Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward documents life in the Desire Project, written by the people who lived it. Members of the Nine Times Social and Pleasure Club present firsthand accounts of life in the now-leveled Ninth Ward project, both its positive elements—dances, Mardi Gras cookouts—and grimmer elements—drug abuse, death and Hurricane Katrina. All of the authors overcame individual challenges and through the creation of Nine Times in 1998 helped build a stronger and healthier Ninth Ward community.
“I feel it was very important to get this information out to let people know where we come from and the good that can come out of the projects. It was really important for us to come out and tell the truth about our lives,” says Nine Times member and contributing writer Gerald Platenburg.
The book’s title comes from the tradition of the newest member of Nine Times leading the parade out the door for his or her first parade, and the heart of Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward is its insight into the workings of social aid and pleasure clubs. In addition to chronicling the formation of Nine Times and Lady Nine Times, it includes interviews with Philip Frazier of Rebirth Brass Band, members of the To Be Continued Brass Band, and key figures from other social aid and pleasure clubs in the city.
Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward is the sixth and most recent entry from Neighborhood Story Project book series, the first published since Katrina. Abram Himelstein and Rachael Bruenlin founded the Neighborhood Story Project while teaching at John Mc Donogh Sr High School. “We wanted to create a writing program that would give our students a community experience that would bridge the gap between what was going on in the schools and what was going on in the neighborhoods,” says Bruenlin. In June 2005, the project published five books about different neighborhoods around the city including the Sixth Ward, Palmyra Street, and the Lafitte Housing Complex.
Work on Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward began before Katrina and took a year and a half to complete. Members of the Nine Times were sent to the Ninth Ward and Desire projects to record a number of interviews, which were later edited down into a more narrative form. But the stories are not oral histories. “The guys came and did writing workshops with us for over nine months, so the vast majority of writing is their own,” says Bruenlin. After its initial release in late 2006, Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward became one of the best selling books in the New Orleans area. Its success helps pave the way for future Neighborhood Story Project publications. Now Himelstein and Bruenlin are working on a slate of new projects that include a book on the Orleans Parish Prison, a collaboration with cultural organization “The Porch” from the Seventh Ward, and a catalogue for a museum located in the Ninth Ward.