Saina Ysaac: France as Text 2022

Izieu as Text

” It’s more than just black and white” by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Izieu, July 10th, 2022

Mountain ranges as far as the eyes can see. Beholding the past horrors before me. 44 children and 7 adults perished after leaving the mountain canopy.

The Landscape of Izieu . Photo by Saina Ysaac / CC BY 4.0


It was a regular day in Izieu on April 6th,1944. The children knew they could not be with their parents due to the political climate at the time.

Running around with smiles on their faces, birds chirping around in the April spring sky, only to be disturbed by the commotion caused by a Nazi vehicle approaching on the nearby rocky dirt road.

This short distance allowed for reality to sink in for those that understood, all of the adults, but not all the children. 

Klaus Barbie took their lives, leaving behind remnants of their memory. I sympathize with the Jewish community as I am too a survivor of this ongoing war called Racism. 


Just like the Holocaust, the slave trade was a business, big companies like IG Farben, selling women (people) as materials to work and do experiments on. Was the same way blacks were used. The slaves have no documentation. There are no plaques to remember them. The Jews were reduced to numbers, slaves had no names. Slaves were tortured,beaten, dehumanized for centuries. 

All that is left is broken mindsets and a minority group screaming for change. It’s a war that will probably never end. It is the default in mankind.

Labeling areas as Colored Only, is a repeat of the holocaust, ensuring the separation of ethnic backgrounds.

The forced policy of wearing the Star of David, was used because the Jews were just regular common citizens, they lived among the people. Blacks had their skin to separate them.

Being a minority means you have to live in fear. Because anyday, can be a day for an erratic ideology to sweep the feeble minds of those that have power to do so.

The Holocaust is just one of many travesties done on mankind, and without proper awareness it is bound to happen again. The deaths of these children gives proof that we do not learn from our past and we should strive to prevent a recurring future.

These children died to be remembered, they died in order for us to have the “freedoms” we have today.

Seeing the incredible scenery in the heart of Izieu I felt the love and warmth that the children had, as they spent their last remaining days there. I believe their love shines on every day with the morning sun. But their spirits still linger in the courtyard with each setting sun, begging the moon to see their parents just one more time.

Lyon as Text

A Lion’s Mane” by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Lyon, July 7th – 9th, 2022

The Rhone and the Saone make up the 2 rivers that flow through the heart of Lyon.

Named after an animal notorious for its pride and virtue. Lyon makes every other city in France bow down to its prestige. 

From being the 1st city introduced to Christianity to be the culinary capital of the world. It seems impossible to not give credit when it is due to this amazing city.

Upon entering the city, I found myself just at home under the mane of Lyon. Encapsulated by the culture of savory foods, delicacies and the sweet smells of warm July. 

No matter how many photos I take I can never fully capture the true beauty of the landscape that lies ahead of me.

Lyon’s landscape is shrouded with soft mountain ranges and trees. The usage of green spaces and a decree to be exhaust-free by 2023, is a city I love to see!

As a Leo woman, finding an image, plaque, or statue of a lion at every corner of the city, became a scavenger hunt that expedited my love for the city.

The history of Augustus being the 1st holy emperor of the Roman Empire, naming the month of August after himself, and seeing the Lugdunum, made a transcendental connection to the spirit of my being.

Lyon is the brave warrior as it symbolizes its past and enriches the future. Forever will be the great city where the Roman Emperor, Claudius, delivered his famous speech advocating the rights of the Gauls. 

My skin never shined as hard, I never smiled as hard, and I never felt ambitious until being immersed in the mane of the city.

Thank you, Lyon, for rekindling my fire.

Versailles as Text

“My Vanity, My Beauty” by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Versailles, July 3rd, 2022

I am the center of universe, the sun is fact is me.

The people of the country glee as they bow down to me.

Building gates of gold so all can see, I am their righteous king.

Poise and elegance is all I can be. Who cares about the needy, as long as I can be the righteous king that God has appointed me to be.

La France is country all should see for its golden standard is because of me. 

Don’t you fret, don’t you cry Louis XIV is right by yourself side. Of course always in my chateau of Versailles.


The beauty of Versailles instantly caught my eye.

How could the king of France let his people die ?

For prestige of course, for his self pride.

People may judge what they see.

But I see a king that became the person he needed to be.

The person that created Versailles, was so wise. That people themselves don’t understand why, they flock to Versailles.

You may look and you may roar, but the king of the jungle has you sore. Leaping over the necks of the poor. Louis the 14th has won the war. Leaving a legacy far from the sea, the beauty of Versailles enriches me. 

