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“We were fighting two battles. I flew for my parents, for my race, for our battle for first-class citizenship and for my country. We were fighting for the millions of black Americans back home. We were there to break down barriers, open a few doors, and do a job.”-Joseph Gomer, Tuskegee Airman
I grew up listening to tales from my Granny about her stint in the military during World War II along with her brothers while serving in the era of Jim Crow. While her accounts were exciting, Granny’s stories, that my mom now tells, about her brother Linzey’s tour in Asia fascinated me. At ages four, five, and six, most kids only learn about far away places like Asia through stories, but I had these stories in my family. And while they are not your typical “Asia is beautiful” stories, these stories, coupled with my other grandparents jet setting slides (yes, they had their photographs developed into slides!) quickly led to my own realization that we do travel and experience the world. The movie Red Tailsis a prime example of this point. While it may not have been on their own terms, these international travel experiences were now happening in large numbers.
I had the pleasure of screening this movie with 110 of my students. At first, the group was a little apprehensive at seeing it for a variety of reasons. However, as the final credits were rolling, our auditorium erupted in applause. In speaking with students afterwards, especially our young men, they articulated how important the acts of these men and women that made up the Tuskegee Airmen were to not only black Americans but to all Americans in the fight for equality.
I am glad this story is being told on a worldwide platform available for current and future generations to use to learn their history. As Joseph Gomer, Tuskegee Airman, said, “We were there to break down barriers, open a few doors, and do a job.” Thank you for breaking down more barriers than you know!