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.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Danger . . . read, and you may never think the same.

Showdown in Desire is reviewed by Mary LaCoste and published in the current issue of The New Orleans Tribune:
Don’t read this book unless you want to get angry at our society, the lawless and those who enforce the laws. Do not read Showdown in Desire if you want to remain ignorant of how New Orleans barely escaped what could have become the bloodiest chapter in the history of the city. All this happened less than 40 years ago but has somehow faded from public consciousness. Read more here. (Scroll down)

More Attendees with Stories to Tell

Upper photo: Attorney Robert Glass, who successfully defended the Black Panthers, along with Lolis Elie and others, against all charges, has his copy of the book signed.

Lower photo: Left, Robert Glass; right, Brod Bagert, whose grandfather, then Judge Bernard J. Bagert, evicted the New Orleans Black Panthers from their first headquarters near what was then the St. Thomas Projects. Brod tells the audience a family story of his father having to clean up the sand from sandbags the Panthers left spilt.

At the Maple Street Book Shop

The book signing and reading couldn't have been held on a more perfect Spring day in New Orleans. As usual, a lively question and discussion session followed the reading.

Here are some photos of the audience gathered in front of the Maple Street Book Shop for the reading, which was held on the front porch of the traditional New Orleans shotgun-turned-bookshop. In the lower right corner is former owner and founder of the MSBS, Rhoda Faust. Next to her is Carrollton neighbor, Dave Clements, owner of the Snake & Jake's, who told the crowd his memories of standing at NOPD headquarters protesting the attack on the Desire Projects as the police troops returned to the station after the "showdown." "They were furious," he reported, at having been forced to "back down."

Thanks to all who attended and special thanks to the staff and owner of the long-loved Maple Street Book Shop.

For more photos of this and other events, see publicist Beverly Rainbolt's Flickr site.