Maya Rylke-Friedman: Paris 2022

Over-Under Paris

Ligne 4: Porte de Clignancourt ↔ Porte d’Orléans

  1. Porte d’Orleans

I got to know this stop quite well during the duration of our trip because I had the privilege of living a few minutes away from this metro stop. Our group used the Porte d’Orleans metro station for almost every educational and recreational outing. Porte d’Orleans is near Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, where our group stayed. It was interesting living in an actual urban university, with easy access to shops, restaurants, and public transportation. FIU on the other hand, while considered urban, does not have easy walking or biking access to shops and restaurants. You need a car for that. It is interesting coming back to America as well because the large amount of driving hits you instantly, a stark contrast from our stay in Paris. I would love it if FIU had easier access to Miami Beach and Brickell without needing to use a car.

I have also noticed that the university students we have encountered in the area are not usually French. Porte d’Orleans has great ethnic diversity amongst a college town section of Paris. The population outside the university, nearby the metro station, seems to be made up of non-white individuals. The pizza place we have frequented, Pizza 30, seems to have middle eastern owners, as well as the nearby cafe, Le Soleil. I have also noticed an African population here.

 I have seen a few people living in poverty and asking for money in this area, which breaks my heart. Most of the homeless individuals I have seen here were non-white. In a country that has robust social safety nets, it is surprising to see as many homeless individuals as I have seen; however, there is a total of 3,440 homeless persons in Miami and 2,600 in Paris (Rosman, 2022) (CBS Miami, 2022). It is surprising to see how close the number of homeless populations is in these respective cities.

  1. Denfert-Rochereau
Photo of the entrance to the Catacombs taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

This metro stop on line 4 takes the rider to the Catacombs. The Catacombs were used as a quarry initially, but the mining led to the collapse of Rue Denfert-Rochereau in 1774 (Les Catacombes De Paris, 2017). In 1786, the quarries become designated as Catacombs, which began the process of transferring bones from above-ground cemeteries to the Catacombs (Les Catacombes De Paris, 2017).

I did not go into the Catacombs; however, I walked through the various green spaces in the area, and I realized that I was walking above millions of deceased Parisians. It made me think of how well preserved historical artifacts are in Paris. There is just so much well-preserved history there and across France. From Notre Dame to Saint Chapelle to the Latin Quarter to the Hotel des Invalides to Versailles to the Catacombs and to most everything there, so much of it has been kept. America on the other hand has demolished old cities to build modern ones. According to Not Just Bikes, towns like London, Canada, and Houston, Texas had walkable historic downtowns that were bulldozed to accommodate cars (Not Just Bikes, 2021). And now, Euclidean zoning laws make walkable towns illegal to build in America. In other words, old downtowns like in Houston or even boroughs of small towns like my hometown of Downingtown, are illegal to build (Not Just Bikes, 2021). 

Photo of gardens adjacent to the Catacombs taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

When I arrived at Denfert-Rochereau, I noticed also that while the Catacombs are touristy like the above-mentioned locations, the atmosphere was calmer. There were many green spaces and gardens mixed in with the urban fabric of this part of the city as well, which I have noticed that Paris has a lot of. It is great to have as many parks and green spaces as they do because it offers an escape from city life and a return to nature. 

  1. Raspail
Photo of the Montparnasse Cemetery taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Walking from Denfert-Rochereau to Raspail, I stumbled upon the Montparnasse Cemetery. At first, I thought it was a general Christian cemetery; however, when I walked in, I saw mausoleums and tombs that belonged to Christians and Jews. My understanding of religious graves has been that people of certain religions are separated at burial. For instance, my grandmother grew up Protestant and never converted to Judaism, so she cannot be buried alongside my grandfather who was Jewish. But, I know that the conditions depend on the cemetery.

Photo of a gravestone taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Instead of flowers, the Jewish tradition is to put stones on the graves of our dead, as a more permanent marker of mourning. Many of the Jewish graves had .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה written on them, and I noticed many of these graves were victims of the Holocaust. Those Hebrew letters on the gravestones stand as an acronym for “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life”, which to me is beautiful (, 2007). Though I was surrounded by tombs, I strangely felt tranquil at Montparnasse. The tree-lined cemetery allowed me a place of spirituality and reflection. After so much heartache in Lyon and Izieu, I saw victims of the Holocaust again, and it made me feel sorrow and respect for the dead. I truly want their souls to find peace, and I want the souls of the living to have peace so that hate and genocide cease.

Photo of poetic marking on a mausoleum in Montparnasse cemetery taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

I found an impactful marking on a Jewish grave that read “Bleus ou noirs, tous aimes, tous beaux, ouverts a quelque immense aurore, de l’autre cote de tombeaux les yeux qu’on ferme voient encore” which translates to “blue or black, all loved, all beautiful, open to some immense dawn, on the other side of the tombs the eyes that we close still see”. It is almost as if those that were taken from this world still guide over the living, and we must honor their lives and protect the lives of others. Montparnasse Cemetery was another emotionally raw experience, but simultaneously beautiful.

  1. Saint-Germain-de-Pres
Photo of L’Eglise de Saint-Germain-des-Prés taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

L’Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés is right off the Saint-Germain-de-Prés metro stop. Across the street are cafes and luxury shops like Louis Vitton and Georgio Armani. However, not too long ago, poor artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway would frequent this area and work on projects in nearby cafes like Le Deux Magots. But, Hemingway would use such a route that would avoid many restaurants as he did not have enough money to feed himself. But now, this area is heavily gentrified.

Photo of Les Deux Magots taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

I went for brunch here one of the days, and I could see how gentrified the area is based on what Professor Bailly told us about impoverished artists frequenting this area back then compared to what it is now. But, when we went to brunch, it felt almost pretentious because though the food was cutely presented, the portion was small and pricy.

There is an additional element of significance at this train stop as we kicked off our Americans in Paris lecture here. The Hotel de York is extremely significant in American history because the Treaty of Paris ended the revolutionary war, officially separating America from Great Britain on September 3, 1783. Though France is an entirely separate country from the United States, their struggles for liberty are intertwined. Benjamin Franklin would come to France and negotiate with King Louis XVI to gain military support against the British. This alliance, however, diminished the credibility of the French monarchy and gave the French people more leverage to overthrow the King. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man has similar verbiage to the Bill of Rights and many other Enlightenment documents that inspired human rights revolutions.

Photo of the plaque on Hotel de York marking the birth of the United States taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Looking at the state of the world today, however, I hope that we cease regressing and keep moving towards a haven of human rights. Truthfully, I am frightened for my future and the future of the next generation. We must be open about the past like oppression, genocide, and colonization, among other atrocities as to prevent history from repeating itself.

  1. Odeon

The Odeon metro stop opens out to a statute of Georges Danton. Danton was a wealthy man during the French Revolution, but he was on the side of the people. He was inevitably sentenced to death because of his vocal opposition to the terror (“Georges Danton – Danton’s Committee of Public Safety | Britannica,” 2022). He knew that once he was guillotined that the revolution would completely lose sight of itself. 

I find it ironic that Danton has a statue in his honor as the government had him executed, but I know that does not mean that the people wanted that. Nonetheless, I think it is a good thing to honor Danton and his legacy because France is recognizing the ugliness of terror.

Photo of Danton’s statue taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Fast forwarding to the modern day, there are people who are homeless near the area around Danton’s statue. The French Revolution focused on human rights and a fair government, though it became a force of terror; I think that though France has progressed and has social safety nets, it is still telling to see homeless individuals next to a statue of a man who fought for the people. More can always be done.

6. Saint-Michel

I have many memories at this stop. Most nights when I was free I found myself in the Latin quarter. We went to the piano bar, jazz club, and Latin club. Despite it being so touristy, it was so fun. It was liberating that at 19, I could have a drink, party, and have a good night out. There were creepy men, and I never went out alone at night as a female. But I challenged this trip by doing some of this project alone during the day.

