Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of


the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

Join us in making this video tribute to Beauford a reality!



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celebrating Beauford! – The Reception

We left Thiais Cemetery at about 5:20 PM to go to the George C. Marshall Center. Though traffic was again a major challenge, we managed to get back into town about ten minutes before the reception was due to begin. We were greeted graciously by the staff of the U.S. Embassy’s public affairs department at the gate to the Hôtel Talleyrand on rue Saint-Florentin in the 1st arrondissement, and led up the grand staircase into the State Office, where refreshment awaited us. There was a true sense of love and camaraderie in the air as people mingled, renewed old acquaintances, and made new ones.

Invitees enjoying the cocktail
© Discover Paris!

Both film and photography captured this magical “second act” of the day’s event, which unfolded as the setting sun illuminated the Dome Church and the Eiffel Tower that were visible from the State Office and the adjacent Grand Reception Room.

Approximately fifty persons gathered for the culmination of the celebration of Beauford’s life and art that evening. A beautiful program with photos of Beauford outlined the order of events.

Program cover

I welcomed everyone, and then presented the U.S. Mission’s new Cultural Attaché, Rafik Mansour. Mr. Mansour spoke eloquently about the African-American presence in Paris, and how Beauford was a perfect example of this presence.

Cultural Attaché Rafik Mansour
© Discover Paris!

Ammon Hall-Moore sang “God Bless the Child,” followed by personal tributes from Velma Bury and Richard Gibson. ferricia-fatia (vocals) and Sabine Boyer (flute) then performed a moving rendition of “Freedom Day.”

Ammon Hall-Moore
© Discover Paris!

Richard Gibson
© Discover Paris!

I then presented “Beauford Delaney: From Paris to Beyond” – giving an overview of Beauford’s life that concentrated on his favorite haunts and his studios in Paris, and providing an introduction to his art. Finally, I described the events leading up to the installation of Beauford’s tombstone, and briefly discussed what projects Les Amis de Beauford Delaney might undertake in the future.

Though we were due to vacate the premises at 9 PM, everyone (including the Embassy staff) was having such a good time that we continued to commune in the State Office for another half-hour or so.

After the presentation
© Discover Paris!

As the last few persons descended the Grand Staircase to leave the Hôtel Talleyrand, I could finally embrace the fact that Les Amis de Beauford Delaney has accomplished its mission.

To see more photos of the Celebrating Beauford! reception, click here.

For a video that presents some of the guests at the reception, as well as excerpts of the presentations, click here. Special thanks to Joe Langley for providing Les Amis with this film clip!

Once again, I wholeheartedly thank everyone who helped us to achieve our goal. Les Amis de Beauford Delaney will carry on with its efforts to raise awareness of Beauford’s life and art, and is counting on your continued support!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrating Beauford! – The Gravesite Ceremony

On October 14, 2010, a group of seventeen persons began gathering at place de la Concorde at around 2 PM for our trek out to Thiais Cemetery for the gravesite ceremony to inaugurate Beauford’s tombstone. We boarded a minibus and left at roughly 2:45 PM. Due to the transit strike, our musicians were barely able to make it to place de la Concorde by car in time. Once they arrived, however, they followed our bus – and did a great job of keeping up despite the heavy traffic!

We arrived at the cemetery in good time, and found Beauford’s division (Division 86) freshly manicured for the ceremony. The weather was picture perfect on this brisk autumn day – it was as though Beauford himself had ordered the light that shone on his gravesite and all of us who gathered there to honor him.

There were additional guests who were waiting for us at the gravesite. There was embracing among those who had not seen each other for a while, and everyone took a few moments to look at the tombstone. Then, we began the ceremony.

Gathering around the tombstone
© Discover Paris!

I welcomed everyone, and then invited The Reverend Doctor Scott Herr from the American Church to come forward. I was particularly pleased that Scott could participate because Beauford’s funeral was held at the American Church, and because he is personally acquainted with the pastor who presided over Beauford’s funeral – Reverend Scott Campbell.

Scott (Herr) said a few words and read a couple of Beauford’s favorite scriptures – Psalm 23 and 1 Corinthians 13. Then, three personal friends of Beauford – Velma Bury, Colin Gravois, and Richard Gibson – gave personal tributes to him.

Reverend Scott Herr reciting scripture
© Discover Paris!

Velma Bury addresses the gathering
© Discover Paris!

Colin Gravois speaks about Beauford
© Discover Paris!

Richard Gibson recounts stories about Beauford
© Discover Paris!

Singer ferricia-fatia then poured a libation in honor of Beauford, and sang a beautiful rendition of “Come Sunday” with Sabine Boyer accompanying her on the flute.

Sabine Boyer and ferricia-fatia
© Discover Paris!