How can I deny, the king has me blind. For his actions alone cause the French Revolution on its own. It’s sad to see all that the people just wanted to be, was happy and free.

But who cares about a dying land, when you have Versailles at your hand ? 

As I walk through the hall of mirrors I see history unfold right before me. Here at the end of the hall, lied the throne of the greatest of them all. He himself could not see the political unrest he caused after thee.

Here I think and understand why, the Americans wanted their freedom. Freedom from a monarchy that focuses solely on pride, they could not see the issues in front of thee. Thank you Louis the 16th for aiding Benjamin Franklin in the pursuit of a revolution, ultimately leading to your death. If not I would not be able to see the great Versailles in front of me.

Paris as Text

” Awarness” by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Musee Carnavalet, July 5th, 2022

If It doesn’t affect me I don’t know and I don’t care. if it does affect me, I know and I care. If it doesn’t affect me but I know, I still don’t care because my actions will not change the cause. This is the mindset of human nature and the fault of all human intrusions on humane rights. 

Paris is beautiful, adored for its elegance and class. Famously known as the “city of love”. Its first permanent civilization dating back to the 4th century BC, the Parisii probably had no intention of creating the most famous city in the world. Louis XIV set the golden standard of beauty for the country’s pride. It seems that Napoleon tainted the image of France and till this day  they try so hard to cover it up.

It’s difficult taking in the beauty of the city knowing their history affected my people. And for the majority of the French, Haiti’s poverty state is something they do not care about or have any part in fixing. Visiting the Museum Carnavalet reinforced the image that most people know, but do not care.

Photo By Saina Ysaac/CC by 4.0

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15th, 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica. He became the first emperor of France. His reign was from 1799 – 1815, only 16 years changed the trajectory of the world. His actions inspired many wars, notably both World Wars and especially the 2nd World War, Hitler mentioned that all his efforts were to be just like Napoleon. 

Haiti became a French colony during the 17th century when Napoleon I decided to use the country’s natural resources. Importing slaves from South Eastern Africa to exploit their labor. After the slave revolt in 1804, the country had issues with civil war and political unrest after the killing of Toussiant Overture. Even though the revolt was successful, France still had a presence on the eastern part of the island. And until 1825, France recognized Haiti as an independent state. This is when the greatest heist in history began.

France’s luxurious prosperity has solely been based on the exploitation and poverty of the Haitian people. 

On April 17th, 1825, King Charles X, decreed that he would only see Haiti as an independent country after paying a price of 150 million francs, which is around 10 times the amount paid by the US government for the Louisiana purchase in 1803. This is the price Haitians had to pay for their freedom. This is the price that has for over 200 years, held the Haitian people in a state of poverty, political unrest, and a loss of hope.

The price of 150 million francs, is a price many European countries could not afford. So why was this even in consideration? This is because the French believed that this payment equates to the amount of profit they had lost due to the revolt. A profit that is not righteously theirs, a profit is stolen from the people themselves, that died every day from the unbearable working conditions.

All of this from a country whose pendulum of politics has done nothing but cause distress and petty wars for the sake of “rights”, but only rights for their own. Not for the ones that built this entire world on their backs.

Before visiting the Musee Histoire de Paris Carnavelt, I was taught that Napoleon Bonaparte was a great leader, that his faults in some of his decision making,  ultimately caused both World Wars. I also knew about Haiti’s slave revolt. What I did not know was that slavery was abolished in France, the second wave of abolition in 1794. But was reintroduced under the regime of Napoleon in 1802 and continued until 1815. 

This simple decision to reintroduce slavery is what made me angry. Not at the French government but the mindset of those in power. It ties back to the oldest feud ever: the poor vs the rich. The poor struggle every day just because of the decision of the rich. The rich can do so because they have money and power.

I do and I care. I want a sincere apology from the French government to the Haitian people so they can say they are the ones accountable for misfortunes that fell on a country that just wanted freedom. The same freedom French people fight every day for. 

It is absolutely disgusting to see that the museum of French and Paris history has nothing but pride and haughtiness for their bourgeois culture. But no accountability for depriving many colonies and countries of exploiting the natural resources that they had, to be left high and dry for generations of poverty, overshadowing the beauty of these nations.

I am a product of a tyrant’s selfish desire of wanting more power and I pay the price of wanting my freedom every day in these capitalistic superpowers pendulum of political unrest.

Why can’t France have the same awareness that Germany has towards the rest of the world involving their actions during the Second World War? Admitting to their faults and helping a country in anarchy.

I may be biased, but from the moment you are born and the entire history of your people ties back to France. From last names to similar ideologies (fighting for what is just). It is heartbreaking to see that, my country was just a stepping stone so France could be seen as great and powerful.

Black people as a race have been stepped, spit, and cursed on for centuries so superpower countries like America, England, and France could uphold their titles. While looking down at exploited countries as third-world countries, which are infested with no political structure and a poverty-stricken mindset. The only ones that can help, are simply looking away and laughing. 

Awareness should teach the effects of colonialism and the footprint it has left on this world.

CITATIONS

Bailey, John William. “Paris.” Bailly Lectures, 6 July 2022, https://baillylectures.com/france/paris/. 

Daut, Marlene. “When France Extorted Haiti – the Greatest Heist in History.” The Conversation: In-Depth Analysis, Research, News and Ideas from Leading Academics and Researchers., The Conversation, 9 July 2021, https://theconversation.com/amp/when-france-extorted-haiti-the-greatest-heist-in-history-137949. 

“The Haitian Revolution.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/place/Haiti/The-Haitian-Revolution. 

Lentz, Thierry. “Napoleon – Hitler, the Improbable Comparison.” Cairn.info, La Fondation Napoléon, 3 Feb. 2012, https://www.cairn.info/revue-napoleonica-la-revue-2011-3-page-84.htm. 

“Napoleon I.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Napoleon-I.

Normandy as Text

” A Heaven’s Bloom” by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Normandy American Cemetery, July 26th, 2022

Plot A, Row 12, Grave 9

Normandy American Cemetery, Photo by John W. Bailey/C.C by 4.0

“Photographer Gives Up His Life for Camera”

Before photography was introduced to the War scene, people had vague views of what warfare was actually like. This allowed for propaganda to deceive many people that volunteered to fight, only to return traumatized.

Propaganda is the manipulation of information to persuade a biased perspective. This tactic has been used repeatedly throughout history and continues to this day in the political world. During World War I, propaganda was used to enlist troops in the army. Often glorifying how righteous war was. Falsely advertising the reality of combat. By World War II the press was heavily censored by military organizations ensuring that the press did not release anything that would aid or comfort the opposition. Propaganda was heavily used by the Nazis to spread destructive nationalism (racism) and patriotism. In America, propaganda was targeted toward women and children to encourage the enlisting of more recruits. The actions of Bede G. Irvin were to spread the truth, not Propaganda. Using images to describe critical information about the war, allowed citizens back home to understand the reality of what occurred on the front lines, rather than what the government and politics wanted them to know.

It’s important to note that Media and the Press are very important aspects of communication as they allow messages deeper than words to reach the hearts of people. It’s one thing to read about war and it’s another to watch/see war happen.

Bede G. Irvin was an associated press worker who died in action saving his cameras, found lying in a ditch with one camera around his neck, and another camera in his outstretched hand. Till the very end, he remained a selfless person, ensuring the people back home received the legitimacy they needed.

Irvin was quoted as saying that he did not see “enough action”, which allowed him to be relocated closer to the battlefield. And on July 25th, 1944, just 1 month and 19 days later after the D-Day landings, Irvin was hit by a B-26 bomb fragment and died instantly on the spot.


Bede G. Irvin was born as George Bede Irvin on July 27th,1910. Commonly known by his middle name he was loved by others with his zesty personality. He attended the University of Iowa, and worked at his local tribune for 8 years until joining the Associated Press in August of 1936.

In 1938 after volunteering Irvin was sent to London to begin reporting on the war.

He was the eighteenth American newspaper reporter to have been killed in the war assignment since 1939.

He died 2 days before his 34th birthday leaving behind his wife, Kathryn N.Hawkin. According to records she remained unmarried and died in the year 2000.


My Last Message to Bede G. Irvin

After all that has been said and done, the war had just begun. Gone too soon a heaven’s bloom. Your spirit still shines on. Just like a star in the sky, you are far away from home. Home is in our hearts, a memory to keep. Your bravery will not go unknown.

I am selfish.

Even today, if my rights were taken away. 

I don’t know if I would have the courage to volunteer.

Volunteer , to become a warrior against an enemy I never seen before. 

To be relocated from my home to the weary unknown.

A place where the enemy resides, where danger lies.

To sacrifice my life, for what is right, to describe back home that I did not die alone.

You died for a country, you died for the people to see the truth that lied overseas before us. You died for people like me , to say that we are free. You died away from the motherland, to give us Americans a loving hand. Thank you.

Your decision deserves more recognition.

