Tashia Ethridge’24: La Maison Baldwin Summer Conference 2023
I received funding to work on a collection of docu-poetry that I had begun earlier in the year.
About the Experience
I received funding to work on a collection of docu-poetry that I had begun earlier in the year. I spent time with my poetry collection and workshopped it as much as possible. Still, I found myself surrounded by brilliant minds, feeling called to push further and deeper into my work wherever it called me. And it called me into fiction as well. So, I spent the week expanding my poetry collection and digging into a genre I had not considered since childhood. It was an incredibly expansive experience.
The conference went beautifully, though it was an incredibly difficult time in Paris. I spent my days working alongside Black writers from across the globe (though mainly from the US). This is the first conference that I have attended, and I could not have been more grateful to have this group of writers by my side through the experience. We followed the footsteps of Baldwin around the city. We wrote in various Black spaces and hubs throughout different arrondissements (like Josephine Baker’s first cabaret!).
We arrived in Paris at a taut and mournful time; the police had murdered 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk. To be Black, specifically Black American, coming into a city tense amid police brutality taking yet another life weighed heavy on all of us. It is a reality too familiar in the United States. Being with the La Maison Baldwin Family amid this crisis was healing and a space I was beyond grateful to be a part of. We met various Black American expats and spent evenings talking politics, art, movement, calling, and our work. We shared laughs, tears, angers, and fears and exorcized them through words. We shared space impossible to put words to; we grew memories rooted in the city that now spread across the US and into Canada and Denmark.