Saturday, March 04, 2017


Uncovering the lost civilization that was New Orleans in the latter half of the 20th Century.
Amid the debris, Greg Lambousy, Director of the New Orleans Jazz Museum, spotted a long iron rod with a curve like a shepherd’s crook and used it to pull down a gutter.

We were trying to get a better look at what we’ve come to call the “Panther mural.” Painted on cinder block, covered over with stucco years ago and relegated to oblivion, it appeared to embody themes of African-American empowerment and militancy from the era of black nationalism.

Also relegated to oblivion, except in the minds of a few, is the memory of how powerful the New Orleans Panthers were in 1970 when they took up residence in a Desire Public Housing Development unit and vowed to stay there to protect residents from police.

Champions of the poor, unifiers, revolutionary educators, the Panthers were dreaded by some — including FBI director J. Edgar Hoover who vowed to eradicate them — and a source of inspiration to others. As I explain in my book, “Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans,” believers saw them as a divinely protected force for good.

After our strenuous, resourceful, and somewhat dangerous clearing efforts, photographer Mark Sindler got a pretty clear angle on the mural where the stucco had fallen away. Propitiously, just then the sun came out.

If you follow the wildly improbable twists and turns of this story, you could conclude that we, all of us, are being led to pay attention, to notice something that has revolutionary and artistic relevance to New Orleans history.

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