Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has sparked outrage by calling for a ban on a black feminist festival because it “prohibited white people.”
The Nyansapo Festival, scheduled to take place between July 28 to 30, aims to “put the accent on how our resistance as an Afro-feminist movement is organized” and reserved 80 percent of the festival area for black women. However, two other sections have been reserved for black people of any gender and the third is open to all.
The festival was first labeled as “forbidden to whites” by far-right French party National Front, founded by former French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen. However, nowhere in the event’s actual literature is the language used. Wallerand de Saint-Just, the party’s vice president released a statement during the weekend demanding the Paris mayor “explain herself immediately” for allowing the event which he described as an “openly radicalized and anti-Republican conception of society.”
Other white nationalist organizations soon followed suit and even, anti-racism groups denounced the festival for being discriminatory. The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism went so far as to say Rosa Parks would be turning in her grave.”
Another anti-racist movement, SOS Racisme, described the event as a “mistake, even an abomination.”
Nyansapo organizers responded by stating they were the "target of a disinformation campaign and of 'fake news' orchestrated by the foulest far right" on cultural centre La Generale’s (where the event was to be hosted) website.
“We are saddened to see certain anti-racist associations letting themselves be manipulated like this,” said the group in a statement.
Following the outrage, Hidalgo posted on Twitter on Sunday that she was “asking for this festival to be banned” and that she reserved the right “to prosecute the organizers for discrimination.”
Mwasi Collectif, the organizers of the event, asked for support on Twitter later the same day, so that the festival may be allowed.
However, it appears there was a hitch in the mayor’s plan. Aroused by the alt-right groups, she had failed to check the entire facts of the situation. It seem she could not ban the event as only one session opened to all participants was being held in a space owned by the city — La Generale venue. The part with the restricted public access was being held at a private location which falls outside the City of Paris’ jurisdiction and hence Hidalgo could not say who could or could not attend the event.
The mayor coupled her embarrassing mistake with yet another flub by sending out a series of tweets that reached a “clear solution” — which was how the Mwasi Collectif had organized it all along.
Festival #Nyansapo : à la suite de mon intervention ferme hier auprès des organisateurs, une solution claire a été établie.— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) May 29, 2017
Le festival organisé dans un lieu public sera ouvert à tous. Des ateliers non-mixtes se tiendront ailleurs, dans un cadre strictement privé.— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) May 29, 2017
Cette clarification doit permettre au festival #Nyansapo de tenir son rôle: contribuer à renforcer la lutte contre le racisme et le sexisme.— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) May 29, 2017
#Paris est une ville mixte et je continuerai à veiller que cela reste le cas dans les lieux publics .— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) May 29, 2017
“The festival organized in a public place will be open to all,” the tweets translated. “Non-mixed workshops will be held elsewhere, in a strictly private setting.
“This clarification should enable the #Nyansapo festival to fulfill its role: helping to strengthen the fight against racism and sexism.”
In response, the Afro-feminist group posted this statement on Facebook.
"We discover, not without astonishment, that Mrs Hidalgo, under the assumption that a "firm" intervention on her part would have made us change our program and its unfolding. There is nothing more wrong.
“The festival has always been organized in this form (verifiable very simply on the internet: the press release on the site of La Générale, the article of Libération, the tweets from our account).
“Mrs Hidalgo challenges the reality by trying to find an exit from the top, a polemic that could have been avoided if her teams or herself had taken the trouble to inquire, looking at our site for example.
“After days of defamation, insults, pressures suffered by the collective, La Générale, the people and organizations that support the festival, we are awaiting apologies from the mayor of Paris, apologies that hope will be all equally firm,” the post stated in French.
The U.K. chapter of Black Lives Matter tweeted to support the festival and spoke out against the authorities seeking to close it down.
Several social media users have also expressed support for the group under the hashtag #JeSoutienMwasi.
L'état d'esprit des politiques en ce moment :— Abdel-H (@halimbabaou) May 30, 2017
"Font chier les bronzés, ils avaient moins de revendications avant !"#JeSoutienMwasi
Looking forward to all the feminist support for #JeSoutienMwasi. Same as for the women-only Wonder Woman screenings, right?— ??Anna Scott?? (@annascottpiano) May 29, 2017
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters