- Faith & Family
Teddy Harrell, Jr., the founder of the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre [AAPACT], believes one of the best ways to teach young boys about becoming positive-minded men is to spend time with them in dialogue and through fun activities. He, along with his brother, Keith, a manager at AAPACT, and a group of longtime friends, took 20 young boys from the area to see “Red Tails” last weekend. After watching the film that chronicles the lives and challenges of the Tuskegee Airmen, the boys gathered to talk about their impressions of the movie.
“Our youth know that we have a high school in Miami named Booker T. Washington but most don’t know anything about the man himself,” Teddy added. “This film is a great opportunity to introduce them to our history.”
Many of the boys present come from single parent homes, but there were a few fathers who joined their sons and the rest of the group as well. Keith Harrell says the goal is to let the boys see Black men in a more positive light.
“AAPACT has been giving back to our community since our founding in 1989,” Keith added. “It means so much to these boys when you spend time and listen to what’s on their minds. The best way to impact behavior is to lead by example. As far as the film is concerned, the message is simple: Black have contributed to this country and the world in outstanding ways — we matter too.”
Connie Nappier, III, 52, is particularly proud of the film. His father, Connie Jr., is a Tuskegee Airmen now 89-years-old and living in Connecticut.
“President Obama had my dad and the other living Airmen as his guests during his inauguration,” Nappier said. “That was a very special day for our family. What’s interesting is that my father never talked about the Tuskegee Airmen when we were children, except to say he was in the service and he served his country. The film was good but it still doesn’t capture the many humiliating things that my dad and others were forced to endure. But they did endure.”
Film inspires tomorrow’s leaders
After the film was over, some of the boys told this reporter what they remembered about “Red Tails.”
Tyriq Smith, 12: “When that Black pilot took on the German pilot head-on, it showed real courage. I know the Tuskegee Airmen lost 60 pilots in battle. They were really brave.”
Ryan Sparks, 16: “It’s hard to imagine an all-Black group of pilots putting their lives on the line to protect whites who thought so little of us. Whites thought we were inferior but the Tuskegee Airmen showed them that we can do anything we put our minds to.”
Lamont Harrison, 12: “It had to be so much pressure that those men were under, always trying to prove themselves. All they wanted was an equal shot.”
Then, almost in unison, the rest of the boys added, “We Blacks are an amazing people.”
By D. Kevin McNeir