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PASA seeking photos, stories of local Tuskegee Airmen

Black Angels Over Tuskegee.jpg
Posted at 8:32 AM, Mar 02, 2022

Performing Arts Serving Acadiana (PASA) is asking for photos and stories of local military veterans who took part in or were affiliated with the Tuskegee Airmen program.

Families and friends of these veterans are being asked to submit photos and brief histories for inclusion in PASA's Black Angels Over Tuskegee project.

“PASA’s presentation of Layon Gray’s award winning play, Black Angels Over Tuskegee, and series of Tuskegee Airmen lectures by Dr. Theodore Foster uses the humanities as an exciting way of connecting the past to the present,” says Jacqueline Lyle, PASA’s executive director. “We will ethically center any images or histories collected as part of this project honoring and celebrating these contributions.”

PASA says it plans to make the photos and stories available through social media platforms, in video streams, and in other public posts.

Submissions of scanned photos attached in jpg format and histories as email text can be sent to stories@pasaonline.org. Those submitting can contact PASA at 337-230-7016 for assistance.

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On March 31, 2022, PASA will present one performance of Black Angels Over Tuskegee, written and directed by Layon Gray, at 7:30 p.m. at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette.

The performance, originally scheduled in January, was rescheduled due to COVID concerns.

PASA says the award-winning, historical docudrama tells the story of six men who embark on a journey to become the first Black aviators in the United States Army Air Forces in an era of racial segregation and Jim Crow idealism.

Writer and director Layon Gray is a native of Alexandria and graduated from the University of Louisiana Lafayette in 1996. He developed Black Angels Over Tuskegee by using his own interviews with Tuskegee Airmen and other research.

Commonly referred to as the Tuskegee Airmen, these men came together to participate in the Army Air Corps program, which sought to train and prepare African-Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The group included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance, instructors and support staff personnel who were charged with keeping the planes operable and in the air. The Tuskegee Airman conquered isolation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II, forming the 99th Pursuit Squadron. They proved conclusively that African-Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. The achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.

“This performance is an unusual opportunity to examine an era of American history, the important role that Black soldiers played in World War II, and to celebrate the talent that has blossomed from the University of Louisiana and from our local theater community,” says Lyle. “We hope that veterans, drama fans and people of all ages who are fans of live entertainment will join us on January 20 for this performance.”

Associate Professor of Black Studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, Theodore Foster, PhD, will give two public Tuskegee Airmen lectures: one at 6 p.m. on March 24 at the Washington Recreation Center, 705 South Bridge Street, in Washington, LA, and the second at 6 p.m. on April 4 in Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church’s Jeanmard Hall on the University of Louisiana campus.

“We hope to connect, also, with any surviving Tuskegee Airmen in our region,” says Lyle.

Lyle can be reached by email at jackie@pasaonline.org or by calling (337) 781-1273.

Tickets for Black Angels Over Tuskegee are available at www.pasaonline.org, by phone at the Heymann Performing Arts Center box office (337) 291-5555, or through ticketmaster.com

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