"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.

International interest is also evident with many journalists from foreign media accredited for the ceremony.

In New York, the iconic Empire State Building skyscraper lit up in blue, white and red on Monday evening to honor the diva born in the United States.

In his speech, Emmanuel Macron will pay tribute to this woman who "had all the courage and all the daring".

"She is quite synthetic of what being French, she who was American (...) She is impressive modernity", he summarized in a video posted on social networks.

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

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal also hailed on Europe 1 "a magnificent symbol": "Josephine Baker embodies the love of France which can also come from people who were not born there".

Consensus

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, presenting the ceremony as a moment of "national unity".

In opposition, Marine Le Pen said on Sud Radio "very happy with the entry of Josephine Baker into the Pantheon".

"She said + France is not my adopted country, it is my country at all. + She shone in her defense of France," added the RN candidate.

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

Born on June 3, 1906 in a poor family in Saint-Louis (Missouri) to a black Native American and a father of Spanish origin, Joséphine Baker came to Paris at 19 to try her luck.

She became the star of "La Revue Nègre" at the Champs-Elysées theater, reluctantly accepting to appear topless.

Josephine Baker AFP

"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"

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

"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.

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.

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

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.

© 2021 AFP

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