I mention these excursions because at, 19, I could not do this in America. France and most of Europe have more relaxed views on alcohol than the United States, and I feel that this law exposes an idiocy in American legislation.

The Latin Quarter is from the medieval era and is called the Latin Quarter because students would speak Latin here. However, today the area does not feel authentic. It is pretty touristy. Most places there speak English and have a large English-speaking/non-French crowd.  This area was fun, but it lost a lot of its authenticity.  Shakespeare and Company was also located near Saint-Michel, which is a historic English-speaking bookstore. It is very cozy and literary, but also pretentious and touristy.

7. Cité

Photo of Notre Dame taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Cité being at the center of Paris is special because the buildings and landmarks near this stop are medieval and historic. Most notably, Notre Dame is the most famous church in Paris I would say. But, there is also Saint-Chappelle in the Conciergerie, a church built under Louis IX’s reign who was the only French King to be made a Saint because of his “heroism” during the crusades. There are also countless more churches sprinkled throughout the city. Our class focused on religion a great amount, and I would say that Catholicism was an extremely influential mold on not just the French, but Europe. Though France is a secular country now, the existence of all these churches shows its thick roots in Christianity. I also would like to add that I am curious about the Jewish roots in Paris and France in general. I am not sure if there are synagogues near Notre Dame, but there are definitely some in Paris that I think would have been beneficial to visit as though Christianity is extremely integral in European history, there is more to the story.

Photo of the inside of Saint-Chapelle taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

8. Les Halles

Photo of L’Eglise Saint-Eustache taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0

While blindly exploring metro line 4 stops, my group and I stumbled upon this large open-air mall at Les Halles. L’Eglise Saint-Eustache is a historic church there and is also where Louis XIV had his first communion (Saint-Eustache, 2022). When we went there later as a class, Professor Bailly mentioned how Saint-Eustaches’ community commissioned Keith Haring, an artist, and his piece represents those dying from the aids crisis, which surprised me (Saint-Eustache, 2022). I thought that the congregants of these old churches would be more conservative despite France being secular. Perhaps my view of Christianity is tainted by American Christianity, however, I do not want to generalize as there are many loving and peaceful Christians. It is great that this community did not get blinded by bigotry and stood in solidarity with those afflicted with aids, despite the traditional Christian view on homosexuality. 

One of the contemporary art pieces in the Pompidou. Photo taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

The Pompidou was the museum we went to for contemporary art. Though I am not a fan of contemporary art, I understand its revolutionary change against tradition.

9. Strasbourg-Saint Denis

I first came to this metro stop by myself, and I saw Porte Saint-Denis, another famous arch in Paris. The arch used to be a part of the old city gates of Paris during the medieval period (Pierre, 2016). The gates of the city were dismantled and Louis XIV had them replaced with triumphant arches. Porte Saint-Danis honors Louis XIV’s victory in the Rhine and ​​Franche-Comté. Royalty would also pass through Porte Saint-Denis after attending religious services in the Saint-Denis Basilica to enter Paris (Pierre, 2016). 

Photo of Porte Saint-Denis taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Modern-day Paris used to be smaller than what it is now, as the city had a wall around it that did not incorporate many of the neighborhoods there today. I understand that medieval cities would do this for safety, but it is so fascinating that Porte Saint-Denis was a part of it. Louis XIV’s connection to Porte Saint-Denis is also fascinating to me. Louis XIV had such a large mark on France, way larger than just Versailles. 

10. Barbes Rochechouart

Sacre Coeur is located near this metro stop. At the top of the hill is Sacre Coeur a church named after the sacred heart of Jesus. It was built in the 1800s as a reaction to the secularism of the French revolutionaries. Some of the French revolutionaries were not just secular though; I saw many statues of Jesus with his head cut off throughout my trip. Though I am not Christian, I do feel like beheading Jesus statues is wrong. 

Photo of Sacre Coeur taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Surrounding this church atop a hill is an alternative art scene. Moulin Rouge and a bunch of sex shops are not too far either. I find the stark contrast astonishing. At the same time, when I visited, it seemed that they were able to peacefully coexist with each other.  

Concluding Reflection

Through the over-under project, I was able to see and experience Paris. I saw the close relationship France had with the United States of America and Christianity’s influence on Paris. We discussed the struggle for liberty, equality, and fraternity in France. I learned a lot about myself and became more independent throughout the trip. Art, war, and human rights are not just a part of this class, they are a part of Paris itself.


CBS Miami. (2022, April 22). Miami Rescue Mission: Many Families A Paycheck Away From Being Homeless.; CBS Miami. (2 007, October 17). What are the Hebrew letters on a Jewish headstone? @Chabad.

Georges Danton – Danton’s Committee of Public Safety | Britannica. (2022). In Encyclopædia Britannica.

Les Catacombes De Paris. (2017). Site history. Catacombes.

Not Just Bikes. (2021). Why City Design is Important (and Why I Hate Houston) [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

Pierre. (2016, October 8). The triumphal arch of Porte Saint-Denis in Paris – French Moments. French Moments.

Saint-Eustache. (2022, June 27). Paroisse Saint-Eustache – Au cœur des Halles à Paris. Eglise Saint Eustache.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: France as Text 2022

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Izieu As Text 2022

“I Pray Their Souls Find Peace” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at Izieu on July 10, 2022.

I feel I may not do this justice

Trying to create something to capture genuine shock and horror 

To honor their memories

I did not expect this that day

I had such an emotional reaction at Izieu

To looking out at the beautiful view of mountains

And crying because of how something so beautiful

Can be slaughtered

Beautiful, innocent children

They would learn and play

A peaceful oasis from war

The view from inside the school at Izieu by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0

I think about all that I have not done in my life

All I want to accomplish, to overcome

They did not have the chance to do this 

All ages

Life taken from them

Unable to follow their aspirations

Picture of the children from the museum of Izieu by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

I don’t know how they must’ve felt

Did they panic?

Did their bodies go numb with horror?

Did they know what was going to happen to them?

The children were interrogated

Asked where their parents may be

The Nazis wanted them dead

Why were they obsessed with killing Jews?

Why kill anyone for their identity?

It doesn’t hurt us

It was an honor to speak with Claude Bloch

A man who survived the Holocaust as a teenager

We went to Montluc to see how prisoners had been kept during the War

And what it had been before

And what it had become after

Both Monsieur Bloch and the children of Izieu were prisoners there

Adults, teenagers, children

Because they were Jewish

Amongst political prisoners and Resistance fighters

Ten people crowded in one cell

No privacy

No beds



Jewish males forced to crowd in a shack in the prison

To separate them from non-Jews

Photo of artwork of showers in a concentration camp in the old Gestapo headquarters which is now a Holocaust museum by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0

Does Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité apply to Jews? 

The French Revolution is in direct opposition to Nazism and Colonialism

Yet, Jews, Resistance Fighters, and later, supporters of Algerian independence

Were held like animals in Montluc

Reflecting solitary in a cell at Montluc

What would I do?

Would I try to fight?

Try to escape?

Do I accept my fate?

In the prison

There was a plaque for a girl who died 

Who was the same age as me


Régine Gattegno

She was in the French Resistance and Jewish

She was deported to Sobibor

And murdered upon arrival

Photo of a plaque commemerating Régine Gattegno by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0

Sometimes I think about whether I would survive

And I don’t think I would

Would I have the strength and courage they had?

I don’t know

I will never know

But that does nothing

No one should have to endure these horrors 

Picture of a portrait of Claudine Halaunbrenner who died when she was five years old by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0

Innocent children

Afraid all of the time

Put in the murderous clutches of Nazis

It makes me sick

The names of the children and teachers who the Nazis took from Izieu by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

It’s not just them

There are so many more heartwrenching stories 

I don’t know how much more my heart can take

This was not the first genocide, and it has not been the last. 

