The power of the Black consumer “Red Tails”

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When the African-American community heard George Lucas of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” fame couldn’t easily get “Red Tails” financed because of the all-Black cast, they promised to support the film in droves. The film placed No

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When the African-American community heard George Lucas of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” fame couldn’t easily get "Red Tails" financed because of the all-Black cast, they promised to support the film in droves. The film placed No. 2 in box office sales over the weekend reaching $19.1 million in ticket sales. But the real story is why.

Hollywood was reluctant to financial back a film with an all Black cast? One wonders why race matters in these post civil right movement years? Fortunately, Lucas decided to use $60 million of his own money to finance the movie, and the Black community supported the film in great numbers.

The success of “Red Tails” is a testament to Black consumer power. According to Ken Smikle, of Black Business Chicago, “The gross income of Black consumers nationally is approximately $913 billion and by 2012 the buying power will exceed $1 trillion annually.” Not bad for a people who were once slaves in these United States of America.

Black Chicago specifically flexed its powerful consumer muscles taping into its $85 billion buying power to help push “Red Tails” over the top. Our Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, joined with many other religious, civic, educational and business organizations to help fill the seats at local theatres throughout the nation. The Revs. Tim Lee and Georgette Greenlee Finney, chaperoned 50 youths to a Sunday afternoon treat of “Red Tails.” A group of our mature members planned an afternoon outing to see the film in memory of a former Tuskegee Airman and Metropolitan church member, Ludlow Werner and his wife Barbara Werner.

Although “Red Tails” is a fictional tale, it is inspired by the true life experience of the Tuskegee Airmen (the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group of the United States Army who fought in World War II). During this period of our history, the Army was deeply segregated and subject to daily efforts by whites to deny the loyalty, mental capacity, courage and commitments of Black military personnel required to engage the enemies of America. To say the least, the movie revealed the deep racial scars on white America’s personality when it comes to affording blacks full equality and citizenship in this country and the world.

“Red Tails” helps Americans of all colors to understand the importance of the contributions that Blacks have and continue to make in the furtherance of our democracy. Both on screen and real life, the Tuskegee Airmen exceeded the expectations of their white superiors. They displayed heroic courage in the face of the enemy even though the country for which they were prepared to make the supreme sacrifice of life still would not accord men and women of their color the right to vote, attend schools with whites, live in mixed race neighborhoods and work in integrated places of employment. In short, the Tuskegee Airmen were fighting for a dream of an America which did not exist. Yet, they bravely fought making their effort a living testament to Black excellence in war and thereby helped to lay the foundation for the non-violent movement for justice, freedom and peace led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It appears George Lucas saw something that Hollywood could not see…the Black community had the capacity to turn “Red Tails” into a Black Liberation cause! While the end of American racism against Blacks is still a dream, the reality is that the Black consumer and political community is still alive and well. Let the box office sales success of “Red Tails” be a lesson to both Black and white, that there is still something called BLACK CONSUMER POWER AND BLACK POLITICAL POWER! Now run and tell that!


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