Parents: Start a Conversation and Prevent Gang Affiliation

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Parents -- engaging your children in conversations with the elder members of the family cultivates tradition and family culture. This is imperative for young family members to begin to see their own place in the fabric of their generational quilt. In addition, this is necessary for success as it provides the foundation for achieving self-actualization or reaching one's fullest potential. In addition, these activities help to encourage creativity which can be very helpful in the development of writing skills. This is necessary for success on any standardized test. Children need experiences to share. Here is an great idea you can use to encourage conversations and interest in the Greatest Generation. ~Professor Bass

daddywwii We were blessed to view Red Tailsredtails with my 87-year old father when it was released in 2012.  Having served in the all-Black 93rd Infantry in World War II in the Philippines, we always try to engage him with activities that we know he will enjoy while we learn more of his life experiences.  Here are some considerations regarding this movie from the point of view of a World War II veteran. I hope these notes are helpful as you encourage your kids to start talking about important issues....
We knew that Daddy would love this dramatic story based on the events of the Tuskegee Airmen. Like its predecessor Gloryredtails with Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Andre Braugher and Morgan Freedom, my father felt that it told a part of his experience often overlooked by historians.  I’ve seen Daddy’s face express a sense of pride in this way only a few times before and one was the night President Obama was elected for the very first time.  This movie is a pretty big deal.  :)

This film stars Cuba Gooding, Jr (who has been away from the big screen for way too long) and Terrence Howard (always part of excellent projects). They lead a truly talented young cast of men who tell a story based on the Tuskegee Airmen, the college educated all-Black pilots from the Booker T Washington’s Tuskegee Institute who defied “research” that stated Black pilots were inferior and unable to perform aviator duties. Ultimately, they escorted American bombers throughout Europe during WWII proving the value of Black soldiers and paving the way for integration of the US military.

Extending the movie:

Do not minimize, misunderstand or overlook the significance of the love story involving a young Italian woman and one of the Airmen. It [paints a subtle yet highly important aspect of Black soldier life. Daddy often speaks of the humiliation he and the members of his platoon felt as they battled the sickness of racism among their own white American soldiers yet found acceptance among the people of the other nations.

"We went into a place to get something to drink and the Filipinos asked us if we needed pillows." Confused, we said, 'No' but wondered why they would ask such a thing. They told us that the white soldiers had already warned them that 'coloreds' have tails," Daddy recalled. Despite a desire and willingness to serve and die for this country, the racist attitudes followed these fearless fighters overseas often poisoning cultures with such beliefs.  The love story in Red Tails exemplifies this great irony. Black American soldiers, while often LOVED by the people of the other countries, still had to fight racism and hatred from those of their own country. These particular experiences served to spark the Civil Rights Era. Black veterans returned home only to find more segregation and, after this second war, had had enough. This is a critical piece in the history of Black military service.

Red Tails also illustrates how committed and determine the soldiers remained, despite the frustratingly waste of dedicated manpower by forcing Black soldiers to perform menial or least desirable tasks. Daddy explained that when they were not involved in digging trenches and foxholes, the 93rd was often sent in to the jungle (at night) to check for hidden Japanese soldiers and encampments.  They served as scouts to clear the way for the white troops to advance. Daddy’s prized possession is a Japanese officer’s sword. As you probably already know, Japanese Officers had no choice but to take their own lives in threat of capture.  While hiking in the jungles, Daddy's unit watched, in the distance, as a Japanese officer pulled the clip on a grenade and help it to his chest to avoid capture. Daddy was given the order to belly crawl forward to make sure he was dead and alone and that it was safe for the white soldiers to continue advancing.  After crawling up toward the remains, he found the sword lying nearby.  It is a beautiful artifact but, wow, what a price.

Connecting with family, history, and culture is imperative for academic success. Students turn to gangs for many reasons but the primary one is for a sense of belonging, a need all humans must achieve for self-actualization, or the fulfilling of one's potential. Children will not initiate this contact and elders rarely have the resources to make the connection. It is up to parents to make time for these experiences and educators can encourage them through curriculum.

We need more good stories of American history of US ALL.  This is imperative for all children to feel a sense of belonging in this great country. America tends to sweep uncomfortable moments in time out of immediate memory. However, our challenges are what make us unique.  Even when moving at a snail’s pace, change is still change, and we have to press forward. Red Tails is an awesome candidate for class movie time. The producers avoided all use of profanity and even violence is kept to a minimum, which makes it classroom friendly. With Black History Month coming quickly, consider this idea and try to find a local vet who might enjoy coming in to speak to the class.

A movie that can keep my father engaged for a couple of hours is sure to hold the attention of middle and high schoolers who need stories of hard work and diligence that pays off.

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Professor Marsha


Marsha Kay Bass, ABD

"It is easier to raise strong children than repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass

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