I want to discuss these tragedies also, but it doesn’t seem people in power genuinely care

Manipulating what and how we are taught history

Intentionally glorifying or glossing over acts of genocide

The forgotten Tequesta


The Rohingya

The Tutsis

I am sorry for these children

I am sorry for those who died and suffered

For I get to live my life protected and privileged

I feel guilty living happily, for eating, for complaining, for laughing, for enjoying worldly pleasures

Though it is precisely this that Monsieur Bloch wants us to do, as long as we remember to battle extremism

And fight for our peace

Photo of Claude Bloch’s arm and tattoo from the Holocaust by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

It is of utmost importance to protect peace

We can have hatred for those that cause unnecessary suffering

But we should not do the same

An eye for an eye and the world goes blind

Pain is a step toward recovery

But there is so much pain

I don’t pray for me to have peace

I pray for them to have peace 

For their souls to have peace 

I want to protect peace

We must protect peace

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Lyon As Text 2022

“Lyon: Resilience During Persecution” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at Lyon on July 8, 2022.

After writing about Izieu for hours, trying to make it a meaningful and respectful reflection, I find writing about Lyon difficult. Though we did so much in Lyon, it feels strange to write about something that has nothing to do with the Holocaust because that was a major focus of this trip. Our trip to Lyon was physically and emotionally intense, and I would want to write about something happier, but I don’t feel that it would be right.

Lyon was a significant city during World War II. It was the hub for the Resistance against Nazism. Nazis took over Montluc prison and incarcerated Jews, political opposition, and Resistance fighters.

Laurent Vernay is the owner of Hôtel des Célestins, where we stayed while in Lyon. His mother was Denise Vernay, a Resistance fighter who the Nazis imprisoned in Montluc, tortured, and sent to Mauthausen (Jewish Original Media LLC, 2021). His aunt was Simone Veil, a survivor of the Holocaust, former president of the European Parliament, Health Minister, and an influential advocate for women’s bodily autonomy. It was a privilege to get to speak with Laurent personally.

Photo of a plaque of Denise Vernay-Jacob’s story in a Montluc cell by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Though Lyon is beautiful and walkable, it has ugly history beneath the surface. Near where we were staying, there is a memorial to individuals Nazis shot in the street and left there to then eat food in an adjacent cafe after.

Claude Bloch is a French man who survived the Holocaust as a teenager. Nazis murdered his grandfather, then later his mother. He witnessed so much death and endured exhaustion and starvation. Yet, he said he never considered the possibility of dying. He was determined to live.

Photo of artwork of female prisoners doing hard labor in a concentration camp by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Claude Bloch grew up in Lyon. Monsieur Bloch went to school in Lyon. The Nazis took him to Auschwitz from Lyon. He came back to Lyon after the war. He got married and had children in Lyon. He lives there now in the same apartment the Nazis confiscated from his grandmother. He has had such a difficult life, and though he did not have much of a choice, he stayed in Lyon. At age 93, he continues to walk all over Lyon.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to have dinner with Monsieur Bloch. My generation is going to be the last to speak firsthand with survivors of the Holocaust, which added to how meaningful this was for me. I cannot put into words how thankful I feel that I was able to listen to Monsieur Bloch’s story and speak with him directly.

Claude Bloch recounts his experience during the Holocaust sitting next to John Bailly by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

For everything that Monsieur Bloch has been through, he is such a sweet and calm person. I felt comfortable asking him questions about the Holocaust because he believes it is his mission to tell his story so this does not happen again.

I asked Monsieur Bloch how he felt about the future and that I am scared for mine. With far-right Christianity taking over in America and climate change going unaddressed, I am frightened that my generation will suffer and be unable to raise children in such a world. He responded that he is scared too. He emphasized we must stand up to extremism.

It broke my heart to see him walk away, alone. He has experienced so much hardship and loss. His wife died in 2016, and his children live far away. No one deserves to be lonely, especially not him.

He said he found joy after the war through his family and creating the next generation. Being surrounded by people you love is necessary for healing and happiness. But, he is a survivor, and he has strength I cannot even imagine.


Jewish Original Media LLC. (2021, March 7). Passing of Denise Vernay-Jacob, 2013. Jewish Originals; Jewish Originals.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Paris as Text 2022

“Freedom From Religion” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU in Paris July 4, 2022.

Candle offerings lit under a statue of Jesus Christ in Église Saint-Sulpice by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.


The eye of God is upon you

The church watching your every move

A rigid power structure

With God at the top 

With suffering on the bottom

Not from the spiritual being, whatever that may be

But from man

Those that twist it, pervert it

Because of their beliefs

That life is meaningless 

The world is inherently sinful 

Eternal life is what matters

This fucks it up for the rest of us

With no care for what happens here on Earth 

Climate change, war, violence, pestilence, poverty

We all suffer

With threats to accept Jesus 

So that we can go to heaven though our world is burning

Haunting images of Jesus

For us to see his suffering

For us to be compelled to convert

What of the suffering Christians have caused?

I cry for them

I cry for my ancestors 

I cry for the child I may never have

For why would I bring them into such a world?

A disgusting imposition of Christianity on all of us

I am hurt

I didn’t ask for this

I am tired of fighting

Photo of a poster depicting Russia and American Christianity violating a woman’s body by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Before the French Revolution, French monarchs and Christian churches reinforced each other’s power. French monarchs would use Christianity to legitimize their rule, declaring that God had appointed them, and the clergy would use the monarchy to maintain their influence. In 250 AD, Saint-Denis, a French Bishop, was martyred on Montmartre, and he is said to have picked up his head and walked to the Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis, where he then died. The Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis is the final resting place for French royalty (Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis, 2022). 

Picture of the ceiling in Sacré-Cœur which gave me an ominous feeling by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0.

King Louis IX consecrated Sainte-Chapelle in 1248, which was built in his medieval Palais de la Cité (Sainte-Chapelle de Paris, 2022). Sainte-Chappelle is known for its gothic architecture, and it is said to have housed Jesus’s crown of thorns (Paris Tourist and Convention Bureau). Louis IX led crusades against Muslims to gain control of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, which later made him a Saint. He is the only French king to have been made a saint (“How France’s King Louis IX Gained Sainthood Explained | Britannica,” 2022). Christians honor crusaders because of the religious significance of the holy lands, but it simultaneously honors those that kill to spread Christianity, which is also seen in the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere with the crusades and deaths of Muslim soldiers glorified in a mosaic. 

A stained glass window in the lower section of Sainte-Chapelle that looks to be structured like an eye by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Revolutionaries fought against the French monarchy and religious oppression, and the French Republic became very secular as a result. About a hundred years later, the French Third Republic oversaw the construction of Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart), a church built atop Montmarte (Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2022). It was finished in 1919 and was meant as a reaction to the secularism the French Revolution brought (Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2022). 

An angel in front of stained glass in Sacré-Cœur by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

I take issue with the imposition of Christianity on others and its history of violence and oppression. I understand spirituality, but I do not understand why many Christians force others to act according to their worldview. This arrogance and “righteousness” has been the justification for oppression, murder, and genocide for nearly two thousand years. Frankly, I am tired of the perversion of Christianity which seeks to attack and impose. It has caused so much pain. Pain towards Jews, Muslims, indigenous groups, and anyone who is not Christian, and I do not see how a truly loving God would want that. There are good, loving Christians that do not justify evil through their religion, and I want Christians to practice their truth. But I also want that for myself and others. Yes, there is beauty in churches and houses of worship, but I find it hard to separate the beauty from the suffering.


Basilique cathédrale de Saint-Denis. (2022). Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis.

How France’s King Louis IX gained sainthood explained | Britannica. (2022). In Encyclopædia Britannica.

Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. (2022). Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre – Paris tourist office. 

Paris Tourist and Convention Bureau. (2022). Sainte-Chapelle – Office de tourisme Paris.

Sainte-Chapelle de Paris. (2022).

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Versailles As Text 2022

“The Loving Sun” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at Versailles on July 3, 2022.

King Louis XIV portrayed as Apollo/the Sun on the gates of Versailles by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

In 1638, the Sun was born. Louis XIV has radiated his magnificence on us ever since he entered this world. As a child, he suffered a great tragedy when his people threatened his reign and life during the Fronde uprising, where he was forced to pretend to be asleep to save himself. He vowed never to let this happen again as long as he was alive.

Louis XIV expanded his father’s hunting lodge in Versailles, and in 1682, he desired to keep his nobles under a close eye and brought them to Versailles. The Palace of Versailles then became the center of the French government. 

One night, a young Lady DuBuvoir and her mother stood in the Hall of Mirrors as they expected Louis XIV for the night’s dinner celebration.

“Remember to not look directly at the King, darling. It is a serious offense. You mustn’t jeopardize our place here in court.”

“I know Mamon…”

Off in the distance, they saw the Sun king emanate throughout the room. Louis XIV looked unto one of the nobles in the Hall of Mirrors up and down. He simply shook his head and said “No.”

And the noble completely lost his footing. Instantly groveling to the ground, knowing that his life was over, for how could one come back from the King’s disapproval?

In the Hall of Mirrors, everyone silenced as Louis XIV stood in front of his golden throne and tapped his cup with a golden spoon. 

“Good evening. My noblemen, I wanted to thank you for your dedication to France. I, your country, recognize the good you have done for France by joining me here in Versailles. Now, let us commence our festivities.”

And everybody waited for the King to sit before they did. The violins serenaded the nobles and they danced into the night within the palace walls. 

Later in the evening, Lady DuBuvoir decided to take a stroll in the garden to escape the suffocating atmosphere of the court. She crossed Latona’s fountain, seeing the humans becoming frogs as they spoke ill about Latona and her children, Apollo and Diana. 

Latona’s fountain in the gardens of Versailles by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

“What a horror,” she thought.

As she contemplated, a young man took notice of her. 

“Bonsoir, mademoiselle. Are you alright?” He said, putting his hand on her back. She looked back at him, a little startled. 

“Oui, monsieur. I was simply admiring our Highness’s gardens.”

“I hardly believe that. I’m sure you feel it too. The constraints of court. It’s much too annoying to bear.”

“Well… what do you propose we do. There’s a reason the nobles are here. There’s not much we can do.”

“Ah, but I disagree. We shall speak to him in the Hall of Mirrors!”

“What? Are you absolutely mad? That would get you killed!”

“Nonsense. Come with me.”

And he took her hand and ran to the Hall of Mirrors. The King was dancing in the middle of the room, shining unto everyone. The man took to the middle of the hall with Lady DuBuvoir. 

“Everyone, everyone! Please listen here!”

Everyone in the hall looked at them with anxiety, unsure how Louis XIV would react. The man did not care. 

“Everyone, the beautiful Lady DuBuvoir would like to address the court.”

Lady DuBuvoir looked unto the crowd, seeing her mother’s worried and disapproving look. She decided to begin anyway, without care for the consequences. 

“Good evening, everyone, your Highness. I see no enjoyment in the formalities of court. I see a gold-plated palace, a gluttonous display of grandeur and wealth as your people starve. You said, ‘L’Etat c’est moi.’ Tell me then, do you not feel the pain of your people?”

Everybody looked around, shocked, petrified. But the King had an introspective glare upon him. 

Silence filled the room. After a few moments, the King started to speak.

“As your King, I demand respect in court. However, you are correct. L’etat c’est moi. And I must care for the people of France. Guards, bring the peasants in, we have space for them. Let us feed them.”

Surprised, everyone stood in place. After a moment, the Guards set out to find those suffering on the streets. Louis XIV welcomed them into the palace. Noblemen and the King sat alongside the less fortunate and broke bread with them that night in the Hall of Mirrors. The King danced, played games, and laughed with all of his subjects, sharing his luxuries with his people and filling France with love. 

The End.

The above is a short story loosely based on the facts of Louis XIV’s reign. It is an alternate history with fictional characters that would never have realistically happened, but I wanted to imagine an inclusive court at Versailles under Louis XIV because I am fascinated with royal luxury; however, I am saddened by the oppression that came with it. Thus, I wanted to create a story that illustrated an accepting and loving court.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Normandy As Text 2022

Private First Class Benjamin Garadetsky” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU

Private First Class Benjamin Garadetsky in his army uniform, (Gresik, 2020).

Before The War:

Benjamin Barney Garadetsky was born in Zhytomyr, Russia, now modern-day Ukraine, on April 20, 1914, as Boruch Reigorodeczki (Tercatin, 2020). He immigrated to the United States as a child in October 1921, and he lived in the Bronx, New York. His family fled rising anti-Semitic tensions in their town and changed their names to more “American” sounding ones after arriving (Operation Benjamin | Benjamin Garadetsky, 2015). Garadetsky worked in the manufacturing of miscellaneous products before joining the war effort (Find a Grave, 2018).

During The War:

He enlisted in the U.S Army in February 1941 and served in the U.S Army’s 66th Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, known as “Hell on Wheels” (Operation Benjamin | Benjamin Garadetsky, 2015). Upon enlistment, he registered with the National Jewish Welfare Board (Operation Benjamin | Benjamin Garadetsky, 2015). He was shipped out to North Africa, then Sicily, and joined the Allied forces in Normandy for D-Day (Gresik, 2020).

When, Where, How, and Why of Their Passing:

Garadetsky survived the D-Day invasion of France, but he instantly died during a Luftwaffe bombing (Kampeas, 2022). He died on August 23, 1944, at the age of 30 (Kampeas, 2022). 

Telegram of Private First Class Benjamin Garadetsky’s death, (Gresik, 2020).

What His Sacrifice Means to Me:

Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter visited the Normandy American Cemetary and was surprised to see that there were fewer Stars of David than he expected (Tercatin, 2020). He came to find that in the haste of burial and lack of proper documentation, many Jewish soldiers were buried under crosses. Many Jewish soldiers had also removed their dog tags marked with an “H” for “Hebrew”, to not out themselves as Jews in case the Nazis captured them (Kampeas, 2022). About 2.7% of American soldiers who fought during WWII were Jewish. Out of 10,000 graves, only 149 soldiers were buried under a Jewish star. In 2018, Benjamin Garadetsky was the first to have his grave fixed from a cross to a Star of David, leading Schacter to entitle the project “Operation Benjamin” (Tercatin, 2020). Garadetsky’s plot is Plot B Row 14 Grave 6 in the Normandy American Cemetary (Find a Grave, 2018). Fixing Garadetsky’s and other Jewish soldiers’ grave markers is about adequately remembering and honoring the forgotten and those that sacrificed their lives for freedom and justice. It emphasizes the fact that American Jews died for their country, democracy, and human rights. 

Garadetsky sacrificed his life so that I and others could live free. Especially as someone who grew up Jewish, his sacrifice meant that I could have a Bat Mitzvah, which is a coming-of-age ceremony where 12 to 13-year-olds read from the Torah and lead the religious service in order to become a Jewish adult. His sacrifice meant that my sister could have a Bat Mitzvah, which she had this past June. His sacrifice means that my future children can have Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and we can practice Jewish traditions without fear. His sacrifice is meaningful to me as so many other Jewish children were robbed of the opportunity to have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and were murdered for it. Though I do not consider myself religiously Jewish, I feel connected to the customs and traditions such as Shabbat and reading Torah. It can be a very joyous occasion when Jewish prayers are sung. It makes me simultaneously happy and somber when joining together in song and prayer as Jewish people are now able to freely vocalize their traditions, but during WWII, if you simply had Jewish ties, you were murdered. 

