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Let’s ‘Fly’ into Black History Month by Paying Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen

Original Tuskegee Airmen

Original Tuskegee Airmen

By Naomi K. Bonman

PASADENA, CA- On Sunday evening, despite the rainy and cold weather, I enjoyed a nice evening out in Pasadena as I covered the production of “Fly” at the Pasadena Playhouse. The evening started with red carpet arrivals where special celebrity guests, such as Angela Basset and Vanessa Williams, came to support a historic production about the Tuskegee Airmen. Of course, a few of the remaining Tuskegee Airmen were all present and made their red carpet debut prior to enjoying the stage production that depicted their lives.

The cast did a phenomenal job of displaying the emotions set during the time period. It featured Brooks Brantly as W.W. (Off-Broadway: Significant Other, U.S. Tour of War Horse), Ross Cowan as Shaw (Portland Stage: Red, Berkshire Theatre Festival: Homestead Crossing), Omar Edwards as Tap Griot (Fly at Florida Studio Theatre, The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Loretto-Hilton Center Browning Mainstage, Ford’s Theatre Society), Anthony J. Goes as O’Hurley (Connecticut Repertory Theater: Olives and Blood, Chautauqua Theatre Company: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre: Paul), Brandon Nagle as Reynolds (Guthrie Theater: Mocondo, City Theater Austin: Death of a Salesman), Desmond Newson as Chet (Broadway: Motown: The Musical, 3D Theatricals: Hairspray, San Diego Musical Theatre: Rent), Damian Thompson as J. Allen (Off-Broadway: The Anthem, Around the World in 80 Days, By The Dawn’s Early Light), and Terrell Wheeler as Oscar (Florida Studio Theatre: Fly, Castillo Theatre: Children of Killers, New Ohio Theatre: That Poor Dream).

The Tuskegee Airmen flew over the skies of Europe and North Africa during World War II. Fly dramatizes the historic contributions made by the Tuskegee Airmen to the desegregation of the American military and the furthering of civil rights. After The Pasadena Playhouse engagement, Fly will then have its Off-Broadway premiere at The New Victory Theater on March 11, 2016. An earlier, 55-minute version of Fly was presented by Lincoln Center Institute, the educational arm of Lincoln Center, in 2005.

If you missed the opening night, there is still time to catch the production until February 21. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (NOTE: There will be no performance on Sunday, February 7 at 7:00 p.m.).  Tickets range from $25.00 to $77.00 and are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org or by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at (626) 356-7529; or visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Tuesday to Sunday from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. during non-performance dates.  On performance dates the Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.

The Pasadena Playhouse will also offer a special military discount for all performances of Fly excluding matinees. The military discount (buy one ticket, get one free) is available over the phone or at The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office. Military I.D. must be presented to receive the discount.

How Many Februarys Will It Take for America to Believe Black Children Are the Future, Too?

Ikhlas Saleem

Ikhlas Saleem

By Ikhlas Saleem

In 1986 Whitney Houston covered the George Benson hit, “The Greatest Love of All,” which he originally recorded for a film biography of Muhammad Ali. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that Houston’s cover gave the “message of self-worth an astounding resonance and conviction…a compelling assertion of black pride, family loyalty and spiritual devotion, all at once.”

Now that I work in education, this is a song I often reflect upon when feeling emotionally tasked, particularly the opening lines: “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside, Give them a sense of pride to make it easier, Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…”

My grade-school friend, Yasmine Muhammad, who was blessed with the talent—and in this case burden—of a great singing voice, was requested to sing this song at every awards ceremony, academic gathering and sometimes basketball games because, why not.

I didn’t know it then but what an incredible message to continuously impart upon children—particularly children that were and are descendants of slaves, carrying almost 400 years of baggage of a dignity lost and a future almost impossible to dream.

So now in 2016, I can reflect and celebrate my ancestors that carried the burden of a back breakin’, cotton-pickin’ South, while spending their nights in hope of freedom trying to make sense of a language that was not their own, while being reminded that their futures lie in nothing but death or labor of the American South.

Nate Bowling has said it before and I’ll say it again, while the fate of black children lies outside of plantation fields, America isn’t quite ready to believe or concede that black children are the future. Instead there’s the exception. There’s the, “Jahmal, despite his circumstances, who has managed to exceed expectations.” There’s also, “Keisha who displays incredible potential.” And of course there a couple of kids from 90220 and 10027 that “made it.”

You see, it’s much easier to find exceptions rather than tending to the whole lot. The fact is we’re not teaching children well and black children are among the groups that suffer most. We’re not making it easy when we lower standards for students and teachers. We’re not making it easier when we lessen measures of accountability for our lowest-performing schools. And we’re not making it easier when we restrict school enrollment to a block-radius. What we are doing is limiting students’ ability to show us all the beauty they possess inside.

Pride is lost when a high school student can be thrown from her desk and arrested in front of her classmates. Pride is lost when disciplinary action is met with a school-to-prison pipeline. Pride is lost when you graduate high school only to take remedial courses at your local community college because your diploma is worthless.

I believe children are the future, but America has to believe that black children are part of that future, too.

What It Do With the LUE: PSA, PSA, PSA! LUE Productions is on the Radio!

PSA! PSA! PSA! LUE Productions will now have its own radio show right here in the IE titled “LISTENING WITH LUE (Launching Unique Entertainment),” a platform for Indie Artist’s and the ART’S. Tune in every Sunday with us from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

LIVE RADIO and INTERNET LET THE WORLD HEAR YOUR MUSIC! Music must be EDITED to be in rotation. The show is hosted by LUE and Co-hosted by Comedian Anthony Stone featuring occasional guest hosts from time to time.

For an interview and/or song rotation opportunity, please email Lue.info@yahoo.com with SUBJECT: “Listening with LUE.”

You can listen in at www.kcaaradio.com, 1050 AM, 106.3 FM, 106.5 FM, or by calling in from your phone at (832) 999-1050