Veterans Memorial Hall’s Black History Month celebration
The community is invited to three separate events celebrating black veterans in honor of Black History Month to be held at the AMC Showplace 16 and Veterans Memorial Hall. Meet members of the Tuskegee DODO Chapter (Chicago), Saturday, Feb. 26, and members of the Montford Point Marines Sunday, Feb. 26, following their presentations at 1 p.m. each day, respectively. Guests will have an opportunity to purchase merchandise and apparel promoting the Tuskegee Airmen legacy during the Friday and Saturday events.
Friday, Feb. 24, Showplace 16 – VIP screening of Red Tails – Cost: $15.
The weekend events will begin with a VIP screening of Lucasfilm Ltd. feature film Red Tails.Veterans Memorial Hall wishes to create an opportunity for Rockford-area moviegoers to meet and greet some of the Chicago-area surviving Tuskegee Airmen members. The goal of this VIP screening event is to capture the glamour of Hollywood to promote the film and the legacy upon which the movie is based, while enhancing community pride, education and knowledge about black military aviation and the Tuskegee Airmen’s historic role during World War II and America’s Civil Rights struggle.
A 3 p.m. press conference with members of the Tuskegee Airmen Chicago DODO Chapter will be followed by the 3:45 showing of the movie. Seats are limited, so reserve early to ensure a seat.
Saturday, Feb. 25, Veterans Memorial Hall — “Meet the Tuskegee Airmen, A Living History”. Cost; $5 (seniors and students, no charge)
This event will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen and promote their legacy. A formal presentation will be given from 1 to 3 p.m., followed by an opportunity for autographs and to purchase memorabilia. For more information about the Tuskegee Airmen, check out their website at www.tuskegeeairmen.org.
Sunday, Feb. 26, Veterans Memorial Hall — “Meet the Montford Point Marines” — the First African-American Marine Unit. Cost: $5 (seniors and students, no charge)
In 1942, President Roosevelt established a presidential directive giving African-Americans an opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps. These African-Americans, from all states, were not sent to the traditional boot camps of Parris Island, S.C. and San Diego, Calif. Instead, they were segregated — experiencing basic training at Montford Point — a facility at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Approximately 20,000 African-American Marines received basic training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1939. For more information about the Montford Point Marines, check out their website at www.montfordpointmarines.com.
About Lucasfilm Red Tails
Red Tails is a Lucasfilm Ltd. movie depicting the epic story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Written by John Ridley and The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder and directed by Anthony Hemingway (The Wire), the film’s cast includes Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., Academy Award-nominated actor and Chicago native Terrence Howard, R&B singer-songwriter-producer Ne-Yo (aka Shaffer Chimere Smith Jr.), British actor David Oyelowo and actor (The Secret Life of Bees, The Great Debaters) and former all-American wrestler Nate Parker.
Filmmaker George Lucas, mastermind behind the Star Wars franchise, used his personal resources to finance the film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lucas put $58 million of his own money into the movie and is spending $35 million more for its distribution. A spokesman for the filmmaker stated that Lucas has worked on the project for 23 years. “They are really the knights of the contemporary age,” Lucas said in a statement.
The legend of the Tuskegee Airmen was previously chronicled in the 1995 HBO TV movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne. This earlier interpretation by Robert Markowitz also featured Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. The Tuskegee Airmen counts among its valiant membership Lawrence Roberts, father of Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts.
History of the aviators who inspired the Red Tails film
In 1939, the United States government began establishing flight schools at colleges around the nation but refused to do so at any of the black colleges, believing black men didn’t have the caliber to be fighter pilots. However, with mounting pressure from black newspapers, pressure groups and a few sympathetic government leaders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the idea of the Tuskegee Airmen was birthed, resulting in the establishment of a flight school at Alabama’s historic Tuskegee University July 19, 1941.
In June 1943, the Tuskegee Airmen entered into combat over North Africa displaying courage, exceptional skill and dedication. They flew more than 15,000 sorties, completing more than 1,500 missions during the war. United States Air Force historical records indicate that they lost very few escorted bombers to enemy fighters. No other escort unit could claim such a record.
When World War II ended, the Tuskegee Airmen returned home with 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit and the Red Star of Yugoslavia awards. The group disbanded in May 1946; however, their successes contributed to black men and women being fully integrated into the military and President Harry S Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981, which formally desegregated America’s armed forces in 1948.
March 29, 2007, approximately 300 Tuskegee Airmen (or their widows) received the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. The medal is on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
The Montford Point Marines
Approximately 20,000 African-American recruits received training at Montford Point Camp (less than 10 percent of the Marine Corps end strength) during World War II. The initial intent of the Marine Corps hierarchy was to discharge these African-American Marines after the war, returning them to civilian life — leaving the Marine Corps an all-white organization. Attitudes changed, and reality took hold as the war progressed. Once given the chance to prove themselves, it became impossible to deny the fact that this new breed of Marines was just as capable as all other Marines regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.
In July 1948, President Harry S Truman issued Executive Order 9981, negating segregation. In September 1949, Montford Point Camp was renamed Camp Johnson, in honor of the late Sgt. Major Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson. He was one of the first African-Americans to join the Corps, a Distinguished Montford Point Drill Instructor and a veteran of WWII and Korea. The Camp remains the only Marine Corps installation named in honor of an African-American.
Since 1775, the United States Marine Corps has served our country in peace and war. Today, the Marine Corps still serves the nation as a force in readiness, prepared to serve whenever the nation calls. The Montford Point Marine Association (MPMA) is proud to be a thriving part of the “Marine Corps Family.”
Congressional Gold Medal
H.R. 2447 and S. 1527 passed by President Barack Obama Nov. 23, 2011, awarded the CGM to the Montford Point Marines. The Marine Corps plans to provide logistical and financial support to all living Montford Point Marines and one escort/caretaker/family member to attend the award ceremony. The Marine Corps is also planning to pay for one bronze replica medal for each certified living Montford Point Marine. The ceremony date will be established once the Congressional Gold Medal design has been approved through the U.S. Mint and designated internal committees. The Congressional Gold Medal award ceremony will be tentatively planned and scheduled to be held in the spring of 2012.
From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue
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