I very much enjoyed Tuesday’s interactive videoconference with Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, who connected from Wayne State University in Michigan to an 8th grade US History class and a 12 grade African American Studies class in my district.
I had the good fortune to meet Alex last April while waiting for my luggage in the Denver Airport. Since he was wearing a Tuskegee Airman jacket, I could not resist introducing myself. As he shared his story of “fighting for the right to fight,” I immediately started thinking of ways that he could share his World War II experiences with middle and high school students. To top it off, he showed me a copy of his book, Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free, which includes sketches from his time spent in a German POW camp for officers – the first time in his miliatry career that he enjoyed equal treatment as his fellow white officers. No question about it, students needed the opportunity to hear and learn from his first-hand experiences in a pre-civil right decade.
Nine months later, and with the help of the Berrien County’s energetic Janine Lim, we did it! Throughout a highly interactive hour, students learned that the fight for civil rights did not begin in the 60s. The Tuskegee Airmen persistently fought to overcome barriers and indignities, and in no small way laid the groundwork for what has transpired through the past 60+ years.
Today as we commemorate the life and sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr., and tomorrow as we head into a history-making inauguaration, I think perhaps the students participating in last week’s event will understand the anaology of the turtle on the gate post, who could not have reached that position without the help of many others – such as one Tuskegee Airman who has made a life career on taking a stand for social justice, fighting for the right to fight.
And what a good use of technology to take students beyond their school sites and community:-)