French journalist visits Selma

Published 9:27 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A French journalist, accompanied by an interpreter from the State Department, visited Selma to learn about “managing a multi-ethnic society.”

Erwan Jord Yann Gueho, bureau chief of Nord Eclair, a regional newspaper in northwestern France near the Belgian border, was interested in learning about Selma’s race relations because of France’s own racial problems.

Gueho noted during his visit last week that while U.S. minorities tended to live in “the inner city,” France’s minorities were largely confined to the suburbs. Marika Rosen, an accomplished interpreter, accompanied Gueho.

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He visited the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, the civil rights park, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church and the Old Depot Museum. He interviewed a young couple from Texas that he met at the park, two native Selmians who were active in the 1965 movement, a young white who had worked in international relations and Rep. Yussuf Salaam, the first Muslim ever elected to the Alabama legislature.

Gueho also talked with Laurence and Dorothea Huggins, who felt that many Selma whites were still reluctant to support black candidates on the national level.

“A whole lot of whites voted for George Evans who wouldn’t dream of casting a ballot for Barack Obama,” said Huggins.

Gueho arrived on the day of the runoff for City Council President. He was impressed to learn that in a contest between a white man and a black woman for the same office, race didn’t play a major role. Geraldine Allen had significant white support, and Gene Hisel had significant black support.

Gueho interviewed Marcus Coleman, a native of Selma who left the city years ago for a job in Houston, but recently returned to visit his parents.

Coleman told him the city’s major problem was “lack of jobs.”

A young white woman whom he also interviewed had the same story to report. As much as she loved Selma, the jobs she wanted weren’t available here.

The trip to Selma, said Rosen, was the high point in their weeklong visit to Selma.