It’s been several months since I last took the time to spread on a blank sheet my concerns and emotions regarding the country where the slogan liberty, equality and Fraternity only exist on the facade of institutions, but not at all in the heart of politicians and decision makers. Today is the 10th anniversary of the French 2005 riots. What has changed since? “Je suis” by Bakary Sakho is a lucid description of France’s social atmosphere most ethnic minorities have to deal with on a daily basis.
To find or see the French values Liberté, Egalité, fraternité genuinely implemented within society, one has indeed to visit France’s most deprived areas, where independently from any political power or government some youngsters of immigrant descents try to get organise so as to change the deal. In the 19th district of Paris, Bakary Sackho, a political activist in his thirties, has just published his first book. It is an amazing voice and account with lucidity of what most French citizens of West and North African descents experience on a daily basis. Ten years after the “revolts” of Villiers Le Bel, following the death of the two teenagers – Zyed and Bouna- very little seems to have been achieved, according to Bakary Sackho. In his book “Je suis”, Bakary puts the blame on the institutions; but not only. What makes his message quite unusual is obviously that the responsibility and ineffectiveness of the people from the suburbs and deprived districts of the Paris region, is not spared in his analysis. There is no doubt that Bakary Sakho has been influenced and inspired by the writings of American Activists of the late fifties and early sixties such as Malcolm X or again Dr Martin Luther King. Bakary is what we call a self-made man who through self-education decided at a certain period of his life to handle his own destiny. If the description of the French society he makes appears somehow dark, it is important to underline that Bakary is not at all pessimistic. His philosophy is that of optimism with the idea that everybody can make it. The different initiatives he has undertaken in the last decade prove it. According to the young writer, the lack of entrepreneurship and refusal to entirely embrace one’s hybrid identity is responsible, among other things, for these youngsters’ difficulty to overcome the inequalities and injustices imposed by the French institutions.
It is, though, through the different initiatives he has undertaken in the last 10 years that Bakary Sakho somehow shows to his contemporaries what must be done. “Face Caché” the publishing house he created to publish his first book is already a success. It has the merit to give any person willing to put his thought on paper and express a personal view point to do so. It is well known in France that people of West and North African descents are seldom – not to say never- given the opportunity to express themselves. They are not represented in the French media or cultural landscape. The presence of Blacks and Arabs in France, as they are commonly called, is however quite obvious. Backary Sakho’s message is quite clear, no more time to waste waiting for solutions or help coming from the different governments. “People from the quartiers have to get organised and take their own destiny in hand; that is a must”.