The city of Miami Beach will be paying special tribute to Josephine Baker on November 28, declaring it a day in honor of her. She helped desegregate clubs during the Jim Crow era.

“She’s not just a singer who left America and made it big in France, she could have stayed in France but she wanted to come back here,” Bianca Rosarrio said.

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Rosarrio performed some of Baker’s songs at the National Hotel in Miami Beach Wednesday morning as part of the announcement.

“Listening to a lot of her songs, it’s just very fun, very vibrant,” Rosarrio said.

Yet, decades ago, she would not have been welcomed in parts of Miami. Baker helped to change this. After making it big in France, even joining the French Resistance as a spy in World War II, she came back to America and helped fight for civil rights. When she stopped in Miami Beach in 1951, she refused to perform at venues that were segregated.

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“And she basically opened up opportunities for all musicians,” Rosarrio said.

She convinced the jewel of Miami back then, the Copa City Club, to desegregate. They agreed and her shows went on to packed audiences.

For her life’s work, the French are honoring her by interring her name in the Pantheon, a monument in Paris on November 30. France’s great citizens that have been bestowed the honor include authors, Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas, but she will Baker will be the first black woman to be recognized there.

“She really campaigned about civil rights all over the world, bringing, the idea of fraternity and equality,” Laurent Gallissot, Consul General of France in Miami.

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In conjunction with the French dedication, there will be a special celebration in the City of Miami Beach November 28, gathering leaders, artists, dancers and musicians in her tribute.

Jacqueline Quynh