Finally, I briefly recounted how my first interview with Beauford’s personal friend Burt Reinfrank made me understand that Beauford was not only a man of this world, but also one who experienced life on a higher, cosmic plane. I then laid an arrangement of yellow roses on the tombstone. (According to the David Leeming biography Amazing Grace, Beauford loved roses.)

Monique Y. Wells with yellow roses
© Discover Paris!

The ceremony ended with Scott reciting Richard A. Long’s poem “Ascending,” which was written in Beauford’s honor, and saying a final prayer. Participants took another few minutes to admire the tombstone, and we then regained the bus and car and set out for the Marshall Center in Paris.

Reverend Scott Herr reciting “Ascending” and giving the final prayer
© Discover Paris!

Back to the minibus
© Discover Paris!

To see more photos of the Celebrating Beauford! gravesite ceremony, click here.

Next week: the reception!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrating Beauford at the Hotel Talleyrand

On Thursday, we celebrate Beauford at a gravesite ceremony at Thiais Cemetery, followed by an evening reception at the George C. Marshall Center in the Hôtel Talleyrand in Paris.

As you can imagine, I am very busy with last minute arrangements!  But I wanted to share with you some photos of the venue:

Entrance - rue Saint-Florentin
© Discover Paris!

 Grand Staircase
© Discover Paris!

 Ceiling above Grand Staircase
© Discover Paris!

 State Office
© Discover Paris!

Grand Reception Room
© Discover Paris!

We'll be in the State Room and the Grand Reception Room, and will have a view of place de la Concorde.

Be sure to visit the blog next week to read the full report!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beauford's Last Studio - Rue Vercingétorix

On Thursday, October 14th, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney will celebrate Beauford with a commemorative ceremony at his newly laid tombstone at Thiais Cemetery, followed by a reception co-sponsored by the American Embassy at the George C. Marshall Center in Paris.  If you have received an invitation, but have not yet sent your RSVP to the Embassy, please do so as soon as possible.  The final guest list must be submitted 72 hours prior to the event!  


Beauford's last studio was located at 53, rue Vercingétorix, 75014 Paris.  He moved there in 1961, after being released from a psychiatric clinic in Nogent-sur-Marne.  Solange du Closel and her husband, who were avid supporters of Beauford, purchased the atelier in their name and reserved it for Beauford's use once he was able to live on his own again.

In Beauford's biography Amazing Grace, author David Leeming describes the atelier as "a large room with a huge window admitting south light," and mentions that "there was also the luxury of a 'shower bath.'"  Beauford covered everything with white sheets, as he had done in previous studios, to provide his preferred atmosphere for painting.

Fifty-three rue Vercingétorix no longer exists. The photo below presents the neighborhood's current appearance, with the trees standing in the approximate location of Beauford's building:

Rue Vercingétorix
© Discover Paris!

Beauford likely walked past the Notre Dame du Travail church (pictured to the right of the trees above) at Number 59 at least once a day during his stay in the neighborhood.  He may also have frequented the Moulin de la Vierge bakery pictured below (now a classified historical site), which is still operating up the street at Number 105.

Boulangerie Le Moulin de la Vierge
© Discover Paris!

By the early to mid 1970s, Beauford's neighborhood had become so run down that the city began demolishing it.  Beauford's biography indicates that Madame du Closel interceded with friends in the government to allow Beauford to stay in his apartment as long as possible. His building was torn down some time after he was hospitalized at Sainte-Anne's in 1975.

Henry Miller's 1972 visit with Beauford at rue Vercingétorix was filmed, and rare footage of the exterior and interior of Beauford's lodgings can be seen in the video entitled Henry Miller Odyssey.  (Unfortunately, the pertinent segments of the video are not of very good quality.)  I snapped some photos of my television screen during the segment:

Henry Miller and Beauford

Buildings at Number 53, rue Vercingétorix

Beauford and Henry Miller strolling toward Beauford's building

View of the upper story at 53, rue Vercingétorix

In the video, Henry Miller is shown walking around the apartment and talking about his memory of Beauford painting his portrait when they knew each other in New York.  He gestures toward Beauford's stunning portrait of Marian Anderson that is hanging on the wall in the scene below.  In one scene of the film, Beauford tells Miller that he can take anything in the apartment that he wants.

Henry Miller in Beauford's studio

There are many amusing anecdotes about Beauford and his life at the Vercingétorix studio.  In Amazing Grace, Leeming recounts a story about Beauford's refrigerator.  He says that Beauford bought it with money that he received from a Fairfield Foundation grant for $3500 in 1964, and that he used it as a storage cabinet!

Burt Reinfrank has shared several anecdotes for this blog, some of which have already been published here.  Ed Clark shared one, which I published in last week's posting entitled "Ed Clark Remembers Beauford."  I will publish additional anecdotes from Burt and others over the next several weeks.