‘Red Tails’ a Double Victory, Then and Now

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  • The highly anticipated movie “Red Tails” hits theatres this Friday, Jan. 20th. “Red Tails” stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and Ne-Yo, among others, and tells the real-life account of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black World War II fighter pilot squad. The squadron, which was sent to North Africa and Italy to escort white bomber pilots, consisted of some of the best fighter pilots in the Air Corps.

    Meet Roscoe Brown, one of those Tuskegee Airmen.

    Growing up in the 1930s in Washington, D.C., Brown made model airplanes and imagined himself flying like the pilots he saw during air races that his parents took him to on weekends, although for a long time, flying was just a dream because of racial barriers. But his parents encouraged their two children – he was the younger child – to aspire to do great things.

    Brown held onto and pursued his dream, finally getting the chance to be a pilot, serving as one of the Tuskegee Airmen.

    During World War II, Brown, now 89, served as a squadron commander and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    The story of Roscoe Brown, along with those of six other airmen, has been brought to the big screen in “Double Victory,” a documentary produced by George Lucas. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., the movie has been screened in major cities to promote “Red Tails.”

    “It tells the story of how blacks were excluded from the military because of segregation to how they were included in World War II because of protests in the black community,” Brown, who is director of the Center for Urban Education Policy at the Graduate School and University Center of CUNY, said of the documentary. “It talks about our training at Tuskegee and the trials and tribulations we faced there. It talks about our combat activity first in North Africa and Italy. It also talks about the combat we faced in the States while we were getting our training. That is why they named the film ‘Double Victory.’ We overcame the Nazis, and we overcame segregation.”

    I got a chance to sit down with Mr. Brown, and during our conversation, we talked about the significance of the Tuskegee Airmen and the challenges they faced, how he made his dream of being a pilot come true, the making of both the movie and the documentary and the overall swag of being fighter pilot.

    And now for my short-and-to-the-point) editorial comments. Insert dramatic pause here.

    It’s important to note that “Red Tails” almost didn’t get made. Studios turned it down, seeing it as an economic loser. Luckily, “Star Wars” producer George Lucas came along with his extremely deep pockets and could afford to make a $93 million passion project.

    Make sure you GO TO THE THEATER and support this very important film! Let the bootleg man miss you this week. In 2010, the African-Americans Revealed study reported that black buying power was at about $913 billion, with a projected increase to $1.2 trillion by 2013. If you want to see more movies about African Americans by African-Americans starring African-Americans, then put your money where your mouth is.

    And that is why I will be first in line Friday at the theater to buy my ticket to see “Red Tails.” I’m also taking my two boys and a group of their friends, not only to learn about a piece of American history, but to realize that hard work really does pay off – then and now.

    Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.

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