His Ukrainian identity is also important to me because of the war Russia has waged against Ukraine. The Russian government and military have been committing human rights atrocities against the Ukrainian people while also encroaching on Ukrainian territory.  Though the Holocaust and the Russia-Ukraine war are different, I am horrified that Russia has committed similar crimes against humanity as images of slaughtered civilians in the streets of Ukraine have surfaced. I am frightened that another World War will commence; however, if it is to protect human rights, then I understand its necessity. Garadetsky’s sacrifice is always important, but it is even more relevant with the war in Ukraine. We must stand up for them so the Ukrainian people no longer suffer. His sacrifice reminds me to stay vigilant and combat those that perpetuate tyranny and genocide.

Benjamin Garadetsky’s corrected gravestone (Gresik, 2020).


Find a Grave. (2018). PFC Benjamin Barney “Boruch” Garadetsky…

Gresik, D. (2020, February 21). How one organization is working to correct cases of Jewish WWII soldiers mistakenly buried under Latin Cross headstones. Military Times; Military Times.

Kampeas, R. (2022, May 2). Jewish soldiers are buried under crosses around the world. A rabbi’s nonprofit is changing that. Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Operation Benjamin | Benjamin Garadetsky. (2015). Operation Benjamin.

Tercatin, R. (2020). Jewish soldiers buried under a cross, mistake fixed 75 years later. The Jerusalem Post |; The Jerusalem Post.

‌Maya Rylke-Friedman: Père Lachaise As Text

“Simone Signoret and Yves Montand” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU

Signoret and Montand posing for a photo (Rawley, 2017).

Signoret and Montand’s story

Simone Signoret and Yves Montand are dubbed the “mythical couple of French cinema” (Figaro avec AFP, 2021). Both are iconic celebrities in film. They have a taboo start to their relationship as Signoret was married to Yves Allégret and had a daughter, Catherine Allégret, with him when she met Montand in Saint-Paul de Vence in August 1949 (Office De Tourisme St Paul de Vence, 2017). Fun fact: Yves Montand would frequently play ​​pétanque there, the same game we saw people playing in the square de la place Dauphine. She divorced Allégret and married Montand in 1951 (Office De Tourisme St Paul de Vence, 2017). 

Montand was born in Italy, and he was named Ivo Livi. His family fled Italy as Mussolini rose to power ‌(Riding, 1991). He grew up in a working-class family and was discovered by Edith Piaf whom he dated (Riding, 1991). He became known as Yves Montand when he became a singer and actor thereafter.

Simone Signoret was born on March 25, 1921, and Montand was born on October 13, 1921 (Simone Signoret – IMDb, n.d.). Signoret’s father was Jewish, and he fled France and went to England during the Nazi occupation (Simone Signoret – IMDb, n.d.) During this time, Signoret kept her mother’s maiden name and worked without a permit, so that she would be safe from the Nazis (Simone Signoret – IMDb, n.d.). This is interesting because though I am vocal about my Judaism, I did not specifically choose Signoret for this reason. I simply stumbled upon this fact, and it is astounding that her story ties back to World War II and Judaism.

Signoret worked as an extra for many productions before rising to stardom (Simone Signoret – IMDb, n.d.). Signoret’s first major role was in Dédée d’Anvers, where she played a prostitute who falls in love with a man and tries to escape her profession (Dédée d’Anvers – IMDb, n.d.).  The Crucible was Montand’s and Signoret’s first movie together (Ossona, 2020). Signoret won an Oscar in April 1960 for Les Chemins de la Haute Ville (Room at the Top) (Simone Signoret – IMDb, n.d.). Yves Montand had an affair with Marilyn Monroe while filming “Let’s Make Love” in the 1960s (Carvalho, 2022). However, Montand and Signoret did not separate after this. 

When they became famous celebrities, Signoret and Montand wanted visas to enter the United States as Montand was a singer and he wanted to perform there. However, because of their progressive politics, they were barred from receiving one during the McCarthy Era. They did obtain visas in 1960 (Simone Signoret – IMDb, n.d.).

Les Diaboliques movie poster (Morgan, 2017).

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Signoret performed in Les Diaboliques, which has an iconic twist. It was a classic movie from the 1950’s shot in black and white.  Essentially, a schoolteacher inherited a school, and her husband is the principal. Her husband has a mistress, played by Signoret, and she is friends with the schoolteacher. The husband is verbally and physically abusive, so Signoret’s character persuades the schoolteacher to poison her husband. 

The schoolteacher is overcome with guilt, and there are supernatural sightings of her husband on school grounds. (Spoiler Alert) One night, she finds her husband in her bathtub and dies from the shock. However, it turns out that Signoret’s character and the husband were in on it the whole time and wanted the schoolteacher to go crazy and die from guilt, so they could live together and inherit the school.

L’Aveu movie poster (SensCritique, n.d.).

L’Aveu (1970)

L’Aveu, (The Confession) was a film about a Czechoslovakian politician, Gérard, played by Montand, and his wife played by Signoret. Gérard is taken by the Czech police who torture and interrogate him. They try to make him confess treasonous behavior, but he maintains his innocence. The officials deprive him of rest and food. They make him walk in his cell for hours, repeat his life story countless times, and relentlessly attempt to coerce him into implicating himself. He is put on trial with other politicians, and most of them are sentenced to death, except for him and a few others. This film criticizes communist governments during the Cold War Era. Clearly, Signoret and Montand were not just artists, but they were passionate about politics. Through this movie, they were advocating against communism. 

Monstrous Character

However, it must be said that Montand and Signoret, while glamorous, have been rumored to be monstrous. According to Signoret’s grandson, Benjamin Castaldi, Signoret and Montand “were extraordinary [. But,] they could be monsters of selfishness and sometimes wickedness” (Figaro avec AFP, 2021). In 2004, Signoret’s daughter, Catherine Allégret, accused Montand of having abused her (Figaro avec AFP, 2021).

Signoret died of cancer on September 30, 1985 (Figaro avec AFP, 2021). Montand died of a heart attack ‌on November 9, 1991 (Riding, 1991).

My Personal Connection

I am pretty sure I have some sort of anxiety disorder. While I am usually vocal during class, I do get nervous in social situations and while presenting and performing. This is an anxiety that I want to work on and that I want to overcome. I want to conquer my fear of performing in front of others because I love film and music. Signoret’s and Montand’s legacy has encouraged me to be more confident, to maintain being an advocate for human rights, no matter the career field I end up in, and to be a genuine person throughout my life’s journey. After everything we’ve been through, the physical, mental, and emotional struggles we have experienced during this trip have helped me feel more confident and inspired me to conquer my fears and follow my dreams like Signoret and Montand did.


Carvalho, L. (2022, March 25). Simone Signoret et Yves Montand : comment se sont-ils rencontrés ?;

Dédée d’Anvers – IMDb. (n.d.). IMDb. Retrieved July 28, 2022, from

Figaro avec AFP. (2021, March 25). Signoret-Montand, le couple mythique du cinéma français aurait cent ans. LEFIGARO.

Morgan. (2017, February 5). LES DIABOLIQUES | Critique du film d’Henri-Georges Clouzot. LE BLEU DU MIROIR | Critiques Cinématographiques.

Office De Tourisme St Paul de Vence. (2017). Yves Montand & Simone Signoret – Saint-Paul de Vence. Saint-Paul de Vence.’s,with%20his%20guitarist%20Henri%20Crolla.

Ossona, J. (2020, August 3). SIMONE SIGNORET AND YVES MONTAND’S TRUE LOVE IN 10 PHOTOGRAPHS. Califorjay; Califorjay. https:/

Rawley, L. (2017, March 13). France Through the Lens of Richard Avedon. The Cut; The Cut.

