Heroes play an influential role at Studio/E: authors, explorers, rule-breakers, artists and business starters. But last week we had the opportunity to be with a real hero. For our event, A Hero’s Journey | The Last of the Tuskegee Airmen, we brought Lt. Colonel Harold Brown to the Twin Cities for an evening of inspiration.
Harold Brown is one of the last surviving members of the storied Tuskegee Airmen — the first African American pilots allowed to join the U.S. Army Air Corps. He and his wife, Marsha S. Bordner, joined us in an airplane hangar at the Wings of the North museum as Harold spoke of his experiences in World War II … with the backdrop of a Mustang P-51 fighter plane, the model he flew in the war. Before Harold got up to speak we watched a video that introduced his story. As the video wound down, the crowd stood up and gave the hero of the evening a standing ovation welcome.
“If you don’t have a passion, you can still have a dream. But remember this: there are no free rides.”- Dr. Harold Brown
Harold’s story is expansive, and he articulates much of it in his just-released biography, Keep Your Airspeed Up: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman. While he didn’t have time to cover everything, he did share with us a few stories:
- Becoming an aviator in a deeply segregated military;
- Being shot down over Austria in WWII, where he was rescued by an Austrian constable from villagers intent on lynching him;
- Spending months in a POW camp — the first time he experienced desegregation;
- How he kept his desire to be an aviator front and center, his determination and resilience far stronger than any words or regulations against him.
After a compelling Q&A session (and a second standing ovation from the crowd) Harold graciously signed copies of his new book for many of the 130+ guests who joined us that evening, smiling for photos and personalizing his signatures.
“If you choose not to be a second-class citizen, you don’t have to be one.”
– Dr. Harold Brown
We weren’t the only ones excited about Harold’s presence in the Twin Cities. Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges proclaimed the week of September 10 – 17, 2017 as Lt. Colonel Harold Brown Week in the city of Minneapolis. The mayor of Red Wing did the same.
We brought Harold to the Twin Cities (or back to the Twin Cities we should say, as Harold grew up in North Minneapolis) because his is an incomparable story of following your desire, something we wholeheartedly believe in. Though this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we do put on events similar to this one many times throughout the year. If you are not a Studio/E member but are thinking about joining our membership so you can gain access to these events (and become a part of an incredible community) please follow this link.
Thank you, Max Haynes, for the beautiful photos!