Red Tails recalls dark time for Tuskegee Airmen

In 1925 the Army War College performed a study that concluded “Blacks are mentally inferior to the white man, by nature subservient … cowardly … and therefore unfit for combat.” In 1944 an elite unit of Tuskegee Airmen better  known as the Red Tails proved this statement to be fallacious and  ludicrous. Just in time for Black History month and inspired by true events the movie Red Tails tells a story that defines our nation’s history and reveals to the world that courage has no color. It begins in the heart of World War II. As America waged war overseas, African-American fighter pilots fought segregation from the American armed forces, which declared them unfit for war because of the color of their skin. These aviators were in the 1 percent of African-Americans who held college degrees at that time, but despite their intellect, they were still considered “inferior” by their own military. “And you all thought what? You’d sign up. You’d get shiny boots, a uniform and that’d be the end of 100 years of bigotry? You’re colored men in the white man’s army,” says Maj. Emanuelle Stance (played by Cuba Gooding Jr). As second-in-command of the group his harsh words rang true. “It’s a miracle you’re flying fighters in Italy and not mopping latrines in Milwaukee.” The intelligent and well-trained men, who acquired their nickname for painting the back of their P-51 planes red, were issued faulty equipment and ordered to be 100 miles away from the front line. Col. A.J. Bullard (played by Terrance Howard), commander of the Red Tails, refused to allow racism to keep his skilled pilots from seeing combat. Bullard attempted to convince his superiors of the fact that the pilots were ready for war and pointed out that they had already exceeded everyone’s expectations. “When we came under your command, Colonel, you stated very clearly that we would never find Negroes who could pass the pilot’s exam, make it through flight school, survive basic combat. We’ve done all of that,” he explained to his racist superiors. “We have a right to fight for our country, the same as every other American. We will not go away.” Bullard was right, the Red Tails did not go away. After accomplishing their first mission, they were assigned to buffer and protect U.S. bomber groups from German war planes. The pilots went above and beyond the call of duty and earned the respect of the nation. They demonstrated that duty, honor and intelligence are not just qualities given to white men, but to all men. Despite the controversy over the movie’s all black cast, interracial relationships, finances...

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Quilts narrate history of school

Museums across Central Texas have opened their doors for the Great Bell County Quilt Crawl.  Currently in the second week, it is a county-wide exhibit of creative and historical quilts. It runs until Feb. 18. On Jan. 21, the university hosted the Crawl, and retired professor Dr. Edna Bridges gave a workshop on basic quilting techniques. She invited children to channel their ingenious side and taught them how to create fabric yo-yos. The children then used the yo-yo’s to make hair bows, clothing accessories and Christmas decorations. “It gives them something to do in their pastime besides playing video games and texting,” Bridges said. “They’ll always have it; it carries over into adulthood.  I get so much satisfaction from making and giving crafts, and I hope it gives these kids the same satisfaction.” The museum also displays more than 40 exhibits that include quilts, bedspreads, rugs, decorative clowns, handkerchiefs, pillows and crocheted collars. Each display tells a story, and each connects to the university. Two quilts are emphasized as the museum’s centerpieces. One is a keepsake collage of shirts entitled “UMHB T-shirt Quilt” while the other is a family heirloom entitled “9-Patch Touching Stars.” Both are a representation of UMHB’s past and present and are owned by alumnae and grandmother          /granddaughter duo, Nelda Sanders and Kristal Varnell. The first was made in 2011 by Varnell.  It is a patchwork of T-shirts she acquired during her years in college. She said, “I just wanted to make something to preserve all my memories,” she said. “I had all these shirts, and I thought that I should just make a quilt from them. It wasn’t hard. If I can do it, anyone can do it.” Half-way through her studies, Varnell shifted gears and changed her major. She thought it was important to incorporate that into her masterpiece. “Even though I didn’t graduate with a nurse’s degree, I was a nurse major my first two years. Here are the purple pockets from my purple scrubs and the white buttons from my lab coat,” she said. The second quilt, “9-Patch Touching Stars,” was made in 1845 by Mary Sloan. It was a wedding gift for her son, then handed through the generations while being preserved with love and care. More than 150 years later, it was given to Varnell’s grandmother and 1954 graduate, Nelda East Sanders. “It was passed down each time to another daughter when she got married,” Sanders said.  “Then it finally came to my brother-in-law’s mother. She gave it to him, and he gave it to us. The stitching  really tells the different texture of that time period. Everything was done...

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Perry play gives people more than just a laugh

Austin welcomed Tyler Perry with open arms Jan. 17 as he presented his play The Haves and the Have Nots at the Long Center.  Before the show, the audience sat in anticipation expecting a good laugh. After all, Perry is known for his colorful, over-the-top characters and his sometimes iffy story lines. But as the curtains went up and the play started, the audience soon realized that laughter was not the only thing being served. What the audience got was a well performed, heartfelt story filled with honesty, brutal realities, powerful music and, of course, comedy. The play focused on two families — one with wealth and one without. Grandma Haitie is the matriarch of the second family. She has let her daughter Rose, son-in-law Frank and grandson Wallie come and live with her. The opening scene starts with depressing news that their house is currently being foreclosed, and within three days they will be out on the streets. Frank is currently unemployed, and Rose works as a maid. Things start to look up when Rose’s boss, Louis, offers Frank a job to help him get on his feet. The scene is changed to the mansion of newlyweds Louis and Diane. He is a rich businessman, and she is a spoiled gold-digger who manipulates and lies to get what she wants. Rose has been Louis’ maid for six years, but things become complicated when Frank starts working for the wealthy couple. The lady of the house, Diane, starts making advances to her new employee and makes it her personal mission to break up his marriage. Meanwhile, the teenage son of Rose and Frank, Wallie, feels that it is his responsibility to raise the money to save their house from foreclosure.  He starts dealing drugs and finds himself in jail. As the story unfolds, audience’s hearts ache for the characters facing their own personal trials and tribulations. Frank, the husband, is overwhelmed with guilt because he cannot provide for his family. Rose, a wife and mother, who has always put her trust in God, is now faced with news of her husband’s alleged indiscretions and her son’s run-in with the law. Louis, a man rich with money and power, has to come to the harsh reality that money may buy a young, beautiful wife, but it cannot buy happiness. And finally, Diane, the seductive adulteress battles her own demons. Two characters soften the blow of the seriousness of the tough issues addressed. Haitie is the encouraging elder who has much advice to give and many stories to tell, while Floyd is a friend to everyone. He knows all, sees all,...

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