Multi-Ethic Sports Hall of Fame Trip to Paris

7-30-18 - Arif - Rich Yee
Founder and president of the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, Arif Khatib (left), presented Golden State Warriors' legend and community ambassador Alvin Attles with the Franklin Mieuli Award. The presentation took place at the 18th Annual Induction and Community Award Ceremony at Scott's Seafood Pavilion on Friday evening, Feb. 23. Mieuli was the principal owner of the Golden State Warriors from 1962 to 1986 and Attles has been with the Warriors, in one capacity or another, for 58 years, the longest uninterrupted streak of any person for one team. Photo by Rich Yee.

Arif Khatib

MESHOF's Journey to France in search of Black Sports Stars and Black History

By Arif Khatib with
Billy North

My most recent visit to Paris was in 2009. It was picturesque and enjoyable in activity, but the city did not meet my expectations of gaining insight into the historical context of the African Diaspora and our role in the development of France. When I learned of two cultural tours showcasing the rich legacy of black history between France, Africa, the Caribbean and African Americans, I knew I had to return.

In keeping that promise to myself, I returned to France to gather additional information for our upcoming film documentary, Because They Believed, and to explore the lives of French sports stars who have excelled in our country.

Our group included eleven savvy, lively world travelers. Among them were Billy North, a former Major League Baseball player for the Oakland A's; Phyliss Smith, a retired Oakland police officer; Barbara Bivens, bio tech; Shelley Ross-Bell, a retired San Francisco police officer; Urla Hill, a teacher/curator; Jennifer Gamble, a retired teacher; Sherry Perry Linzie, a retired nurse; Arthur Young, a real estate investor; Zelma Benton, a real estate broker; and Kellie Hickman, an entertainer.

Arif -- Ricki
Ricki Stevenson

Left to right: Tour guide Dedie Stevenson-Bailey, Arif Khatib, tour guide Miquel Overton Guerra, Shelley Ross-Bell, Urla Hill, Arthur Young, Zelma Benson, Billy North, Kelli Hickman, Maxine Gordon (who has published a biography of her late husband, Dexter Gordon). Kneeling: tour guide Nawo Crawford

Inspired by rave reviews, Ricki Stevenson's Black Paris Tours ( www.blackparistour.com) were used as well as Martin Grizzell's Black Marseille Tours ( www.blackmarseille.tours/). Ricki is a former San Francisco Bay Area radio personality, television news anchor and international travel reporter who, within one year, founded Black Paris Tours after assisting her daughter, Dedie Stevenson-Bailey, in relocating to Paris in 1997. The travel company we used were wonderful. (w ww.atravelmoment.net.)

We were thrilled when we discovered that Ricki recently partnered with Martin Grizzell in the creation of Black Marseille Tours, showcasing the rich history of the first, oldest, most African-populated city in France. Martin relocated from San Francisco to Marseille, located in the south of France, five years ago.  We were eager to participate in this unique opportunity to learn about black history and black sports stars in Paris and Marseille.  

We began in Paris. After a seamless check-in at our Left Bank hotel and a nap, we Ubered to Rue de Rivoli to hear the Bay Area's own Napata Mero singing jazz and blues at the elegant Cercle de Suedois Supper Club. What a way to kick off our stay!

Day Two was our Black Paris Walking-Public City Bus Tour with Ricki Stevenson and her daughter, VP of Customer Satisfaction. Following our Black Paris Tour orientation we set off by metro to Place Josephine Baker, where a plaque honors the St. Louis-born entertainer who took Paris by storm at the age of 19 and went on to become the top African American female entertainer in the world, a multi-millionaire business woman and the most photographed woman in the world.

Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe, where we learned of the exploits of African military leader, Hannibal, and his influence on Napoleon Bonaparte. A short bus ride took us to the place of the Three Dumas. There we were struck by a massive monument dedicated to the history of Haitian-born Thomas-Alexandre Davy, the first black four-star general to lead French forces in Napoleon's Army. The journey did not end there.

Across the street we came face-to-face with the statue of the General's son, Alexandre Dumas, the most proliferate writer in French history and author of The Three Musketeers; Man in the Iron Mask; The Count of Monte Cristoand at least 250 other novels! We crossed another intersection to see the statue built to honor Alexandre Dumas III, the son of the author and grandson of the General, who became an award-winning dramatist and playwright.

We were blown away hearing Ricki tell of all the famous personages who have visited these monuments, from Frederick Douglass to Ida B. Wells, to James Weldon Johnson and Paul Robeson. We were honored to have been a visitor among them. I won't take you to every stop on our full day-walking tour but before departure, I will advise you to stay for a late lunch in Little Africa! THAT was one of the best, most delicious and soul fortifying meals we enjoyed during our Paris stay. After lunch we strolled the bustling, colorful outdoor market in Little Africa, which felt like a wonderful trip to the African cities of Accra, Abidjan and Lagos.

Billy North

Laura Flessel-Colovic

Arif --- Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert 

Tony Parker

On Martin Grizzell's website, www.blackmarseille.tours, Grizzell promises that Marseille would leave a lasting impression, and it did by way of the exhilarating Le Mistral-Marseille In A Day Tour! The ancient city welcomed us with a uniquely Mediterranean flavor from the time we strolled onto the train station esplanade. The Notre Dame de la Garde Cathedral sat towering in the distance atop the city's highest hill as Martin explained the role of Marseille as the pre-eminent crossroad and port of the old world. As we descended upon the grand station's grand staircase we came face to face with Louis Botinelly's iconic statue, Colonies d'Afrique, a beatific stone rendering of the riches of Africa and one of many positive depictions of the Motherland and her people. We lunched at the oldest seafood establishment in town before walking over 2600-year-old streets and narrow lanes and visiting the Grand Hotel Beauvau, a favorite abode of Josephine Baker. Grizzell brought Claude McKay's 1920s novel Banjo into full animation as we strolled through the Le Panier, Marseille's oldest neighborhood.

To top the day off, we boarded the land train to the top of the town. The cathedral, with the golden lady as its spire, afforded sweeping views of the city and the hills that big, bad, African Hannibal and his elephants marched through during the Roman Era. As promised, Martin delivered us back to the Gare Saint Charles train station in time to catch our northbound train, which was first class all the way!
Considering the nature of MESHOF's mission and work in the community and honoring the rich history of people of multi-ethnic backgrounds who have made major contributions to sports, we would be remiss not to mention some of the great athletes from France, led by the NBA's standout guard, Tony Parker, now with the Charlotte Hornets, and Rudy Gobert, with the Utah Jazz. Others include  Laura Flessel-Colovic, who is the French Minister of Sports and a French fencer. She has won more medals of any French female Olympian, with five.  Christine Arron is a former track and field sprinter who competed internationally for France in the 60, 100, 200 meters and 4x100 meter relay.

Blacks have participated in the highest levels of sports, including world championships and the Olympics. The achievements of these athletes demonstrated time and time again that if given an opportunity they, will excel. It was a grand pleasure to include them in this article!
Arif Khatib is the Founder and President Emeritus of the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame.
Billy North is a former major league baseball player and spent six years with the Oakland A's and three years with the San Francisco Giants.
3-6-17 - Pops

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