For your might was behind the camera’s eye that demonstrated all the truths to the naked eye. Without you we would not understand why so many sacrificed their lives. Because of your bravery the world understands that the strife had to end. Every photo you took, every column you made shedded light on what remained. The actions, the visions, the indescribable pain, that those that served had endured.

I know it was for a cause, a cause that seems so unappreciated now, now that I am at your tomb. But I thank you for all that you do, you are still alive in my heart. Because without you, nothing is true. The photos you took did not leave with you. They stayed, they are ingrained in my brain. The truth’s description is far from fiction, because you knew , the world needed you. 

Without you, how could you tell the world about the truth?

Without you, how could we’ve known the realities behind those trench walls ?

Without you, the world missed you more than a summer’s June.

There’s a saying by Terry Pratchett, “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world dies away”.

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world dies away”.

Terry Pratchett

The ripples Irvin made were the photos he took, till this day shining the light of our glorious days. I am grateful for the sacrifices he made, being the 1st American Associated Press comrade to go overseas during D-Day, his efforts alone , allow for us to see the truth. Without the truth we would have false news, which can remake the mistakes of yesterday. But because of him, we understand.

My Personal Connection

I am a 19-year-old Haitian-American woman from South Florida, he was a 33-year-old white male from Des Moines, Iowa. Our ideologies and mindsets could not be farther from the distance that lies between us. But at the essence of our being, we were both humans. Both existed in this transcendental plane. His efforts in the war allowed me to be free in this country. I can choose what I want to believe in and exist among my diverse peers because of him. Even Though our lives will never cross, I can exist because his timeline allowed me to. He lives within all of us, the choices we make define our future. His decision allowed my future to be a reality. Thank you.

CITATIONS

“.” Americans at War. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2022 .” Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia.com, 24 July 2022, https://www.encyclopedia.com/defense/energy-government-and-defense-magazines/journalism-world-war-ii. 

“George Bede Irvin (1910-1944) – Find a Grave…” Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56645939/george-bede-irvin. 

Irvin, Bede: 1910-1944, http://iagenweb.org/boards/vanburen/obituaries/index.cgi?read=476993.

Lancaster, Marc. “Killed by Friendly Fire: Lesley J. McNair and Bede Irvin.” World War II on Deadline, 20 July 2021, https://ww2ondeadline.com/2020/07/25/operation-cobra-gen-lesley-j-mcnair-george-bede-irvin-saint-lo/. 

“Media in Wartime | History Detectives.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/feature/media-in-wartime/. 

“Propaganda.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/topic/propaganda. 

Suedois50. “Irvin G Bede – War Correspondent.” Mémoire & Database, https://www.database-memoire.eu/prive/fr/normandy-tous-soldats/28-colleville-i-fr/1067-irvin-g-bede-war-correspondent. 

“World War II Propaganda.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/goebbels-propaganda/. 

WWII, http://iagenweb.org/wwii/WWIISurnamesI_J/IrvinBede.html. 

Pere Lachaise as Text

” The Little Sparrow that had so much Sorrow” by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Normandy American Cemetery, July 26th, 2022

Born amid the Great War, the little sparrow, brought by a stork left in grandma’s footsteps, began life without a mother’s love. Her mother was a singer, father was a contortionist. Raised in a brothel, the little sparrow could not foreshadow how awful life could be. Meningitis, the inflammation of the meninges (protective layers surrounding the spinal cord and brain) cut the little sparrow’s sense of sight, despite just being three. At age seven, the little sparrow began to see again, see the truth of the world. Her life had just begun, she already knew what cards were dealt in her hand. Joined by her father in the circus accompanying him as he performed, the little sparrow learned how to keep the attention of a crowd. Her father had her practice singing, with every chance he obtained. The little sparrow began to sing about the sorrows of the world through her beautiful voice. Singing in the streets of Paris, most notably in Montmartre. Within the streets, the little sparrow met fellows that committed petty crimes. Despite her surroundings, the little sparrow did not let this discourage her. In 1932, the little sparrow found a mother’s love by becoming a mother herself. The little sparrow gave birth to a baby chick named, Marcelle DuPont, only to die short of sickness, the same sickness that caused the little sparrow to go blind. The baby chick was only 2 years young. Such an unnatural state to be just 17 and already in despair, only to follow by a tragic fate that you already suffered from. I am 19 years old, I cannot even fathom the pain the little sparrow endured, losing a child of her own.