Riding, A. (1991, November 10). Yves Montand, Sage Charmer of French Film and Politics, Dies at 70 (Published 1991). The New York Times.

SensCritique. (n.d.). L’Aveu.

Simone Signoret – IMDb. (n.d.). IMDb.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Declaration 2022

“Abigail”- Maya Rylke-Friedman


Abigail died in Paris trying to gain her freedom (Jones, 2021). Abigail was a slave to Sarah Livingston, who married John Jay in 1774 (Benton & Peters, 2018). John Jay was one of America’s Founding Fathers, a Governor of New York, and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Benton & Peters, 2018). Abigail traveled to France with the Jay family in 1783. John Jay along with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams signed the Treaty of Paris, which settled the American Revolutionary War, freeing the United States from Britain. Abby was said to be a very attentive servant, but there are few records of her. Historians and the public have no inclination of what Abby may have looked like, either tall or short, slim or round. Abby went with the Jay family to Paris while they were officially marking America’s independence. While there, Abby had befriended a washerwoman who promised to employ and pay her. One day, Abby left the Jay residence and never returned. Sarah Jay pleaded with Benjamin Franklin for the police to search for her, and Benjamin Franklin’s nephew, Temple Franklin, requested that the police find Abby, though at that time France did not recognize slavery and had no reason to recapture a slave (JEFF HAWKES Staff, 2008). When the police found her, they sent her to La Petite Force, where she stayed there, fell ill, and died (Jones, 2021).

The remaining walls of La Petite Force, where Abigail was imprisoned.
(Jones, 2021).

When Abby was thrown into jail she was given the choice of staying in prison or returning to her mistress, Sarah Jay. Abby chose to stay in prison. Why would she choose to stay in jail where conditions were most certainly worse than living with the Jay family? Perhaps because in both senses, she was unfree. Perhaps she rathered dying in prison not as a slave, as opposed to living owned by someone else. 

Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, is an African-American woman who journeyed to Paris to discover more of Abigail’s life and legacy. She looked for her grave, but the cemetery where she is possibly buried no longer exists. There is no monument to Abigail in Paris, nor are there many memorials to slavery in general. In the Jardin du Luxembourg, there is a sculpture named Le Cri, l’Écrit (The Cry, the Writing), which has the word “libre” (free) engraved in it and acknowledges France’s role in perpetuating slavery. Each year on May 10, France pays tribute to the enslaved and their struggle for freedom and rights. They honor those who were enslaved as among France’s founders. While this is a positive step for those who were enslaved and discriminated against, it is still long overdue for Abigail and the many people like her (Jones, 2021).

Slavery and Racism

Though John Jay was the owner of many slaves like Abigail, he was also said to be a fierce advocate for abolition and justice. Horace Greeley, a journalist, reported in 1854 that “to Chief Justice Jay may be attributed, more than to any other man, the abolition of Negro bondage in this state” (Benton & Peters, 2018). However, can a slaveholder such as John Jay be a genuine advocate for abolition? It seems to be highly paradoxical. Jay was one of the founders of the New York Manumission Society and wrote in their founding document, “it is our duty, therefore, both as free citizens and Christians, not only to regard with compassion the injustice done to those among us who are held as slaves, but to endeavor by lawful ways and means to enable them to share equally with us, in that civil and religious liberty with which an indulgent Providence has blessed these States, and to which those, our brethren are, by nature, as much entitled as ourselves” (Benton & Peters, 2018). How can a man who seemed to be against slavery and for freedom and abolition be such a hypocrite and not only own slaves, but imprison and punish them? Could that just have been the times?

Portrait of John Jay
(Episode 055: Robb Haberman, John Jay: Forgotten Founder, 2015).

The French slave trade was the third largest behind the Portuguese and the British (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2022). The French took about 1,318,000 Africans as slaves during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The French sent most of their slaves to Caribbean colonies (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2022).

France formally abolished slavery in 1794 (Collins, 2020). Saint-Domingue, a French colony in the Caribbean, received many slaves and had a large plantation economy. Toussaint Louverture was enslaved on a sugar plantation but was later emancipated. He led a slave revolt and defeated the French, Spanish and British. Louverture authored an abolitionist constitution for Saint-Domingue stating that “here, all men are born, live, and die free and French.” He emphasized French identity for Haitians. Some hold Loverture and Haitian revolutionaries as some of the ultimate Lumières who took ideals of “liberté, égalité, and fraternité further than their European contemporaries were willing or able to, and envisioning, with racial equality” (Collins, 2020). Additionally, Toussaint Louverture “embodied the ideals of the French Revolution and, then, the Haitian Revolution, which inspired the modern anti-colonial movement all over the world, France has not seen him and his fight as indispensable elements of its national narrative” (Collins, 2020).

Painting of Toussaint Louverture
(1000Museums, 2020).

Napoleon Bonaparte later overpowered Louverture and reinstated slavery in Haiti, however, Haitians rose up and established Haiti as the world’s first free Black republic (Collins, 2020). In 1825 France imposed a massive debt on Haiti to pay because of the war damages and to compensate former slaveholders. How does this act encapsulate the ideals of the French Revolution? Would not Frenchmen have these ideas fresh in their minds and not punish another country for gaining independence of their own?

 France and the United States are uncomfortably bound together in the brutality of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Many French officials are eager to glorify their struggle for human rights, yet they ignore the history of slavery. While the American and French Revolutions were idealistic movements regarding human rights expansion, they overlooked so many groups of people. Much of Europe and America’s history is whitewashed, failing to mention slavery and the struggles of people of color (Jones, 2021). 

Shying Away

There are exhibits, monuments, and plaques dedicated to the memory of the Founding Fathers such as the site of Hôtel d’York, where John Jay, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin finalized the Treaty of Paris. There is a museum in Paris that had a detailed exhibit dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, with no mention of Abigail. Researcher, Amanda Kemp, flew to Paris, advocating for the exhibit to convey the whole picture: the great, historic accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin, but also the struggles of countless slaves. Kemp wanted to pay homage to Abby and her fight for freedom. Since Abby was not included in the exhibit, Kemp recited Abby’s story to museumgoers on the sidewalk. This was the first time many people heard about Abby and her story. Kemp says that she does not do this simply for scholarly honesty, but also a “desire to heal. The wound of slavery has an ongoing legacy, but we’re stuck because we haven’t fully known our past” (JEFF HAWKES Staff, 2008).

In 2001, French lawmakers passed the Taubira Law, which labeled the slave trade and slavery as “crimes against humanity” and mandated that school curriculums include it (Collins, 2020). Years after the law was passed, France’s education system saw major progress in updating its historiography, training educators, and revising textbooks. However, these reforms faced opposition as seen in 2005 when the French legislature required schools to emphasize the “positive role” of colonialism. This measure was later rescinded. In 2006, Former President Jacques Chirac instituted an annual commemoration of slavery. He also had a nonbinding suggestion for lycée, French secondary school, to teach about Haitian independence, which while a positive suggestion, is not as effective as mandating it. However, Chirac gave a speech “invoking Louverture alongside such figures of resistance as Solitude, Cimendef, and Dimitile. ‘Too few French people know these names, … However, they are part of the history of France’” (Collins, 2020). Jean-Marc Ayrault, a former Prime Minister of France, said, “when we discuss the history of slavery, we get the impression that we should almost apologize for talking about it” (Collins, 2020). This climate of slavery being a taboo subject is destructive and detrimental to healing the wounds of it and the discrimination that continues. Marc Lienafa, a teacher of history and geography at a vocational high school near Caen believes that “to put a veil on this colonial history is to nourish resentments and to encourage people to withdraw into identity” (Collins, 2020). 

