Spotlight on France

Podcast: Covid on the slopes, why France has no Black History Month

Audio 27:58
Spotlight on France episode 49
Spotlight on France episode 49 © RFI

With ski lifts shuttered because of Covid, French ski resorts are taking a hit, along with the tens of thousands of seasonal workers they employ. A conversation about race in France and why a US-style Black History Month is needed, but difficult to put in place. And the story of Etienne Marcel, leader of the first French Revolution in the Middle Ages.

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France's ski industry is a big economic driver, providing the main source of income for some villages in the Alps and Pyrenees. But Covid has dealt them a severe blow. The government has ordered ski lifts to remain closed throughout the February school holidays when many people would usually head to the mountains. A visit to the upmarket Courchevel ski resort in Savoie, used to hosting a majority of skiers from abroad, shows the impact on local businesses and seasonal workers. (Listen @1'15'')

February is Black history month in the US; the UK marks it in October. But celebrations of Black history have struggled to gain traction in France, despite its long history with Africa and the African diaspora. Maboula Soumahoro, a professor at the University of Tours, organised a French celebration of black history for several years. Author of a recent book, The Triangle and the Hexagon, a reflection on black identity, she talks about France’s problems in addressing race, and US influence both on France and her own personal history grappling with these issues. (Listen @14'50'')

Etienne Marcel tried to take control of the French monarchy on 22 February 1358. He resorted to force after he failed to impose legal reforms. He died a traitor but today he is seen as a hero who resisted the monarchy. (Listen @9'35'')

This episode was mixed by Yann Bourdelas.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

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