judge kevin ross

Judge Kevin Ross

*Although it wasn’t the top movie at the box office last week, “Red Tails” is still a success in the eyes of Kevin Ross (“America’s Court with Judge Ross“).

So much so that the former California Superior Court judge hopes a new trail can be blazed for more films featuring African-Americans and other minorities. Ross, along with TV writer/producer Michael Ajakwe and Project Islamic Hope’s Najee Ali, took his support of “Red Tails” to the next level with Occupy Red Tails, a movement designed to raise awareness and encourage support for the Anthony Hemingway-directed feature.

According to Ross, Occupy Red Tails sprang from the mind of Ajakwe during a conversation they had about the movie. After seeing an interview with “Red Tails” executive producer George Lucas, Ajakwe became intent on getting the word out about “Red Tails.” The men eventually joined forces and worked to promote the film, which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“I was just going to send a message out to all the people that I have a personal relationship on Facebook. I knew I didn’t have time to e-mail or call folks,” Ross told EUR’s Lee Bailey about the creation of campaign.  “I said, ‘I’ll just create an event and say ‘Look, I’m going out to see “Red Tails.” I’m encouraging you. Let’s see a big box office on the weekend. It wasn’t a black thing because I’ve got friends across the spectrum. It was just ‘You know what? I think this is worthy of our effort and if you feel so too, share it with some friends.’”

Taking a cue from the Occupy Wall Street movement, Ajakwe came up with the name Occupy Red Tails. Despite the film harboring a predominately African-American cast, Ross is quick to point out the success and promotion of Red Tails is more universal than what many would perceive.

“I think it’s bigger than that,” he explained. “This is a general market issue.”

red tails posterReleased during the weekend following the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, “Red Tails” finished second behind “Underworld: Awakening.” The film, which stars Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ne-Yo, netted with $18.8 million in its first three days while playing in 2,512 theaters. To date, the film has grossed an estimated $33,780,000.

Ross confessed that the good fortune encountered with Occupy Red Tails is a testament to the power of social media and exposure on websites such as EURweb. Days after setting up an official page on Facebook, more than 30,000 people were invited to join the campaign. Ross attributed EUR with being the catalyst, saying that activists such as Cornel West, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Tavis Smiley and Michael Baisden were drawn to Occupy Red Tails after the web site ran a story on the effort.

The producers and marketing team behind “Red Tails” also took notice by posting links to the EUR story on their web page, Ross added, while also noting how the movie’s good showing in its first week should be a wake up call to those in the film industry.

“It wasn’t about it being a black thing as much it was about making a statement that these are the type of stories we want told. There’s no reason why we can’t see a black woman as a sci-fi action hero. There’s no reason that we can’t see a Latino man and woman in a romantic comedy or someone Asian giving us a different perspective on a particular touching story… Instead of talking about what you are against, let’s start talking about what we are for and using our dollars to make that statement.”

Lucas’ involvement in “Red Tails” and his willingness to spend $90 million of his own money to make and promote the movie spoke volumes to Ross, who admitted to feeling an immediate connection to do more than just see the Star Wars creator’s latest release.

“As the father of two boys, I said ‘OK, I understand.’ I’m a foot soldier now because you made that movie for my children and you’re telling me that that’s why you did it,” Ross shared. “I had to tell my circle of friends and family and people who follow me on social media that it spoke to them as well. That they owed it to their children to do something affirmative, to make a statement that we’re not at a place at this journey now where we’re about boycotting or tearing people down or saying what we’re against. We are at a point in our lives where we want to affirm what we’re for. And if affirming what we’re for means that people come out of our pockets, go to the movie theaters and vote with their dollars that this is the type of entertainment that we want to see…it’s great to talk about how the collective dollars of  minorities, African-Americans in particular, but you have to be able to demonstrate that.”

With criticism concerning the lack of African-American actresses in “Red Tails,” Ross is hopeful that Lucas will expand the storyline in the movie to focus on the experience of the women behind the Airmen.

“For women to say ‘Even though we don’t see any picture of me, I have faith in what the bigger picture is.’ That says to me that if George Lucas put it out there, that this is a trilogy and that what we’re seeing right now in the movie theaters is part two of the trilogy,” the ”America’s Court with Judge Ross” host remarked, “…that tells me that there is a story as to how they got there and there is a story as to what happens when they come home. And in both of those stories, African-American women must play a dominant role because you know that those men could not have withstood everything it took to get them to be Tuskegee Airmen and everything that they had to withstand when they dealt with the consequence of being Black in America after the war was over without their women being right by their side. It’s impossible.”

“That’s the story,” Ross continued. ”What they [Black women] had to sacrifice while these men were gone and what they had to do to hold it down and then the challenges of staying married to men who may have been dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, how the women had to keep them uplifted and keep the family together. I can’t wait to see those stories and I think that if we can all just stay focused and see the big picture we’re gonna get a lot of mileage out of this movie. Hopefully it spawns a new generation of storytelling from a different perspective.”

EUR associate Chris Richburg is a freelance writer based in the Charlotte, NC area. Contact him via: [email protected].