Livingstone students to be out for 'Red Tails' screening

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2012

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
SALISBURY — The Tuskegee Airmen were educated black men from all over the United States. They maintained planes and provided bomber escorts for white pilots during World War II. They were an integral part of the war effort.
Nonetheless, Hollywood studios balked at the chance to support legendary producer George Lucas, who has made a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, because they said such a film wouldn’t be profitable.
Undaunted, Lucas spent 23 years and $93 million of his own money on “Red Tails,” which debuts nationwide today at some 2,500 theaters.
And tonight, in an effort spearheaded by Livingstone College’s Student Government Association, Blue Bear students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends plan to occupy all 283 seats at Tinseltown’s 10 p.m. showing of the film. They also plan to have a good representation at the movie’s other showings.
In fact, SGA President Clarence H. Jackson IV sent letters to other student body presidents asking them to encourage students to see “Red Tails” this weekend. He has gotten positive responses from Alcorn State University, Chowan University, Clinton Junior College, Davidson College, Johnson C. Smith University, Morehouse College and Shaw University.
“The letter campaign represents Livingstone’s way of generating support for ‘Red Tails,’ ” Jackson said. “This film portrays an important aspect of American history that for far too long hasn’t been adequately told. Livingstone College students are excited about going to see this movie (tonight), and we hope that students at other colleges — HBCUs and otherwise — will share in that excitement and support the movie tonight or at some point during the weekend.”
“Red Tails” features an all-black cast of heroes. Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard star in the film.
It has been well documented that the Tuskegee Airmen were discriminated against at home and abroad — and that German prisoners of war received better treatment in the United States than did the Tuskegee Airmen.
Last week while promoting “Red Tails” on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Lucas said it isn’t about victims but instead about heroes. He said he has gotten nothing but positive responses about the movie from Tuskegee Airmen and the bomber pilots they protected — many who credit the Tuskegee Airmen with saving their lives.
Dabney N. Montgomery of Manhattan who earned a bachelor’s degree in religious education from Livingstone College in 1949. He is a Tuskegee Airman.
Montgomery, 88, and his wife, Amelia A. Montgomery, attended a Jan. 13 White House screening of “Red Tails” at the invitation of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
“We are very happy that George Lucas had the confidence in the contributions of black men to spend this type of money on their achievements,” Montgomery said in a telephone interview. “He stepped up to the plate and put his belief on the line, and we are indeed proud of him for having that confidence in us and our history. It’s more than African-American history. It is American history. For too long the positive things that African-Americans have done have been overlooked or swept under the rug, but not anymore.”
Montgomery was drafted into the Armed Forces in 1943 in Selma, Ala. After basic training he was sent to Camp Lee in Petersburg, Va.
“At Camp Lee, through a crash course in supply, I was sent to Oscoda, Mich., and that’s where I joined the Tuskegee Airmen,” Montgomery said. “I was in the Company 1051st Quartermaster of the 96th Air Service Group attached to the 332nd Fighter Group in southern Italy. Our specific role was to supply food and clothing to the men during the war.”
Montgomery was in Washington in 2007 when then-President George W. Bush, in a long-overdue ceremony, awarded the Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.
Like many African-Americans, Montgomery said he hopes people of all races will strongly support “Red Tails.”
“I’m hoping and praying that people will flock to the theaters to go see the movie,” he said. “The movie is very real. It’s very accurate.”
Director Anthony Hemingway, who also directed some episodes of HBO’s hit series “The Wire,” was on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday morning. Hemingway, an African-American, said he hopes people will leave “Red Tails” committed to having a more unified country.
In his interview with Stewart last week, Lucas discussed the politics involved with “Red Tails.” He said Hollywood studios wouldn’t back it because it lacked a bunch of white stars and they don’t think it will fare well in foreign markets.
“I wanted to make it inspirational for (African-American) teenage boys,” Lucas said in the interview. “I wanted to show that they have heroes that are real American heroes that are patriots that helped make this country what it is today.”
Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. said he supports “Red Tails” and hopes all Americans see the movie and develop a proper appreciation for the way the Tuskegee Airmen defied the odds.
“Defying the odds is our theme at Livingstone College, and the Tuskegee Airmen certainly defied the odds,” Jenkins said. “I can’t think of a better movie to which to expose our students than this. This film is about educated young men, who happen to be black, who reaffirmed the truism that education is the fastest key to upward mobility in the world. I hope after seeing ‘Red Tails’ our students will be even more motivated to succeed — not just at Livingstone College but in life.”
Montgomery applauds his alma mater’s efforts to support “Red Tails.”
“I commend the college for pushing this movie because so many of our young black students don’t know the contributions that black people have made to this nation,” Montgomery said. “They aren’t (properly) taught it in high school, so we have to expose them to it in other ways to make them proud … and to make them hold their heads high and believe in themselves.”