A Look Back at a Powerful Moment in New Orleans’s History

By Orissa Arend
Foreword by Charles E. Jones
Introduction by Curtis J. Austin

Showdown in Desire portrays the Black Panther Party in New Orleans in 1970, a year that included a shootout with the police on Piety Street, the creation of survival programs, and the daylong standoff between the Panthers and the police in the Desire housing development. Through interviews with Malik Rahim, the Panther; Robert H. King, Panther and member of the Angola 3; Larry Preston Williams, the black policeman; Moon Landrieu, the mayor; Henry Faggen, the Desire resident; Robert Glass, the white lawyer; Jerome LeDoux, the black priest; William Barnwell, the white priest; and many others, Orissa Arend tells a nuanced story that unfolds amid guns, tear gas, desperate poverty, oppression, and inflammatory rhetoric to capture the palpable spirit of rebellion, resistance, and revolution of an incendiary summer in New Orleans.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This photo of Althea Francois and Malik Rahim (from the book) was taken at the community forum held in 2003 at the Ashé Cultural Center. Both Francois and Rahim will serve as panelists for two forums in the next two weeks. The first is detailed below. More photos from the 2003 forum are available here.

Publication of the book became the catalyst for “Learning from our History,” a series of community forums and readings which began in March and continue through May and June. The readings and forums are designed to instruct and inform locals about a critical but little-remembered event in New Orleans history and to use the knowledge of that event to further the discussions of racial distrust and tensions in the city, in the hopes of working towards resolution and community reconciliation.

Reading and Booksigning--Tuesday, May 19, 4-6 PM: Arend and Robert Hillary King, former Black Panther, and author of From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King (Published by PM Press), will read from and sign their books on at Amistad Research Center, Tilton Hall, Tulane University. King’s book, also recently released, is the story of King’s New Orleans childhood and his 29-year incarceration in solitary confinement at Angola Prison where he became a Black Panther. King is the only one of the Angola 3 to have been released from prison.

Community Forum--Wednesday, May 20 at 7PM
“Free the Angola 3 and All Political Prisoners: Strategies, Insight And Wisdom”
Ashé Cultural Arts Center
1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd

Panelists will be:
• Robert Hillary King, the only freed member of the Angola 3, and author of From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King.
• Malik Rahim, cofounder of the Common Ground Collective, former Black Panther, community organizer on protection of the environment and rights of prisoners and their families, and founding member of The Coalition to Free the Angola 3.
• Althea Francois, a lead organizer with Safe Streets Strong Communities and former Black Panther who coordinated the New Orleans Chapter of the National Coalition to Free the Angola 3.
• Jackie Sumell, artist and co-creator with Herman Wallace of “The House that Herman Built.”
Ted Quant, Director, Loyola's Twomey Center for Peace through Justice will moderate. The historical context for the Angola 3 story will be set by Lance Hill, PhD, Carolyn Kolb, PhD, and Lawrence Powell, PhD.

A light supper will be served.

Host Partners for the forum are: Amistad Research Center, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, People's Institute For Survival & Beyond, Coalition To Free the Angola 3, Common Ground Health Clinic, Community Book Center, Community Futures Collective, Community Mediation Services, Craige Cultural Center, Critical Resistance, Garden District Bookstore, Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Louisiana Weekly, The Porch, The New Orleans Tribune, Trinity Undoing Racism Network (TURN), Twomey Center For Peace Through Justice, and Safe Streets Strong Communities.

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