Hot Tempers in Avignon

Bintou

I was trying to stall the bus driver with fragments of bad French and Joe was running across the parking lot to find Mame when I heard someone shout my name.

I looked around, but couldn’t see who had called me. The bus driver took my distraction as an opportunity to pull the folding doors closed and step on the gas, leaving me halfway off the sidewalk. When the bus cleared off, I saw Mame across the street, leaning out of a taxi.

“Kaytie, viens! Hurry!”

I hesitated, knowing that Joe wouldn’t know where we were. After a long day that began with getting locked out of our hotel in Avignon and having to lug around camera equipment and a sick baby Malik under the hot summer sun of southern France, we had split up to find the fastest way home; Mame went to the taxi stop to see if one would arrive before the bus, and Joe and I waited at the bus station. But the bus came early and apparently Mame had managed to get a taxi at exactly the same time. So now we were all over the place.

“Kaytie, now!”

I ran across the road. Why was she so urgent?

When I got closer to the taxi, I heard the driver yelling at her. I couldn’t make out all of it, but it was something about how it was against the rules to pick up other people, that he couldn’t believe this sh*t, how she needed to get back in the car.

But when he saw me, he stopped. Not immediately, and he certainly didn’t apologize, but he cooled down from his tirade to a venomous simmer.

Fortunately, Joe came running shortly after me, and we all piled in the taxi. I asked Mame what the driver’s problem was, and she said he was mad because she asked him to pick us up, which was “against the rules.”

“But notice how he stopped yelling when you two arrived?” Mame asked, a big smile on her face, balancing a squirming baby Malik as he climbed all over her and the taxi.

And that’s how Mame almost always deals with racist microaggressions. She waves it off with a smile and a laugh, and usually adds something like, “Aren’t people crazy?” She moves on.

Meanwhile, I was in the passenger seat, boiling. “But this is unacceptable, Mame! We shouldn’t pay for this taxi,” I argued. “He can’t treat you that way!”

“Kaytie, I’m already past it,” she laughed. “I am thinking about how to get this crazy baby to sleep and give him his medicine and if I need to buy more diapers. I can’t let this bother me. I’m already gone.”

And so I dropped it.

The women we interviewed in these past two weeks of production shared similar stories. Elizabeth told us about how people never assume she’s the owner of her art gallery; they always ask if she’s one of the artists, or a secretary. Bintou is always introduced at conferences as a “black choreographer,” never just a choreographer. And Fati was hesitant to say anything controversial, because her Franco-Senegalese food truck just started a new branch in Paris’s business district, and she didn’t want to risk gaining any sort of notoriety.

But even in light of all these unfortunate reminders of why this documentary is so necessary, I was also uplifted and inspired by these women. Each one was pursuing her dreams with high hopes and tenacity, succeeding in spite of those who expect her to fail.

I’m back in the States now, and post-production starts straightaway. I can’t wait to dig into the footage we captured and weave together these amazing stories, and I’m looking forward to sharing those stories with you.

Learn more about my project.

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