She was mesmerizing. The very embodiment of liberation. Sexual…Political. Financial. Free… Josephine Baker taught desire to a colonized world. Her face, a masterclass. And her body – a disruption. At the dawn of silent films, her success rang in a renaissance, the jazz age – modernity itself.
French women literally hurt themselves trying to achieve the Josephine Baker look. Shellacked hair. Copper skin. She was the most photographed woman in the world. And the most highly paid. A global superstar, yet – when she came home -Time Magazine called her a “buck-toothed negro wench.” Never tolerate less than you deserve – she never did.
Josephine Baker renounced her citizenship from America at the height of Jim Crow, refused to sing in front of segregated audiences, and once made a citizen’s arrest of a white man in a dinner who was uncomfortable with her Blackness. Never settle. Be bigger, wilder, funnier, fuller, smarter, and more you.
So today, we go beyond her banana skirt to understand exactly how Josephine Baker lived bravely. So bravely that Hitler’s Gestapo raided her home. So bravely that she earned the highest military honor in France. Josephine Baker was a war hero, an icon, a fearless Black woman. Truly free. And for that, her name should be written in the stars. We dedicate today’s walk to her.
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