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Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward

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Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward

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Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward

Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward

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The Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club is an African-American marching group based in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Several members have co-written a book chronicling the group's traditions, and life around the Desire public housing project, which sits empty today.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

To end tonight's show, we're going to spend time with some newly published writers from New Orleans. The Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club is an African-American marching group based in New Orleans' Ninth Ward.

(Soundbite of music)

ELLIOTT: This year the club's annual street parades filled the storm-ravaged streets with dancing, feathered fans and brass band music. A crowd of about 1,000 people joined them. And they came out not just as club members, but as newly published authors. For more than a year, several Nine Times members have been going to writing workshops and now their stories have been collected into a book, "Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward". The book deals with their group's traditions and life in and around the Desire Public Housing Project. The city began to demolish Desire in the late 1990s and it sits empty today. Producer Eve Troeh sat down with some of the men from the Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club. We'll hear from three of them, starting with Corey Woods.

Mr. COREY WOODS (Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club): I was like we writing a book - Nine Times? But what we going to write about? I gave it a shot, you know. And as it went on we just met the children, writing about the South, interviewing different people who had a major part in our community. I try to write the truth, try to express what I really feel about things and this is how it was. And I'm about to tell a story about dancing with my grandma, Lucy Mae Woods.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WOODS: My grandmother, Lucy Mae Woods, was a pot of gold in my life. I remember my earliest childhood days going over to her house at 3209 Desire. My uncles and aunties would pay my cousin Angela and I five cents or a dollar to dance. Go Corey. Go Angela. Get busy.

My grandmother loved to dance. She would always sing, ah sookie for your nookie. That's when she and I would dance together. We would do the bump or the swing out in the living room of her house.

Her favorite bar was the Crossroad. She used to drink Jack and Coke and smoke her Winston cigarettes. She was a nice dresser. She made most of her own clothes. Everything had to match. If the dress was blue, the shoes was blue. She had one male friend. His name was Shug. He would come by twice a week, Friday and Sunday. I never asked what was so special about these two days, but my grandmother seemed happy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TROY MATERRE (Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club): My name is Troy Materre. Back in 2001, I lost a son. It was something that I kept inside for so long that they really brought out me and I think that the stress just came out of the story onto the paper, and I feel much relief from it. Just sitting still long enough to write, that wasn't me. I mean I could sit down and talk to you verbally and tell you a good story, but as far as just sitting down and writing it on paper, it wasn't me. And I feel like it's making me a better person to sit down and write and continue to write.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MATERRE: I was a 12-year-old kid with a lot of spunk. One of six children my mother raised as a single parent in the Desire Project. She worked hard to make sure each holiday was a wonderful one for us. Christmas of 1978, everyone in the neighborhood was talking about roller skates. It was the big thing of the season. I told my mother I wanted a pair of skates. She said, we'll see, if you're good.

Early that Christmas morning, me and my brothers lie in bed until we heard mother get up. We ran in her room, asked if we could open our presents. She said, go ahead, and waved us on. All the presents was wrapped in silver paper with bows. And then there was the skates, three pair.

I threw on a pair of Toughskin jeans with a patch at the knee, a flannel shirt and mother started preparing Christmas dinner. All the kids in Desire opened their presents and got skates. The whole street was blocked off, full of people skating from front to back. Mother's sitting in the window watching my younger brother skate in the courtyard, and that's still the best memory Christmas in the Desire.

Mr. RAPHAEL PARKER (Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club): My name is Raphael Anthony Peter Parker, Jr. Right now I'm 40 years old. I'm from the Desire Housing Complex, where God blessfully raised me up at. You know, politicians, they grew up in the Desire, and lawyers and nurses and doctors and all that, you know, come up in the project, despite all of the negativity. It nurtured all us to make us stronger people. So here's my story.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PARKER: My grandfather was a tall gentleman, country calm, cool and collected. He listened to baseball games on the radio with me by his side. It was a mutually beneficial setup - for me some guidance, for him, to get his Dixie beer, which I did in no time flat.

I was very young when my grandfather performed my first haircut. He actually put a bowl over my head and cut the hair around it, but it was grandpa so I thought it was okay.

I became one of his favorite grandkids. I got to help a lot of run of the house, work on his car, go on rides to the store or out wherever he wanted to ride.

And all his cars was like floats, big enough for two families. One time an emergency stop came upon grandpa and there I was face against the dashboard, blood everywhere. That's the first time I ever saw grandpa look a little nervous.

The ride for his funeral was the only time ever the family traveled down that road without grandpa. It was one of the quietest rides I ever had in my whole life, no sound of the tires, no music, although I think it was playing, no vision of the beautiful trees along the highway, through the swamps. The ride back was just the same as going, real silence. I remember getting home, washing up and going to sleep.

ELLIOTT: That was Raphael Anthony Peter Parker Jr., Troy Materre and Corey Woods, reading from their book "Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward." All three are members of the Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of music)

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