My friend Cole and his company, Heygood Images Productions, have written an open letter to George Lucas about the upcoming film Red Tails (in theaters Friday, January 20). The film, produced by Lucas, tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black aerial combat unit during WW2. Cole’s letter thanks Lucas for his vision and determination in making the movie and bringing it to theaters - an uneasy task for many films - especially one that features a mostly black cast depicting a story of heroism.
On The Daily Show a couple weeks ago, Lucas discussed the obstacles he encountered in getting Hollywood to distribute and promote his black action movie. [It was especially sad to hear that many of the actual Airmen he had relied on in making the film had died before he was able to get the film out.] Lucas’ openness about the perception that black movies cannot also be green is admirable. And I hope that his experience and candor garner more attention for the challenges faced by countless movie-makers and actors who seek to tell stories we haven’t already heard.
Cole’s letter invokes Dr. King’s legacy, which reminded me of these words:
"We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."
I don’t precisely mean to equate the adversities in Tinseltown with those of Civil Rights demonstrators in Birmingham 50 years ago. But Dr. King’s words and ideas remain relevant. Unspoken injustices - sometimes less obvious, but no less invidious - course through nearly every industry and institution of American society. We can set priorities, but the goal remains to expose and eradicate injustice anywhere, or else threaten justice everywhere. “I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”
*All quoted language from Dr. King’s 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail.