Written by Greg Arrastia, Third-Year New Victory Usher
During the recent run of FLY at The New Victory Theater, I had the great pleasure of getting to know three real-life Tuskegee Airmen! I had a lot of questions for them, and they were more than happy to answer them and share a few of their stories with me.
Greg got to know Tuskegee Airmen Audley Coulthurst and Dabney Montgomery during the run of Fly, when they attended a pair of special Talk-Back events.
These men, who bravely served in our country's military at a time when they weren't accepted by others, really made a difference. They risked their lives to make the world a better place. To be given the opportunity to meet some of the Tuskegee Airmen is an honor that I won't forget. I remember a story one of the airmen told me about the time he walked up to a set of water fountains—one was for whites only, and the other solely for blacks. "Simply taking a drink of water from the wrong fountain could have gotten me killed," he said. And yet, he sipped from the "Whites Only" fountain, proving that he was determined to take a stand against discrimination and oppression.
As I observed and got to know these men, I noticed that they were not only funny, soft-spoken and young-at-heart; they were really strong, too—physically, mentally and emotionally. One of the airmen told me that he worked as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s security guard. Wow! I mean, just to get to meet Dr. King, an amazing man who made a huge impact on society, would be such a huge honor. I can't imagine what it must have been like having the job of protecting Dr. King.
Listening to their stories helped me to think about life, and our country's history, in a different way. One thing that will stick with me is the moment one of the airmen looked me in the eyes and said, "Don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do something. People will try to tell you that because they haven't done it. Anything you put your mind to, you can do. Don't let anyone hold you back. We are living examples of that!"
I wish everyone could have the experience of talking with someone who has been such an important part of our history. Being with these amazing men and listening to their stories changed my life. To be honest, I never really found history to be all that interesting. That is, until I saw FLY and got to meet the airmen. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen should be talked about more in schools. It's an important part of our history, and people need to know what they went through and what a difference they made. It was a blessing to get to know these inspiring men.
This is definitely an experience that I'll keep with me—always.
||Greg Arrastia is a Third-Year Usher who hails from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Greg’s #LoveOfTheater began right here at the New Vic, and he also enjoys playing basketball and working out at the gym. He credits the New Victory Usher Corps for highlighting the importance of helping others and teaching him how to be a leader. You can learn more about Greg in his Usher Spotlight from earlier this season.