"I am back in Paris": one of the diva's most famous songs will sound at 5.30 pm to launch the solemn ceremony in front of the grandiose neoclassical building, considered "the secular temple of the Republic".

Woman, black, stage artist and born abroad, Joséphine Baker will be only the sixth woman - out of 80 famous characters - to enter after Simone Veil in 2018.

Joséphine Baker poses on June 23, 1949 in the Bois de Boulogne, near Paris, during a parade - AFP / Archives

"It's going to be memorable" with "joy and excitement," hopes Brian Bouillon-Baker, one of the 12 children adopted by Josephine Baker, 11 of whom are still alive.

With them, several hundred people are expected, including many young people, around Emmanuel Macron who will deliver a speech in front of the doors of the Pantheon.

The Head of State will pay tribute to this "world-renowned artist, engaged in the Resistance, tireless anti-racist activist" who "was involved in all the fights that bring together citizens of good will, in France and around the world".

Joséphine Baker's funeral procession passes in front of the Bobino theater on April 15, 1975 in Paris AFP / Archives

"She is the embodiment of the French spirit," proclaimed the Head of State, announcing on August 23 her entry into the Pantheon.

"My mother was an idealist who wanted to prove that universal brotherhood was not a utopia," said Brian Bouillon-Baker on France Inter.

The crowd gathered on the steps of the church of La Madeleine for the funeral of Joséphine Baker, April 15, 1975 in Paris AFP / Archives

"If I want to become a star, I must be scandalous," she explains.

"It is France which made me what I am, I will keep it an eternal recognition", also affirms the one who said she was delighted to have "become the darling of the Parisians" and who obtained the French nationality November 30, 1937.

"I have two loves"

"I have two loves, Paris and my country", his most famous song, will also be played by the Air Force Band when the coffin arrives at the Pantheon.

The remains of Joséphine Baker will not be in the coffin, since her family has decided to let her rest in the marine cemetery of Monaco, alongside her last husband and one of her children, not far from Princess Grace who had supported her in the last years of her life.

Joséphine Baker's grave in Monaco, November 29, 2021 Valery HACHE AFP

It is therefore a cenotaph (tomb not containing the body) which will be installed in vault 13 of the crypt, where the writer Maurice Genevoix is ​​already located, who entered the Pantheon last year.

Symbolically, this cenotaph was filled with handles of the four lands which "were dear to Joséphine Baker": her hometown of Saint-Louis, Paris where she knew glory, the castle of Milandes (Dordogne) where she installed her tribe "arc -en-ciel ", and Monaco where she ended her life.

Five months before the presidential election, the Elysee ensures that we should not see a political message in this pantheonization.

"There is really a very broad consensus" and "not a voice was raised" to challenge it, notes an adviser.

However, the ceremony should give Emmanuel Macron the opportunity to celebrate the values ​​he intends to put forward in the campaign.

"Joséphine Baker is the exemplary story" of a personality who "shows will and determination to build her own emancipation", sums up one of her advisers.

Prince Albert of Monaco in front of Joséphine Baker's grave on November 29, 2021 in Monaco Valery HACHE AFP

On the eve of the celebration, Albert of Monaco paid homage to Josephine Baker on Monday by resuming the words of Princess Grace in front of her grave: "There are beings who never go out".

© 2021 AFP

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