Paris lacks sufficient memorials to slavery. Former French President, François Hollande, said that “France has a memory of abolition, but not of slavery” (McAuley, 2016). France still has many institutional links to slavery. This lack of acknowledgment has created a great amount of resentment among French-Africans because there is a larger presence of Holocaust remembrance than slavery (McAuley, 2016).

Le Cri, l’Ecrit sculpture
(Flickr, 2022).

Former President Hollande stated, “When it comes to slavery, we don’t teach the same history to all the children of France,” (Collins, 2020). An average French pupil completes his/her high-school education without learning much about France’s history of slave-holding and the Haitian revolution for independence. This is similar to America’s struggle with coming to terms with its slaveholding past and teaching about it in schools. 

The governor of Florida, Ronald DeSantis, has been pushing legislation that prohibits the discussion of “sensitive” topics such as racism and sexual orientation. Many people across America have been debating whether or not public schools should include lessons about Critical Race Theory (CRT). However, many individuals have no idea what CRT is. Many parents think that CRT is teaching white children to hate the fact they are white and to hate America. However, this is most definitely not true, and there are vast amounts of misinformation circulating. Critical Race Theory is a graduate-level concept that racism is embedded in legal systems and policies, and not necessarily in individuals (LastWeekTonight, 2022). Thus, grade-school children will not be learning CRT, but by banning this concept, students and teachers will not be able to confront and speak honestly about America’s racist history and how that has continued to affect individuals today. Advocates for CRT want America to be the equal and harmonious society it has been idealized to be. Some believe that CRT is going to dismantle the United States Constitution and patriotism.

America: Land I Love history textbook
(America: Land I Love Digital Textbook, 2019)

Voucher schools trace back to Brown v. Board of Education when schools were becoming desegregated, and white families wanted to move their children to segregated schools. Florida has tax revenue that goes towards these voucher schools (LastWeekTonight, 2022). These schools typically offer a sanitized version of United States History. For instance, there was a history textbook entitled America: Land I Love which downplayed the horrors of slavery (LastWeekTonight, 2022). DeSantis has been advocating for the Stop Woke Act, which would prohibit discussion that may make students feel uncomfortable, guilty, or anguish because of their race or sex in public schools, which essentially means students cannot discuss slavery and racism because that can make white children uncomfortable. The Stop Woke Act would give parents the right to sue if their child is being taught CRT. However, we should not ban these conversations. We should learn how to have them better. Jean-Marc Ayrault warns, “when we evade these questions, when we hide them, when we forget them, there’s a risk that they resurge…If we try to cover up this history, it comes back and it often comes back in a more violent manner” (Collins, 2020).

My Connection to This Subject

Many individuals including myself think of the white people that made France what it is, but there are countless people of color whose stories have not been widely shared that have molded France. After learning about Abigail’s life, it is saddening that she does not have a last name, and if she did, it would be that of her slave owners. I do not want Abigail to just be defined as a slave because I am sure that she and many others like her would like to be remembered for their inner complexities as well as their collective struggle for freedom. 

Because of Abigail’s life and strife for freedom, and many others like her, individuals cannot own others as their property. She demonstrated that people of color, females of color, and everyone, in general, deserve to have their autonomy, opportunities, and the right to life, liberty, and happiness.

Race and slavery have been sensitive topics for years, but the opposition to talking about such subjects is severely detrimental. Children and adults alike should have exposure to honest conversations about the reality of slavery, racism, and colonialism. Otherwise, stories like Abigail’s will be brushed over, ignored, and forgotten about. 


America: Land I Love Digital Textbook. (2019). Abeka.

Benton, N., & Peters, J. (2018). Slavery and the Extended Family of John Jay – New York Slavery Records Index.

Collins, L. (2020, December 3). The Haitian Revolution and the Hole in French High-School History. The New Yorker; The New Yorker.

Episode 055: Robb Haberman, John Jay: Forgotten Founder. (2015, November 10). Ben Franklin’s World.

Flickr. (2022, April 25). Flickr; Fabrice HYBER – Le cri, l’écrit | Paris – Jardin du Luxembou… | Flickr.

‌JEFF HAWKES Staff. (2008, April 15). A life hidden in shadows of slavery, revealed. LancasterOnline.

Jones, M. (2021, November 23). Enslaved to a Founding Father, She Sought Freedom in France. The New York Times.

LastWeekTonight. (2022). Critical Race Theory: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

McAuley, J. (2016, May 28). France confronts slavery, a demon of its past. Washington Post; The Washington Post.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. (2022). French Slave Trade | Slavery and Remembrance.

1000Museums. (2020, November 24). Portrait of Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803). 1000Museums.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Miami as Text 2022

Photograph taken by Tess Rylke-Friedman | Canon Camera

Maya Rylke-Friedman is a sophomore at Florida International University. She is studying Social Work and International Relations. With a passion for advocacy, she hopes to work for various non-profits and the government to achieve her vision of universal basic needs coverage. She seeks to implement policies that foster happy, productive, affordable, and sustainable communities. As a hobby, she loves film and making some of her own. Perhaps one day she will combine both passions to document the process of establishing and living in sustainable communities as climate change becomes an ever-increasing crisis.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Deering as Text 2022

“Let Them Rest in Peace” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at the Deering Estate on January 28, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Maya Rylke-Friedman | iPhone 7 Plus Camera

A Historical Conservatory

The Deering Estate is a beautiful place with rich history and respect for nature. Visiting this place was enlightening, as I had not known that much about it at all. It was interesting to see that the Deering family had such a large influence on Miami from the 1920s to now. This family was white and wealthy, made rich by the industrial revolution and machinery manufacturing business. Both James Deering and Charles Deering were highly educated. Charles Deering had estates in France and Spain, and he knew both French and Spanish. Deering wanted to recreate the villas he had in Europe in Miami due to his inability to safely travel to Europe because of World War I.


During my visit to the Deering Estate, Professor Bailly highlighted a theme that is deeply rooted in the history of the Deering Estate: erasing the people who lived and worked on that site. Archeologists found the oldest human remains in all of Southeast Florida there at the Deering Estate. These were prehistoric people from 10,000 years ago, who have no name from historians. Then, still, hundreds of years ago, an indigenous tribe called the Tequesta lived in what is now Miami-Dade county.

The Deering Estate was built during a period of intense racial segregation. Most of the workers who built the Deering Estate were black Bahamians, and the working conditions were abysmal. Five Bahamian workers died in a dynamite explosion while trying to blow out the water basin that leads to Biscayne Bay. The deaths of these men have no memorial at the estate. While slavery was illegal at that time, the policies of segregation kept much of the abuse and poor working conditions very much alive. It seems that most of Miami was built on exploitation for the white and wealthy to enjoy.

Capitalism baby

The Tequesta and other tribes would walk along old Cutler road, which is located on the Deering Estate, to trade and travel. They would drink from the freshwater mangrove forests and care for the land. This tribe along with others had vibrant communities in not just the Miami area, but all throughout America, and they should not be erased or forgotten. Due to American capitalism and development, Americans bulldoze over our geographic ancestors. Conversely, in France, they pride themselves on their geographic ancestors. They recognize and appreciate that the people there before them were the guardians of the same land.

The irony of the Deering Estate is that this highly educated and wealthy white man lived in luxury in Miami, where the town was primarily made up of people of color. Additionally, his home was built on the backs of Bahamians, that have received very little recognition for their labor. Not to mention, they could not enjoy that same type of luxury themselves. While the Deering Estate is a beautiful conservatory mixed with luxury, to me, it is tainted by the erasure of the people who lived on that property first and the people who built the estate.

I Love My Country

I found it compelling that Professor Bailly had to preface that he loved his country, America, before pointing out the injustices that have not been remedied here. It should be justifiable to hold everyone accountable without it being seen as unappreciative or hateful. Many conservatives like to perpetuate the myth that no one lived in America before the English and Spanish colonized it by excluding them from any kind of recognition. Though the Deering Estate is grand and luxurious, it is not representative of Miami.

