monique_wells_headshotWhen researching burial sites of African –Americans in Paris, Dr. Monique Wells found that one of America’s finest 20th century painters had been laid to rest in an unmarked grave.  It was then that she began a mission to honor Beauford Delaney, a figurative and abstract expressionist painter from Knoxville, Tennessee who moved to Paris in 1953. She felt that the least she could do for this well-loved and respected artist was to help keep his remains interred in a descent gravesite. She went on to raise money for a tombstone and later found Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the legacy of Delaney alive, where she serves as chairman.

A culture enthusiast in her own right, this act sums up what Dr. Wells is all about. Before taking on the Delaney project, Dr. Wells had already made it her mission to preserve, protect and promote culture and heritage in Paris. Her specialty is the culture and heritage of people of African descent in Paris. Co-owner of Discover Paris!, she has created Afro-centric itineraries, self-guided African-American history walking tours, a comprehensive Black Paris bus tour, and African-American-hosted culinary activities for those wanting an in-depth travel experience in the City of Light. This unique travel-planning service has provided services tailored for the African-American traveler to Paris since 1999. This year Discover Paris! provided two walks for the U.S. Embassy in Paris– one for Black History Month and one for Women’s History Month.

An author, freelance travel writer and editor specializing on life in Paris, Wells has been writing about Black Paris for more than ten years. She has written for many different publications and one of her articles can be found in the anthology France, A Love Story (Seal Press, 2004).  Her book, Paris Reflections: Walks through African-American Paris (McDonald & Woodward, 2002; co-authored with Christiann Anderson) contains abbreviated versions of the walks that Discover Paris! Proposes to its travel clients. She is also the author of a soul food cookbook Food for the Soul (Elton Wolf Publishing, 2000), a coffee table-style book with recipes, historical information on soul food ingredients, 65 color illustrations and photos, and helpful hints that she wrote from the perspective of an African American living   in Paris.

Dr. Wells often lectures and give speeches on culture and heritage tourism around the city. She has presented her lecture entitled “Black Paris and the Myth of a Colorblind France” at Barnard College, Rice University, Texas Southern University, the American Library in Paris, and Alliance Française de San Francisco as well as to numerous additional public institutions and private groups.

black_imagesJust over a year ago, Wells partnered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) to launch the home-study course ‘Paris-An Afro-centric Perspective’ that teaches travel professionals how to sell Paris as a Black heritage destination. The training manual provides agents with an introduction to African-American history in Paris, an in-depth understanding of the sites related to this history as well as sample itineraries for a well-rounded agenda with aspects of Black Paris. Dr. Wells believes that increasing travel professionals’ awareness of Paris as a Black heritage destination will encourage them to provide clients with wider access to information about this vibrant aspect of Parisian life.

To complement the course, she has launched a new blog called Entrée to Black Paris™. It features the history, culture, and contemporary life of black people in Paris. Wells, who is the principal blogger, says, “The emphasis of Entrée to Black Paris™ is on the contemporary. While we appreciate that knowledge of history is vital to the understanding and progression of society, we believe that presenting Black contemporary life will speak more vividly to and arouse the passions of readers and travelers of all generations, races, and cultures.”

Discover Paris! recently extended its service to universities by supporting the research that is being done by individual professors. Professors from Morehouse College in Atlanta and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. are scheduled for walking tours and private consultations in July 2011. Also, after a successful tour with a group of travel agents from Maryland this spring, Dr. Wells has officially revived the Black Paris Bus Tour under the name “Paris in Black and White™.”  Discover Paris! has partnered with Road Scholar, the life-long learning travel company, to provide services for the Road Scholar program “The Many Colors of Paris.”

Believe it or not, Dr. Wells’ primary profession is veterinary pathology and she owns a consulting firm in pre-clinical safety assessment of drugs, chemicals and cosmetics.  She serves as an advisor to the Heritage Tourism Specialist Certification Program Committee of Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC) and is a member of the advisory board of the International Association of Black Travel Writers.

For more information, visit www.discoverparis.net . Also, please check out these two videos for testimonials about Dr. Wells tours: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8MJY2myaGk and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GU9lU6DTpz8.

Above photo: Black Images in European Art at the Louvre in Paris

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