Terrence Roberts book signing for his book entitled "Lessons From Little Rock"as part of the educational event honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. Photo credit: Xavier Higgs.
Over 250 people attended an educational screening event in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen at St. Francis High School in La Canada, this past Sunday. Local Tuskegee Airmen, Oliver Goodall, was the special guest, and after a standing ovation from the audience, spoke about his experiences serving in the armed forces during World War II. The event was hosted by the school's Black Student Union, in partnership with the Gamma Zeta Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, and the Pasadena/Altadena chapters of Jack and Jill of America and The Links, Incorporated, and attracted churches, community service organizations, St. Francis students, as well as students from other Pasadena-area schools.The project's goal was to educate and inform youth about the challenges the Tuskegee Airmen faced during the era of Jim Crow laws and blatant racial discrimination in trying to serve their country, as well as noting their significant contributions to American history. Before guests screened The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne, Gary Murphy, St. Francis' AP European History teacher, provided them with a detailed summary of the Airmen's accomplishments in the face of racial injustice within the United States armed forces. Oliver Goodall spoke about his own experiences as one of the African-American officers who attempted to integrate the all-white officer's club in Tuskegee, which is historically known as the "Freeman Field Mutiny." This event helped accelerate a national outcry, led by civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, which eventually led to the formal desegregation of military bases by President Harry S. Truman in 1948.
Bronson Manning and Peter Orme, both seniors and co-presidents of the BSU, said the project came together in eight short weeks, as a result of a conversation Manning and James Johnson, Gamma Zeta Boule member, had about the need for younger people to recognize and remember the Tuskegee Airmen. The West Covina Rose Float Foundation's 2010 entry, "A Cut Above," is dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and will feature sixteen of the living Airmen riding on the float. St. Francis' BSU has organized a team of approximately 40 students to decorate the float during their winter break.
Chance Thomas, a 16-year-old junior at Maranatha High School, who is also a member of the Altadena NAACP Youth Council, said the screening was very inspirational. Thomas continued, "To be honest, I knew about the Tuskegee Airmen, but I didn't know specifics. They don't teach you about them in history classes at school." Local Pasadena resident, Kathryn McKnight brought her adult son, Marco White, and her two grandchildren. McKnight noted, "Oliver Goodall has long been admired in Pasadena, so it was good to hear from him, and the film itself was really good. It truly captured the circumstances of Black men in the military during that time and how hard they had to work to be recognized as people who had a contribution to make in the war effort."