 In 1935, after leaving her father’s side, the little sparrow enlightened something in a man’s eye. This man owned a famous Cabaret near the Champs-Elysees. This man was Louis Leplée, the same man that gave her the nickname, “La Môme Piaf” ( the little sparrow). Leplée began creating a campaign to gain awareness for the little singer, which quickly became a success as she went on to record two albums that year. Sadly, that following Spring Leplée was murdered, leaving the little sparrow to find someone else to guide her to stardom. Raymond Asso, became her new manager, permanently giving her the name “Edith Piaf”. She began to write songs that romanticized her life in the streets, describing her internal strength in overcoming every obstacle life had thrown at her. By the 2nd World War, she performed for German soldiers as they occupied France, it has been later revealed that she was part of the French Resistance and aided Jewish comrades from Nazi mistreatment. After the war, the little sparrow’s fame became worldwide. Most notably in French-speaking countries; Canada, Belgium, and even German-speaking Swiss. 

In 1947, she met her greatest love, Marcel Cerdan, named the greatest French boxer. Films have been created for their untimely love. In 1949, he died in a plane crash en route to New, on his way to meet the little sparrow. This death affected the little sparrow very much and wrote a song called “Hymn to love” ~ the lyrics are as follows. Out of all the grief, my little sparrow had in her lifetime, this death took a toll and set off a spiral into depression. In 1951, the little sparrow was involved in a deep car accident, breaking two ribs, one arm, and severe bruises. She was given morphine for the pain, the little sparrow quickly became addicted to numbing the pain. Numbing the loss of her absent mother, neglected grandmother, irresponsible father, dead child, lost manager, and dead lover. Self-medicating seemed like a prince in disguise, in reality, he had a ghoul face and a scythe in his hand. After this incident the little sparrow became a product of more misfortune finding herself in two more near-fatal car accidents, causing her addiction to spiral. In the mid-1950s the little sparrow found herself in rehabilitation facilities only to relapse as soon as she left them. Her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis made her physically constantly in pain and emotionally numb to more pain. In 1959, the little sparrow collapsed on stage, at the time it was unknown, but it has been now proven that it was the start of the onset of liver disease. By 1963, in her final days, she visibly has an extended abdomen, the cancer tumor rapidly growing. On October 10th, 1963, the little sparrow left the world gracefully, leaving behind a gay husband 20 years her Junior and a lifetime of beautifully sung songs of the sorrows of her life.

It’s hard to live a life full of pain. Depression is all I see, marred in a life full of sorrow is happiness’s enemy. The little sparrow that sang so effortlessly, died in the hands of a hell-bent tragedy.

I know what it is like to self-medicate, attempting to put all your problems away. You must face them like the monsters they are, don’t keep them in the dark. Show them loud and proud that you are not the weak person they see now. These monsters break you down, if you are not observant they will shut your light out, so you must fight, fight every day to keep the monster out. The little sparrow with so much sorrow was no match with the monsters within, but she fought the battle with all the might she had. Being the greatest France ever had, and because of that everyone’s life is pink.

Personal Connection

Learning about Edith Piaf’s life reinforced the fact that everyone is human, we all feel emotions and are allowed to feel. Piaf’s emotions allowed her to feel pain, and she expressed it the best way she could, through music. Although I am not a singer I find a similar escape in listening to my favorite music. We are all branches on the same tree.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Photo by Nicole Patrick/C.C by 4.0

CITATIONS

“Edith Piaf – Biographie, Discographie Et Fiche Artiste.” RFI Musique, RFI Musique, 18 Aug. 2016, https://musique-rfi-fr.translate.goog/artiste/chanson/edith-piaf?_x_tr_sl=fr&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc. 

“Edith Piaf.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edith-Piaf. 

Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://kids.britannica.com/students/article/Edith-Piaf/312968. 

NHS Choices, NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/. 

Par Lou Garçon  Le 18 décembre 2020 à 11h25, modifié le 18 décembre 2020 à 13h38. “La Vie En Rose D’Edith Piaf à La Maison Close De Bernay.” Leparisien.fr, 24 Dec. 2020, https://www-leparisien-fr.translate.goog/culture-loisirs/la-vie-en-rose-d-edith-piaf-a-la-maison-close-de-bernay-18-12-2020-8414926.php?_x_tr_sl=fr&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc. 

Romer, Megan. “The Tragic Death of French Cabaret Sweetheart Edith Piaf.” LiveAbout, LiveAbout, 7 June 2018, https://www.liveabout.com/how-did-edith-piaf-die-3552707. 

“Édith Piaf.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 1 Nov. 2021, https://www.biography.com/musician/edith-piaf. 

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