The Office of Diversity and Community hosted the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron “Rise Above” Traveling Exhibit Oct. 3-7.
The exhibit is a mobile movie theater that tours the country to educate exhibit visitors about the Tuskegee Airmen, featuring the film “Rise Above” by filmmaker and aviation cinema specialist Adam White.
From the outside, the mobile theater didn’t look much different from a semi-truck trailer, other than pictures of P-51C Mustangs and information about CAF painted on the outside.
Inside, a panoramic screen that was the length of the trailer was blocked off from miniature sets of bleachers.
“The setup was very unique — something that I hadn’t quite experienced before. It felt a lot like an exhibit you would see in a brick-and-mortar museum, but they could pack it up and take it anywhere,” senior Caitlyn Smith said.
The film itself was also different from traditional movies because the director utilized the length of the screen; sometimes, there would be three separate frames playing on the screen simultaneously. At one point, a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen spoke about their missions while film from the war played in the two outside frames.
The “Rise Above” exhibit tours the country telling the story of these pilots and their support personnel who escorted military bombers during World War II. Through the story of these brave men, the CAF Red Tail Squadron hopes to inspire others to overcome adversity, find inner strength and be successful in their lives.
“It’s refreshing to see this type of education being brought to UCA. A lot of African-American history is still glossed over or summarized as briefly as possible in textbooks we used during junior high or high school, so I think it’s great to see this kind of recognition,” senior Jayonna Beard said.
The film is full of interesting facts about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, including what life looked like for them after their return home to an America that was “unwilling to recognize their contributions,” according to the CAF Red Tail Squadron website.
In 2006, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service, and were also invited to the 2009 presidential election of Barack Obama.
The exhibit originally began in 2001 as a tour with a restored P-51C Mustang flown by Don Hinz, a retired U.S. Navy Commander and businessman. After Hinz died following a plane crash during an airshow in 2004, however, the CAF Red Tail Squadron decided they needed to take their mission one step further and the mobile theater was born.
Smith believes the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s mission is vital.
“It’s important to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen because it’s a wonderful example of overcoming adversity and socially imposed obstacles. Sharing this story with children like this program does is a great way to teach them that their dreams are achievable no matter how far out of reach they may seem,” Smith said.
The exhibit tours year-round and has an online form where you can request a visit to your hometown. For additional information about the CAF Red Tail Squadron and Tuskegee Airmen, visit redtail.org.
Photo by Marley Cash-Powell.