October 2015, Leonard Smith III is interviewed by Sheba Turk, the host of “The 504.” Leonard is the Director/Producer of the documentary A Place Called Desire.
Lenett Films Production and LS3 Studios presented a private screening at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center. A Place Called Desire is a documentary feature film telling the powerful story of an often forgotten community in the upper 9th Ward in New Orleans. It has been in the making for 12 years, offers many unforgettable history lessons applicable to American history, Louisiana history, African American history, urban history, racial history, studies of neighborhoods, studies of survival, and memorable stories of love and community. Somehow the filmmaker shares hard truths with a gentle touch.
We held the following panel discussion after the viewing.
Bernice Bennett: And so that’s my community, and I never thought that this was there was negative anything negative about growing up in the Ninth Ward. I just was excited to see my mother and to hear her say things that we all laughed at because she often talked about how she almost talked herself out of a home. She wanted to stay uptown. But just to see everyone in this documentary share their experiences brought back wonderful, warm memories.
Rev. Daniel Perkins: I was well pleased with the first of all, the quality of the documentary and the putting together. It was really good. I just wish it could be shown more and in more places. And I was hoping that George Carraby and Johnny would all be the guy that was in the documentary. I’m from the Desire. I think we moved into Desire and still building it. We were halfway through. We moved in the center of the project that was still building the back part of it. And I think I love Desire so much that if somebody would cut me, some of the ghetto may start bleeding out, but I would never exchange my upbringing for nothing in this world. In fact, I traveled all over this country and everywhere I go, people recognize our accent. They try to figure out where they come from. And the first thing they want to know, where are you from? And my response to them is always the same. I’m from Desire, Louisiana.
Kirk Stevens: And I’m very, very happy to have been a part of this, and I just want to give a big shout out to Leonard for put this together.
September 15, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the shootout between the Black Panthers and the New Orleans Police Department. The STORY Behind The STANDOFF was revisited by WWLTV Charisse Gibson and Adam Copus.
Some people may see a brick in this photo. I see many years of dedication, hope, dreams, love and determination. I often wonder what part did this brick play in the history of 3304 Metropolitan Street in the Desire Community. How many baptisms, confirmations, graduations, weddings and funerals have crossed its path? Was it near the cornerstone that held the beginning history of the church? Maybe it was a foundation brick that held up many other bricks, just like the many founding members of the parish. Which member of the parish actually prepared this brick to be layed? If its location was the rear of the structure, it saw many years of children growing, playing and learning together because it would have been in close proximity to St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School. This structure’s faith was met far before the demolition and death of the parish church.
St. Philip the Apostle’s Church
Originally, St. Philip the Apostle’s Church was not on the manifest to be demolished. I was telephoned by my eldest son whom was visiting the neighborhood to photograph it for history. Although we were New Orleans East residents, 3033 Metropolitan was a 2nd home to he and his brother. Every Sunday they could be found with other young members of the parish, worshipping God or performing altar server duties. When he informed me that the church was being bulldozed as he spoke, I could hear the sorrow and disbelief in his voice. I immediately hung up the phone and called the Archdiocese’s main office. I was told that I had to be mistaken. St. Philip the Apostle had not been placed on the list for demolition. I was then put on a brief hold. When the office worker returned, she offered her condolences. The beautiful stained glass, the church’s cornerstone, and I’m certain items that were left inside the church, had all met its death that unfaithful day.
Upon relaying the information to my husband, he rushed over and confiscated several bricks for me and other members of our family. Although this object holds many memories for my family and I, I’ve learned over the years that the love and strength did not live in the brick and mortar of the church, but in the memories and hearts of all, both parishioners and non-parishoners, that were blessed to have crossed its threshold.