Over the birthday weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was fitting that a group considered one of the harbingers of Black pride were given their just desserts: the Tuskegee Airmen.
“I believe that they were the forefathers of what became the Civil Rights Movement,” said actor Cuba Gooding Jr. For Gooding, his thespian trade has made him quite astute and passionate in the matter of the Tuskegee Airmen, as he has twice been featured in films dedicated to the heroic exploits of the fighter pilots who, during World War II, flew 15,000 missions and another 700 bomber escort missions that subsequently helped lead America and its allies to victory.
Film No. 1, while a very good film, was released to little fanfare as an HBO production in 1995 called “The Tuskegee Airmen.” Meanwhile, his second foray is the big budget, all-out action-adventure film “Red Tails,” produced by legendary Hollywood mogul George Lucas, which found itself at No. 2 in box office receipts this week.
Continued awareness of the group transpired when Gooding and co-star Terrence Howard Jr. publicly honored some of the actual living members of the Tuskegee Airmen: William Slade, Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr. and Charles McGee with the Service Award at the 2012 BET Honors. Other honorees were Beverly Kearney (Education Award); Maya Angelo (Literary Arts Award); Mariah Carey (Entertainer Award); Stevie Wonder (Musical Arts Award); and New York’s own Spike Lee (Media Award).
Hosted for the fourth consecutive year by the stunning Gabrielle Union, the show boasted a lineup of performances by Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Cicely Tyson and Robin Thicke, as well as appearances by Willow Smith, Jill Scott, John Singleton and first lady Michelle Obama. The BET Honors ceremony airs on Monday, Feb. 13 at 9 p.m.
As the first month of the year comes to a close, we can set our sights on Feb. 1 and the start of the 78th season of Amateur Night at the Apollo. The new season brings a new flavor, as technological advances merge with tradition in bringing forth a broader audience with Amateur Night Digital. With this new advent, users worldwide will be able to track the progress of and vote for their favorite Apollo Amateur Night contestants throughout the season.
Musically, the night promises to be special, as Jennifer Holliday makes her debut on the Apollo stage. How real will it be to hear what is undoubtedly one of the most performed songs in the history of the Apollo performed by the original act?
Amateur Night producer Marion J. Caffey said excitedly, “This year’s opening night show is particularly special because we are introducing something really different and new to the Apollo audience with Amateur Night Digital. The new site will be interactive, allowing users to vote from home, extending the Apollo’s reach well beyond our own four walls.
“And we couldn’t be more excited to be showcasing the original Dreamgirl, Jennifer Holliday, who will surely be an inspiration to all our contestants and help us kick off our 78th season in style. This is going to be a great year for Amateur Night.”
Gotta recoup from the big win in San Francisco and collect the bearings for the big day on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis. We in the SUPER BOWL….WHAT?! I’m out. Holla in a week. ‘Til then, enjoy the nightlife.