish a life?
EB: Ummm, be 100% sure you want to come here, like for real, and not in a “I’m going to visit the Eiffel Tower everyday and drink hot chocolate” idyllic sense. Come and stay here for a month to see if it works for you. Know that everything is challenging here – finding housing, applying for visas, and integrating into the society when you don’t speak the language. For me, everything about setting up a life here has felt like working against an impenetrable wall of resistance. I’ve lived in New York and San Francisco, but have never faced the kind of challenges I’ve faced coming here. I’ve found myself dissolved into tears several times from being totally overwhelmed. I will say, however, that I came here as an independent artist which is very hard to do because you are almost totally on your own. If you come here through a company or a job, I imagine it might be easier to transition into the society here.
My last piece of advice, is learn the language, find a supportive network of real friends who will show up for you, use a housing agency if you can afford it to look for a nice apartment and to not end up in a tiny over-priced space, and then surrender to the rest to the beyond, ha! Bonne chance!
ETBP: Where can people find out more information about you?
EB: All can be found on my website, www.echobrown.com.