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Programs and Events 2010

A Promise Fulfilled: Ambassador Rivkin Brings Hollywood to the Banlieue

April 13, 2010

On April 13, Ambassador Rivkin, Ms. Tolson, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and his wife LaTanya Jackson, met with a group of youth in the suburb of Bondy.  Mr. Jackson spoke to the group about his life experiences and provided inspiration to the youth. He talked of his boyhood in southern Tennessee, commenting that he grew up as a second-class citizen, but through education and hard work he persevered so he was ready when opportunities came.  “No one can take away your education,” he said.  He also told the group of 50 youth that they had the potential to change things, using their power as voters and consumers to make their voices heard.  The reaction from the group was overwhelmingly positive.  One participant said, “It is a lesson of hope and that gives us the energy to keep going.  Come on, take risks.  Yes we can!” 

Ambassador Rivkin invited Samuel Jackson to accompany him to Bondy following his April 2 visit to La Courneuve, where he asked the French youth with whom he met to name their favorite stars, promising to try to bring one to the banlieue.  In the words of one of the participants in both events, “Mr. Ambassador, I respect you… I was in La Courneuve when you promised to bring an international star. We mentioned Samuel Jackson without really believing it. And I see you have kept your word.” 

The Embassy has organized three visits to the suburbs for Ambassador Rivkin so far, and plans additional visits in the future.  On his visit to Villiers Le Bel in September, Ambassador Rivkin inaugurated a mural that was painted as a result of collaboration between the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project and local artists.  In La Courneuve he met with a group of youth and attended a performance of “Ain’t Misbehavin” staged by students from McDonough High School in New Orleans who were invited to perform at the 27th annual Banlieues Bleues festival.  In Bondy, the Ambassador and Mr. Jackson held their meeting at the offices of the Bondy Blog, created after the 2005 riots to chronicle daily life and news in the suburbs, and visited Bondy’s mural, also sponsored by the Embassy Mural Arts Project.  During each visit, Ambassador Rivkin has met with youth leaders and discussed the United States, democracy, and the hopes and dreams of the youth.  Asked if he takes a special interest in the banlieue, he has said that he takes an interest in all of France, not just Paris, and finds a tremendous amount of energy and talent among young people in the banlieue.