The Champ de Mars park around the Eiffel Tower in Paris will be the site of what promises to be a massive anti-racism concert on July 14, the French National Day.
Featuring performers such as Julian Perretta, VV Brown and Shy’m, the show aims to make a statement against the perceived rise in xenophobia in the country.
“We want the politicians to realize that there are many of us willing to defend the notion of equality and the policy of living together in harmony,” said Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, the anti-racism group that is organizing the concert.
“We are against racism, sexism, homophobia,” he told SWAN. “This is a concert for equality.”
The many musicians who have volunteered to participate are doing so because “they agree that the principles of equality need defending,” Sopo added.
The lineup in fact reflects the multicultural France that some would prefer not to see. Prominent among the performers are Yannick Noah, the dreadlocked former tennis star who is now a singer, and Nèg' Marrons, a French dancehall group whose members originate from Cape Verde, Congo and Martinique.
Most of them have already spoken out against racism. In addition to the musicians, Sopo said that a significant number of French residents were disturbed by the support for the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front (FN) political party. Polls suggest that FN leader Marine Le Pen could gain more 20 percent of votes in the French presidential elections next year.
“One always has to be on guard when it comes to parties such as the FN,” Sopo said. “They are now claiming that they are not extreme-right, but they stigmatise certain groups and this is unacceptable. Their values are totally opposite to the values of our republic. We want the presidential elections to be based around equality and not stigmatization.”
He said the concert is a means to raise public awareness as well as to mobilize people. It’s been 20 years since SOS Racisme staged a similar outdoor event, and the group believes the times are calling for another stand against discrimination.
“These past years have in fact been marked by an offensive that must now be stopped – an offensive by those who cynically believe that the time has come to unravel the conditions of living together and to stamp on the most elementary principles of humanism,” the group said.
In the hours before the concert, SOS Racisme will be joined by other non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, in an NGO Village at the Champ de Mars. They will hold debates and present material on the work they do. - A.M.