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Richard Wright Community Center

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Richard Wright Community Center

Cover Image: Paris Anim' Centre Richard Wright
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Last October, the Centre Anim' Rennes, a community center located at 76 bis, rue de Rennes in Paris' 6th arrondissement, was renamed after African-American writer Richard Wright.  

Paris Anim' Centre Richard Wright - entrance
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The first promotional flier that I've been able to find that mentions the center's new name bears the date of October 17, 2019.  It announced a public event called La Nuit des Débats (Debates Night). 

The theme was inspired by Wright's work, and in particular, by his autobiographical work, Black Boy.   It was framed within the French concept of universalism and was intended to evoke thoughts and ideas about how society can live better together.  Wright's daughter Julia and grandson Malcolm participated in the event via Skype.

Portrait of Richard Wright
1939 Carl Van Vechten
Public Domain

"Anim'" is short for "Animation."  But to describe the activities at the center solely as "animation" is to omit an important nuance - the majority of the activities  offered are cultural.

As an example, Tom and I attended a walking tour organized by the center last week.  The purpose of the walk was two-fold: to learn about the history and flora of the garden and to practice sketching.  Participants were given a supply of paper, two sketching pencils, a pencil sharpener, and an eraser.  At each stop, our guide gave an explanation of the space in which we stood and afterward, an artist from the center instructed us on what we were to sketch.  He emphasized that we were to work quickly, focused less on replicating what we saw than capturing the movement, contrasts, and perspective in the scene lying before us.

Tom sketching
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The center is run by a municipal organization called ACTISCE, which is an acronym for Actions pour les Collectivités Territoriales et Initiatives Sociales, Sportives, Culturelles et Educatives (Actions for Local Communities and Social, Sportive, Cultural, and Educational Initiatives).  ACTISCE is responsible for several centers around Paris, including a satellite for the Richard Wright center that is found on rue Hautefeuille.

The summer calendar for Centre Richard Wright is chock full of dance, painting, photography, theater, and singing courses.  Dance options include hip-hop, tango, salsa, and modern.  Walking tours, a day trip to Provins, and even a treasure hunt are also part of the schedule.

The facility is spacious and inviting. 

Centre Richard Wright reception area
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Behind one of the welcome desks, we saw a flier for an innovative theatrical production of Wright's Black Boy on the wall.

Black Boy flier
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The center is committed to honoring its namesake.  When we called to ask about the reasons for its renaming, our contact volunteered to send us documentation about Wright.  She sent several quotations by Wright, text from a French-language interview he gave to the French press, and several brief biographies.

We await information about whether the center will organize a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Black Boy.