AAWE News

Your clubhouse in your mailbox!

The News is AAWE’s quarterly print magazine. The News seeks to gather and reflect the dynamism of AAWE. Each issue involves the contribution of over 50 members, including the News staff, writers, photographers, and artists.

The Mission of AAWE News is to:

  • Help members to know their Association, as well as to know their fellow members
  • Explore the heart of bicultural life
  • Stimulate involvement in our community
  • Keep members up-to-date by covering events and initiatives
  • Involve as many members as possible
  • Serve as a platform for creative expression

In the words of our Editor: "The News is a platform to share our talent...and insights, and projects, and experiences, and ideas. And it is on paper! Yes. With a shelf life, a distinct smell, and glossy pages to touch and turn. The News is a feast for the eyes that doesn't involve incessant blue back light, but rather the soft light of a dove grey Paris sky. And may I add that you can read it safely in the bathtub, and access it deep in a metro tunnel?!"

 

Communicate with the American Community in France - Advertise

How did the Festival d’Ambleny come into being? Well, it began with an informal conversation between my husband Yvan, mayor of Ambleny at the time, and our Dutch jazz musician neighbor. Their idea was to bring jazz bands to a rural area where jazz was rarely heard, offering the community a concert performed by professionals.
Our neighbor went on to say that he had numerous jazz contacts in The Hague and would be more than willing to bring a band to Ambleny. Yvan, on the other hand, would pursue the difficult task of organizing and financing such a project. Funding came through public organizations, private contributions, and local businesses. Thanks to the support and enthusiasm of many volunteers, the first concert was held in June 2009 and featured The Hague Jazz Project, a seventeen-member-strong big band, all housed by friends and neighbors and fed by two amazing cooks from The Hague! The concerts were performed at the Château de Vic-sur-Aisne, and in Ambleny’s Salle des Fêtes. The surprisingly good turn-out encouraged us to continue. With increasing audiences, the Festival has featured singers and jazzmen hailing from Holland, France, the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean.
This year’s concerts, to be held June 22-23, will feature The Hague Jazz Project, Trio Peter Beets, and French jazz singer Camille Bertault. The year 2018 has a special significance. Ambleny will celebrate its 10th edition of Jazz’N Ambleny, France will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, and, at the same time, the arrival of jazz (ragtime), brought to France by African-American soldiers.
Ambleny is a nice, quiet village, set in rural Picardy. In the center of the village two historical monuments sit proudly: a XII century gothic church and donjon. During WWI, Soissons and surrounding villages were targeted by extensive bombing, leaving in the aftermath total destruction and devastation. Ambleny wasn’t spared. The church and donjon were left in piles of stone and rubble. After the war, the villagers took on the lengthy task of rebuilding and restoring.  
There will be many events commemorating this anniversary. Emotions will be strongly felt as there is not a family in Ambleny who hasn’t suffered the loss of a soldier or civilian family member. The Military Cemetery in Ambleny bears witness to the extensive battles which took place in the surrounding areas, by honoring the graves of 12,000 fallen soldiers.
In 1917, French and Allied armies suffered tremendous losses and were in urgent need of more troops. Among the first Americans to arrive in France was First Lieutenant James Reese Europe, a famous New York jazz musician, who was assigned to the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment. He was asked by his commanding officer, Colonel William Hayward, to form a military band as part of his combat unit; not an easy task, but he finally succeeded, going as far as Puerto Rico to recruit black musicians. Most of his musicians came from Harlem, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.
By early 1918, it became evident that due to the rules of racial segregation, the US Army had no intention of sending African-Americans to combat. They remained behind to perform service and supply duties. The French Etat-Major was shocked at the disregard the US Army had toward its African-American soldiers. By exercising heavy pressure on General Pershing, the 369th RIUS was finally incorporated into the French army. The war-weary French and Allied armies enthusiastically welcomed the fresh American troops. Now part of the 93rd Division, the men of the 369th fought under the French flag in American uniforms, wearing the French Adrian helmet and shouldering French arms.
The 93rd was noted for its part in the victories at the Chaligny battlefields, and its defensive stands at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood. The 369th fought valiantly alongside their French comrades, spending 191 days in combat. The unit received the Croix de Guerre, saw 171 of its soldiers receive the Légion d’Honneur, and deplored 1500 killed or wounded. It never retreated, and foremostly, was the first Allied unit to reach the Rhine River six days after the Armistice and Germany’s defeat. It was so feared that the Germans named it the “Hellfighters”! The Hellfighters were very much appreciated by the French public, who attended their concerts in several cities, including concerts given at Théâtre des Champs Elysées and Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.
Sad to say, in February 1919, the 369th Infantry Regiment was not allowed to join the official victory parade alongside the other returning troops. It was, however, honored with a parade up New York City’s Fifth Avenue: thousands of spectators lined the streets to watch nearly 3000 soldiers victoriously march toward Harlem. In 1996 President Clinton awarded posthumously the Purple Heart for acts of bravery to Henry Johnson, soldier of the 369th Division, for saving his unit from German attack; in 2015 President Obama awarded Henry Johnson the Medal of Honor. In Europe, as well as being revered as soldiers, the Harlem Hellfighters have left a universal legacy that goes unrivaled to this day, an immeasurable, immemorial gift...the gift of JAZZ.
Irene Checler

I Live with Two Languages
one native, the other learned
the first a natural, the second a seed

that gave bountiful blooms
gaining girth on loamy earth

my languages taste different
but I salivate for both

one can coo and one chops
one flows legato, the other spurts staccato

my mouth might go pouty
or teeth indiscreetly flash

my tongue taps my palate
like a syncopating clarinet

there goes a guttural growl
a canine groan guarding a bone

at times supersonic at others lazy daisy
silky smooth or rough and ready

I wake up each morning
not knowing who’ll be on top

which one bursts out first,
who will crackle or pop

but they give me voice
they surprise me

they offer up form
they stupefy me

both
Meredith Escudier


Poem first published in Persimmon Tree, Summer 2017. Meredith’s books are available on Amazon.

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