The Red Tail legacy continued through art

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lauren M. Snyder
  • 332d Air Expeditionary Wing

Slim, tall, with a contagious smile, Senior Airman Mia M. Evans, 332d Expeditionary Force Support Squadron services apprentice, incorporates art as a way to carry on the Red Tail legacy.

“As an African American, just knowing that I'm playing a role to continue [the Tuskegee] storyline is so exciting,” said Evans.

The storyline she continues is reflected in her life, her family, the men and women before her, and the Tuskegee Airmen specifically. The story is about valor, pride and gumption. It’s an American story.

The 332d Air Expeditionary Wing hails from the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of African-American military pilots who flew in World War II. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps. The Tuskegee name encompasses the people of color who served as pilots, navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel during that time.

“They weren’t even allowed to have basic rights, voting was an issue, but ‘we're gonna fly some planes and we are going to win a war.’ That is some sacrifice right there; that is complete selflessness… and they did all of that so that I can paint on walls,” she said, ending with a warm laugh.

Growing up, Evans’ family shaped her expectations of how to use her artistic gifts and invest in legacy.

“My grandfather was an artist, and I just used to be in awe of him drawing; the scale of his work would just be so big with large wall drawings and stuff like that,” Evans said. “He would teach me how to do faces and how to draw people and ever since then, I want everyone to feel what it's like to create something beautiful. Everybody needs to know what that feels like, even if you don't know how to draw or paint, you just need to know how it feels to create something cool.”

Assigned to the U. S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 920th Rescue Wing in Cocoa Beach, Florida, she’s been an art teacher since 2005 and recently completed a large mural in the newly renovated Red Tail Dining Facility. Her inspiration, based on a photo of four Tuskegee pilots walking down a flight line, embodies trailblazing men who just returned from a successful flight. The abstract figures, faces merely a suggestion, are dressed in green flight suits and yellow vests, walk across the russet-colored ground, backlit with a sunset smeared in blues and pinks.

“It was not that long ago,” she said, speaking thoughtfully. “This was someone's great-great-grandfather who could still be alive or someone whose family vividly remembers him; these are not ancient ancestors-- this is recent. To be connected to that, I am just so honored. Their participation played a major role in winning the war, you know. They were so essential to where we are today.”

A single mother of two daughters, Evans is intentional about mentoring the future generation. She explained how there are aspects of life, and this world, that aren’t nice but that we should bring and lead with energy.

“Alchemize it,” she said. “Take it and make it right so that your children can come up in a world that's better. The Tuskegee Airmen did that and busted into the scenes; I think that a bar has been set now of what Airmen can deliver. We know how to get things done and when it's time to get something done, we figure out a way! And it's not always perfect, but it's the process that makes us better.”

After learning about yourself, journal it, write it down, create the blueprint and give it to your children, she elaborated.

Evans has proven to be the epitome of taking one’s gifts and serving with them. An inclination toward hospitality and art, she fulfills her mission as a services apprentice with music and genuine greetings, has designed lasting and eye catching murals, volunteers what free time she has to organizations that empower and educate Red Tail Airmen and hosts painting events. With every action she takes, she continues to raise the Red Tail standard.