Black Panthers in Desire

Written by: Christopher Burton

In class one day, I learned that the New Orleans chapter of the Black Panthers started in 1970 in the Desire Housing Development. As soon as I heard this, I remembered that my grandmother lived in Desire back then. When I got home, I asked her about those days. She told me two small things about the Panthers and referred me to my great aunt, saying she couldn't remember those long-ago incidents well. My great aunt told me she "blocked out" those memories of the Panthers in Desire.

Since my elders knew so little about this history, I decided to find out about it on my own. I dug into some books, found some facts, and talked to my teachers. From that research, I imagined a conversation between two Desire residents in 1970.

"They've killed Kenneth!"

"Who killed who?"

"The cops killed Kenneth outside Broussard's store on Piety. Right outside Panther Headquarters."

"Was he one of those Black Panthers? Is that why he got killed?"

"Nope. From what I hear he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when the police opened fire."

"You know who's wrong? The Police. They trying to run out the Panthers when they haven't done nothing wrong."

"You right about that. All the Panthers are for is to get us blacks the land, bread, housing, education, justice, and peace we deserve."

That's what I imagine a conversation would have been like between two residents. I know that hundreds of people crowded around the Panthers in public support and expressed these kinds of views. I'll make sure my children know this history.