Nature Remembers Them

In the wood of the Deering Estate lies a massive tree. 450 years ago, the Tequesta lay their dead in a circle and covered them with sand as they could not dig their graves. It is said that this burial led to the birth of this magnificent tree, as the soil had an abundance of nutrients. Their deaths brought beauty and life, and the tree commemorates their souls. Though people come and go, live and die, we should take it upon ourselves to remember them and honor their legacy. Let them rest in peace.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Vizcaya as Text 2022

“Vizcaya and The Sun King” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at Vizcaya on February 18, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Maya Rylke-Friedman | iPhone 7 Plus Camera

The Architecture of Vizcaya

The architecture of a building, estate, or city indicates much about the character of the people who designed them and the people who live there. Though James Deering is of Northern European descent, his estate is in the Mediterranean revival style, incorporating Italian, French, and Spanish influences. It seems perfect that such a villa would exist here, as the Mediterranean climate is similar to the tropical climate of Miami. Like his brother, Charles Deering, James Deering was a nature conservationist. The way the estate sits on the land alongside the brush is intentional as natural curtains, meant to frame the main house. The true front entrance of the estate faces Biscayne Bay, welcoming the ships that would dock there. The flooring in the front entrance and the side room leading to the gardens has intricate flooring with geometric circles that guide your feet and eyes inwards to the courtyard. As architecture has grown modern, there seems to have been a loss of character, of a symbiotic relationship with nature. Typically, the wealthy enjoy natural beauty even in the most artificial of environments, cities, while the poor are pushed out further from it. Not to mention, the poor and non-white would work tirelessly to create these grand structures, just to be unwelcome after completion.

The Sun King

During our tour, family and friends of the bride and groom exited the bus. They passed us by, chanting and celebrating. While taking in the splendor, I could not help but feel guilty, given the history of racial segregation behind Vizcaya. Seeing the bride and groom photographed in the gardens and the whimsical alter surrounded by massive oak trees astonished me. I thought, “I would like that too,” though I think it would feel wrong to celebrate in such a place. However, James Deering would most certainly disagree. Vizcaya was his palace of pleasure. He emphasized leisure, art, and wine. The back entrance of the home is still immensely grand, and a sculpture of Bacchus, the Roman God of ecstasy and wine, stands in the entry. He adopted a carefree lifestyle with a glass of wine in hand and a cigarette in the other, all the while people were suffering outside the palace walls. James Deering thought of himself as an explorer and discoverer of the new world. Not only this, but he almost thought himself a king, a deity as he had “J’ai dit,” engraved in a stained glass window, essentially stating “Let there be Vizcaya.” James Deering seemingly emulated Versailles and King Louis XIV, not just through behavior, but through the rococo features and maze-like gardens of the estate.

Grandeur and the People

I feel that James Deering’s overly-indulgent grandeur would have been better served and more enjoyable if all types of people could have part-taken in it. There has been a longstanding theme of the wealthy not wanting to share any of their wonders, but I believe that one of the parts of achieving an authentic and fulfilling life is through breaking bread with those with backgrounds different from yourself. Aime ton prochain.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: Miami as Text 2022

“Pioneers and the Forgotten” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU in Downtown Miami on March 11, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Maya Rylke-Friedman | iPhone 7 Plus Camera


Miami’s history contains a diversity of people, cultures, and architecture. Julia Tuttle owned land in present-day Miami and forged a deal with Henry Flagler to build a railroad that would connect Miami to the rest of the country. She conceived the initiative to incorporate and develop the areas surrounding the Miami River, making her the first woman to found a city.


Henry Flagler helped incorporate the city of Miami with his railroads and hotels. The men that essentially built Miami were Black laborers, and they could not enjoy the fruits of their creation as Flagler segregated them to “Colored Town”, though the first registered citizen of Miami was a person of color, Silas Austin.

There is the beautiful story of William Wagner’s homestead. Wagner fell in love with Eveline Aimar, a Haitian-Creole immigrant during a time of deep racial bigotry. He settled along the Miami River with his family and established friendships with the Seminoles. Near the relocated homestead, there are former slave quarters turned army barracks called Fort Dallas. Despite the story of Wagner, racial injustice has been a reoccurring theme throughout the pioneer and modern age of Miami history.


Henry Flagler initiated the pollution of the Miami River with waste from the Royal Palm Hotel. The Miami River used to thrive with fresh and clean water, which has since become dark and dirty. Miami has been faced with serious water consequences from not only the river, but also rising sea levels as industries, governments, and people disregard the need to protect our environment.


As various peoples have gained and lost control of Miami, the architecture has morphed. Once a beautiful natural landscape, industrial development brought domineering, phallic buildings. The Government Center, the Miami-Dade Courthouse, and even the Freedom Tower (formerly The Miami News Office) are tall, rectangular structures that I feel reinforce a patriarchal and industrial atmosphere.


A former Tequesta village is now a dog park in Miami. While it is fascinating that their artifacts such as ceramics, home foundations, and tools have been recovered here, there is no plaque to remember them. There is a statue that is supposed to emulate a Tequesta, but it has no mark explaining what it is.

Flagler knowingly destroyed a Tequesta burial mound but is honored in various ways in Miami via statues and street names. Similarly, Miami-Dade County was named after the defeated military commander, Major Francis Langhorne Dade, who led his men into an ambush from the Seminoles. A plaque on the Miami-Dade Courthouse contains offensive language as it frames the ambush as a massacre by the “Indians” and “Negroes”. With that, Miami is still glorifying bigoted men, with no movement to denounce their beliefs, and forgetting those that were here first.

Modern Day People of Miami

Do we remember the women who established modern Miami? Do we remember the people of color who built Miami from the ground up? Do we remember the Tequesta and Seminoles who lived here before us? Do we honor each and every one of their legacies?

If it were not for this class, I am not sure I would know the true history of Miami. I do not think that the people of Miami know it either, and that is partly because the city does not do enough to commemorate the lives of those who made Miami their own. This was not our land, the least we can do is honor those that came before us, and not shut out Miami’s rich history.

Maya Rylke-Friedman: SoBe as Text 2022

“A Vibrant Miami Beach” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU in South Beach on April 1, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Maya Rylke-Friedman | iPhone 7 Plus Camera


I am fascinated with the architectural character and planning of cities. I find it a shame that the Art Deco style did not continue to be developed, though I know some find it impractical. People can simply make more money by building bigger and taller units, not the quaint 3 story buildings that are characteristic of Miami Beach. But I feel that the walkability, bike-ability, and the balance of nature and city are important characteristics of a good city to take away from Miami Beach. Its Art Deco architecture makes Miami Beach almost more quaint than downtown Miami. I like the simplicity and squareness of Art Deco. Though it is angular, it features fun, round accents. We must thank Barbara Baer, another remarkable woman of Miami history, as she conserved Miami Beach’s historic architecture and saved it from the unremarkable Condo Canyon.

History and Identity

To say that Miami Beach perfectly preserves nature alongside a city environment would be incorrect, however, because Miami Beach developers, one being Carl Fisher, destroyed vital mangrove forests that were naturally located there. Historians stated that Miami Beach was a wasteland, though it most definitely was not. To say this is irresponsible and ignorant because many different types of people lived here including Africans, Afro-Bahamians, The Tequesta, and Seminoles. Jewish people also came to inhabit Miami Beach, but like many of the Africans, Afro-Bahamians, and indigenous population, they too were discriminated against. Homosexuals later came to Miami Beach as well and created a prominent community there.

Respect and Remembrance

After reading, listening, and watching so many stories of hatred and loss for this class, we must acknowledge that so many different groups in Miami and globally have suffered and continue to suffer. We must remember their presence and their struggles, and act against the suffering that is being inflicted upon them.

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