Francophonie 2019 Launch at The French Cultural Center

by Clara Snyder

Tucked away in the heart of Boston’s historic neighborhood of Back Bay is the French Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide French language instruction and cultural programs for the Greater Boston Area and holds the second largest private collection of French books, periodicals, DVDs, and CDs available in the United States. Programmed events take place year-round, especially in March to celebrate Le mois de la Francophonie, a global celebration of the diversity of those who speak French. The Center’s month-long celebration includes screenings of films, author talks, language discussion, and an art exhibition; but it is all kicked off with an annual Launch Party focused on gathering Boston’s French-speaking communities and organizations to network and engage with each other.

According to the French Cultural Center, “La Francophonie is a vibrant and dynamic language community shared by some 274 million speakers. From Africa to America, French is spoken on five continents [… and] With more than 60,000 words, it is an international language of communication used by 80 states and governments. In the United States, the number of Francophones is estimated at 11 million and nearly 13 million Americans report having a French, French-Canadian, or Acadian ethnic origin.” These diverse statistics were mirrored in the Launch Party’s food, audience, and organization representatives.

The event was held in the French Cultural Center’s location on the corner of Marlborough St. and Berkeley St. It’s a stunning building with a large white foyer, a grand staircase against the back wall leading to the library, and two sets of French doors on either side leading to adjacent rooms. The rooms to the left held the majority of the event, including the refreshment buffet, and the doors to the right led to the photography exhibition. The food and drink present at the party took you on a tour of the French-speaking world with cuisine ranging from Caribbean and African dishes to French wines and cheeses. Everything looked, smelt, and tasted delicious.

The organizations there were just as varied as the food with the likes of businesses, governments, and nonprofits; including but not limited to: The Quebec Delegation Boston; International School of Boston; French American Chamber of Commerce; Campus France, an international studies organizer; the Boston University French Club: Association Francophone de Boston University; and Everett Haitian Community Center. Each organization used the occasion to network with each other and the general public attending the party by promoting their community offerings, calendar of events, travels, studies, work, etc. The sense of community between everyone, despite their various backgrounds, was palpable and probably largely due to the existence of the French Cultural Center.

Adrien Argentero, the French Cultural Center’s Cultural Programs and Business Outreach Manager, organized the Launch Party and subsequent events in March to celebrate Francophone culture. He expressed his excitement and hopes for the party to foster deeper connections between the French-speaking groups and persons by being the focal point of Francophone events and educational resources. Though unsaid, it also seems that the Center is aiming to encourage non French-speaking communities to learn about and engage in Francophone culture. The event seemed to be a great success with high attendance, wonderful food, and engaging organizations eager to share their experiences and passion for Francophone culture.