by Tyler McDermott
The famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American fighter pilots who fought with distinction in World War II, epitomized the segregation that existed in the U.S. armed services. Depicted in “Red Tails”—the 2012 film directed by Anthony Hemingway and written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder—the Airmen show what it means to be an African-American in warefare.
The Columbia College Association of Black Journalists kicked off the first segment of a two-part lecture series Feb. 22 at Hokin Lecture Hall in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave., on the recent film.
The event, which also explored Hollywood’s relationship with the African-American community, was hosted by WBEZ-Chicago Public Media’s Richard Steele and featured a variety of panelists, including Dudley Brooks, senior photo editor at Ebony magazine; Mike Harris, an independent filmmaker; Steven Tyler, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force; and Ron Gardner, a Vietnam War veteran. Also among the veterans in attendance were some of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
“[‘Red Tails’] was a movie 20 years in the making,” said CCABJ Vice President Victoria Coleman. “So that in itself is history. The CCABJ wanted to take part in all of the commentary surrounding the movie and have an open discussion with people who’ve seen the movie, fellow Tuskegee Airmen and a few veterans of the United States Air Force to get their take on it.”
A topic of discussion among the panelists was film producer George Lucas’ involvement in the development of the film and the lack of support from Hollywood, according to an interview with Lucas on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” prior to the movie’s release.
“[Lucas] embarked upon a challenge I wish more producers, directors and movie creators would embark upon,” Coleman said. “There is an immense amount of talent in the African-American arts, theater, film and television community. I appreciate his comment because it needed to be said.”
Lucas’ remarks led to a discussion about the importance of African-American filmmakers in Hollywood. Ratisha Nash, junior journalism major, said she enjoyed observations made by Tyler.
“He explained that a lot of African-American roles have been portrayed as degrading,” Nash said. “To hear that from someone else was absolutely astounding.”
By the night’s end, freshman journalism major Raquel Lee Harris was among the many members of the audience who said they found the discussion useful.
“I loved the panel,” Harris said. “They had a lot of different ideas and thoughts and communicated with the audiencereally well.”
While the date for part two of the “Red Tails” discussion has yet to be set, it is very important that the group keeps bringing such events to campus, said CCABJ Adviser Joseph Phillips.
“It brings awareness to issues that a lot of people are afraid to discuss,” Phillips said. “It opens up to a diverse community where we can engage in this type of dialogue on a normal basis.”
For future Columbia College Association of Black Journalists events, follow the organization on Twitter at@TheRealCCABJ.