On Feb. 11, Bethany Baptist Church asked the question “Can any good thing come out of Homewood?” And their answer was a resounding yes.
The church’s Christian Education Committee hosted a tribute to the famous Tuskegee Airmen, who have recently gained national prominence thanks to the movie “Red Tails,” which hit theatres last month. Sixteen of these men came from the Homewood area and many more servicemen and women have emerged from Homewood-Brushton to defend America.
“When I found out how many came from the Homewood Brushton community, it really inspired me. I grew up in this area and I saw what it was and I know what it can be again. I thought this would be a great event to inspire the youth,” said Minister Nicita Moses, who organized the event. “My message is just like it was in the scripture; my concept was to give children hope that good things do come out of Homewood. It might not look like much now but there are good things that have come out of Homewood. This is my way of trying to turn it around. I can’t do everything, but I can do one thing.”
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American pilots in World War II, who were the first Black military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. The group of airmen overcame racial obstacles as they rose to become one of the most decorated units in World War II.
“I thought it was very important to tribute the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. I was not one of them but after I enlisted in the air force I met many of them. I think they paved the way for me and many people like me,” said Timothy McCray, who reached the rank of senior master sergeant with the air force. “They paved the way for the military to be integrated.”
At the Saturday event, guests braved the snow to hear from Kingsley Carry, a Tuskegee Airman from Homewood, who trained with the famous group of men, but did not fly with them. He shared memories of USAF General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. who became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star general.
“The Tuskegee Airmen are a tremendous group of men. Chappie James who became a general was in the class right behind me. He was the first one to fly the B45,” Carry said. “They had a great impact because when they first went over to Italy, they were only allowed to bomb areas that had already been bombed. When they finally were allowed in aerial combat they did so well that they were given the assignment of escorting bombers. In fact the bombers requested them. They helped because they proved that Blacks could learn how to fly. I think that what we did was pave the way to show that despite the odds, you can succeed if you really want to.”
The event also featured musical selections and a presentation by Regis Bobonis, another Tuskegee Airman working to find other former pilots and share their stories. After the program, guests continued to mingle and share their own ties to the Tuskegee Airmen and their reaction to the unit’s recent rise to fame.
“I feel like it’s about time. We contributed to America and I think they’re deserving,” said Lillian Allen, who was married to a Tuskegee Airman. “Frankly World War II was during a time when they didn’t bother with us; when they let us in the army, all they would let us do is be cooks. But eventually the time came when they asked for the Black pilots because they never lost a plane.”
The event was organized by the Bethany Baptist Church Christian Education/Vacation Bible School Committee, and the Alleghenians.