Movie producer, George Lucas, has taken a giant step, in bringing the story of the Tuskegee Airman to the big screen. In World War II, there were Black soldiers highly disciplined and trained for air missions, who were not allowed to function because they were Black. They were led and trained by the late Commander Benjamin O. Davis, who took young black males 17 and up and taught them successful lessons. He taught them how to win. These men come from the generation called the greatest. They were discriminated against, without reservation. They were wronged. Prejudice held them back. They wanted the chance to fight for their country.
When the opportunity came, for the aerial combat team to be put into action, they were stellar. They conquered. They won. They had to fight for their country in the time of war. They were among the best soldiers in the American armed forces. Today, some of those men are still alive. They are upwards of 85 years old. They were brave. They were heroes. They are just beginning to get their proper recognition and credit for what they really did. For the most part they have been omitted from the history books. They lived. They were real. They were stellar. They are American heroes.
For 23 years, George Lucas has wanted to bring this story to the big screen. He could not get support. He went to the Hollywood studios to joint venture the motion picture. Not one Hollywood studio would join Lucas in bringing forth the black action film. Lucas is the creator of Star Wars and at this point in his career he has enough private funds to produce the film. As an independent filmmaker, he used his personal funds of $93 million to produce the movie. Red Tails is in theaters now and I urge you to go see it. It is a fantastic story starring, Cuba Gooding, Terrance Howard, Nate Parker directed by a young Black male director, Anthony Hemingway. This is a majority black cast film. Not one man dresses in a dress. The males do not wear wigs to transform themselves. These are men as men in uniform, fighting men in a real story.
What is interesting about the background of the movie is that Hollywood said they did not know how to market a Black hero movie to America. Wow. How interesting. Still on the frontier of ending America's racism is the "image" that Hollywood portrays of Black America. They are comfortable with the criminal story, the bad cop, as in "Training Day." They are comfortable with the comedy story, where men become women and the new slapstick buffoonery . They are interested in the segregated stories of yesteryear. The Maid and the Chauffeur. They are comfortable with the fallen woman as in "Monster's Ball." They are comfortable with the integrated stories, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." But they are not comfortable with the Hero, that is, the Black male hero. Admittedly they do not know how to market the Black Hero to America's mainstream public. Why? Because we are not use to the Black Male Success Story.
Image is everything. Until Hollywood gets it, we fail and the stereotype of Black America prevails. Blacks are significant movie consumers. Blacks view television more than any other ethnic group. On average, Black households have an average of four televisions. Black America is extremely image conscious. Yet Hollywood is baffled. Amazing.
There are mega dollars in the hills of Hollywood for movie marketing. Why not call in Black ad agencies, pr specialists and image makers who are quite expert in black and mainstream marketing and give them the movie as an account. Spike Lee and Tyler Perry just elevated because they are specialists in the making of Black movies and the marketing of them. They are low budget compared to the mainstream movies, but their margins of profit are extremely high.
The movie statement sounds like a yesteryear when the record companies did know how to market "race" records. That was the day of the magnificent voices of Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn. It took the jazz horns of Miles Davis and John Coltrane to cross over. Often these entertainers had to leave the country to work because of America's racism. It took Barry Gordy's Motown music to take it to another level which was to glamorize and brand a "black sound" that changed American music and give us rhythm and blues as a musical genre. Black music crossed over to become universal and did not have to play just on Black radio by black jocks.
Not knowing how to "market" Black male success has a lot of connotations. Hollywood is quick to glorify the Black dope dealer, the addict, the clown, the prostitute, the sportsman and the faithful servant. But the Black hero casts a different light completely. The Black male image baffles and reflects America's view. There is a difference when little Black boys know the story of the Black Tuskegee Airman rather than the story of the Black hustler.
We have not seen on the big screen, the story, of Martin Luther King, Jr. It will take about 25 years for us to see the story of the Obama on the screen. Hollywood likes to downgrade the Black image.
It is significant that white male George Lucas stepped to it. He has learned about the reality of racism firsthand from his girl friend, Melody Hobson. Her boss, John Rogers father, John Rogers, Sr. was a real Tuskegee airman. It is about more than The Red Tails and the Tuskegee airmen. It is about a debt of gratitude to the real Tuskegee airmen, who still have an organization in Alabama. It is about changing the focus and the mindset of Hollywood. If this movie is successful, others will follow. This movie will be a benchmark, if it is not, we will continue to see more of the same stereotypes that make everyone comfortable. I hope this movie brings about a revolution on the screen based on reality. Bravo Mr. Lucas. Tuskegee Airmen made real history in World War II. Simply by telling their story successfully, history can be made again.