DCC - Desire Community Center REPORT, June 1974 - OUR COMMUNITY SYMBOL It is really sometimes amazing how we struggle everyday not realizing the many things that seem so small and unimportant, mean so much as to direct our lives. Our lives are primarily formed from our family structure, our environment, the educational system and numerous things we are exposed to. We do not take notice how many groups, organizations, communities and even nations are built on the power of symbols.
Do you realize the power of symbols? A relative symbol here, in Desire, could change the people, the environment, the educational system, etc. It could make the community a place for all of us to be proud of. You see, behind every symbol, there is strong meaning and celebration for its achievements. Example, take the symbol of the American flag, the meaning behind the American Flag is “freedom and justice for all,” and the day of celebration is Independence Day. Another example is the church. The symbol of the church is the cross. The meaning behind the cross is “he who follows me shall be saved,” and its celebration is Holy Week.
That brings us up to our community symbol, how it came into being, its meaning and celebration.
It was a Monday, February 11, 1974, to be exact. I’ll never forget that day as I sat writing my weekly plans when a man came into my office to speak with me about Desire and all Black communities. I was stunned that he had gotten so close without my hearing him enter, and getting by the two secretaries without being seen. He was a tall Black man, about 6 feet, 2 inches weighing about 220 lbs. His bush was about 4 inches, well trimmed, but not groomed. He had a small goatee, carried a 6-foot cane and wore a long beautiful African material gown.
We talked about Black communities. He said he had, for the past three years, studied and evaluated communities like Desire, Central City, Lower Nine, etc., and found they continue to struggle without any progress. He said it was time for people to unite and start building the kind of place they want it to be and not depend on outsiders. I asked him why did he come to me. He said that he was not interested primarily in me, but the building. He felt that this building, the Desire Community Center, was at least the place to start working to build Desire.
He felt Lower Nine, Central City and other areas did not have an adequate place for people to come to; but contact would be made when they did.
In reference to our symbol, he said that it would act or be that spiritual man to hold up Desire. Even with the symbol’s extraordinary strength, the brother explained that the symbol could only hold it for a period of time and the community itself has to grow in unity and love and take over its responsibilities. We talked about so many other things that I can not put in writing for a lack of space. It was not the things he said that inspired me, but how he spoke about them. He spoke like a person of authority, dedication, confidence, and concern.
When he was leaving, I asked him his name. He said people called him many many different names; but to relate to him with our symbol, to me, and people of Desire, we could call him “Mr. Pride.”
After he had left, I went to check the time. It seemed as though we had talked three hours, but looking at the clock, we had talked only ten minutes.
So, the meaning behind our symbol is working together in love and unity, to build a model community. We used as our celebration Soul Food Day, an outing that was held at Herman Penn Playground on April 16-17 of this year.
Mr. Pride left the same way he came, very quiet and not seen.—
Written by Sidney Duplessis Sr.
[Regarding the actual symbol, Mr. Pride was Sidney Duplessis’ concept. However, Theodore Wise, the Desire Community Center’s artist did the actual drawing.]
For more information about the Desire Community Center in New Orleans check out the documentary "A Place Called Desire."