Nearly 70 years ago, African-American men climbed into old substandard airplanes and fought Germany in the skies of Italy, while being discriminated at home. It was widely known that German prisoners of war in the states were treated better than the African-Americans that vanquished them on the battlefield. It is amazing that this treatment never once hampered the resolve of those fighting fighter pilots given the name of “The Tuskegee Airmen”.
Many of their exploits were captured in a recent film “Red Tails”. For all of its accuracy and historic flare nothing can compare to shaking the hand of one of these living legends, which I had the pleasure of doing at the Proud Bird Restaurant this past Saturday, March 1, 2014.
The reason for my visit was a town hall meeting for the specific purpose of keeping the Proud Bird Restaurant open. Many of us have been to the Proud Bird various times and for different occasions. Some of my trips there have included the retirement celebration of my Godfather who was a high-ranking Department of Airports manager, or the time I went to a community pastor’s luncheon. There was also the time my family needed a place to have a repass and of course the Proud Bird met us with open arms.
More than the family memories, the Proud Bird is sacred ground do the story it tells about those gallant men who took to the skies to defeat Hitler’s Germany. They shot down more planes, escorted more bombers safely to their targets, and endured more racism than any other servicemen. If you have not been to the Proud Bird, it serves both food and history. On the walls you see these wide-eyed, energetic, young men brimming with optimism of their mission and confidence in their skill to fight. Hundreds of them adorn the walls of the restaurant and you get the eerie feeling that if a bugle played they would leap from those pictures and be ready to fight again.
The Proud Bird must be kept open for it is a clear record of the exploits of these brave men who are more honored because even in the darkness of their country’s racism, they could still see a day dawning that would lend itself to justice and equality. They believed in their country when their country did not totally believe in them. These men saw what America could be despite its faults.
Finally, it should be noted that the original owner, was a Caucasian man who serviced in World War II as one of those bomber pilots the Tuskegee Airmen were tasked with escorting. He saw their resolve in spite of all the racism and knew that he would one day show the world what these men were all about. We can’t let this place close. If you want to know what you can do to keep the Proud Bird open, call 213-399-8642.
Concerned in Carson