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2 Tuskegee Airmen, Both 91, Die on Same Day in Los Angeles

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This April 7, 2011 photo by Bruce Talamon shows Clarence E. "Buddy" Huntley Jr., a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-black squadron that flew in World War II, posing with a P-51C Mustang fighter plane similar to the one that he was a crew chief on while overseas during the war, at Torrance, Calif., Airport. Huntley and fellow Tuskegee Airman Joseph Shambrey, lifelong friends who enlisted together, both died on the same day, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, in their Los Angeles homes, relatives said Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. Both were 91. Huntley and Shambrey enlisted in 1942 and were shipped overseas to Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Force's 332nd Fighter Group. As mechanics, they kept the combat planes flying. (AP Photo/Bruce Talamon (c) 2011 All Rights Reserved)

This April 7, 2011 photo by Bruce Talamon shows Clarence E. “Buddy” Huntley Jr., a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-black squadron that flew in World War II, posing with a P-51C Mustang fighter plane similar to the one that he was a crew chief on while overseas during the war, at Torrance, Calif., Airport. (AP Photo/Bruce Talamon)

JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey grew up running track together in the same Los Angeles neighborhood in the 1930s.

When World War II broke out, they enlisted in the Army and jumped at the chance to join the all-black group of soldiers known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

After the war, they came back home together, married their respective sweethearts and rarely let a month pass without getting together or talking by phone.

So it was ironic but perhaps not all that surprising when both died on Jan. 5 at 91.

“They were friends all the way to the end,” Huntley’s nephew, Craig Huntly, summed up in an interview Monday with The Associated Press.

“As soon as I got the word that my uncle had died,” he said, “one of the first people I began calling was Joe. And I got no answer.”

After their enlistment in 1942, both men quickly set out to be part of what was then called the Tuskegee Experiment — the formation of the U.S. military’s first all-black squadron of pilots. The group went on to take part in more than 15,000 combat missions, earning over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses.

As Tuskegee Airmen mechanics, Huntley and Shambrey did what they could to make sure the planes stayed in the air until the mission was over.

“When a pilot would go out, he would say, ‘This is my plane. You bring my plane back, please,'” Ron Brewington said with a chuckle as he remembered Huntley.

Brewington, president and historian of the Los Angeles chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., said his group has only 20 members of the elite group left after the passing of Huntley and Shambrey. Most are in their 90s.

Counting pilots and ground personnel, there were perhaps as many as 19,000 Tuskegee Airmen, Brewington said, but there are no accurate figures on how many are still alive.

Craig Huntly said his uncle and Shambrey weren’t looking to be pioneers or heroes when they enlisted. They were simply serving their country in a war abroad against fascism and one at home against racism.

“At that time black servicemen were pretty much relegated to menial type work and my uncle didn’t want to do that,” Huntly said. “But he was aware of the Tuskegee Experiment and how important it was.”

Not that it would bring a change in race relations immediately.

Years later, Shambrey would recall getting off a train in segregated Alabama where a hospitality station was welcoming returning white troops with handshakes and free coffee.

“When he and his buddies came off, dressed in their uniforms, of course they didn’t get any congratulations,” said Shambrey’s son, Tim. They even had to pay for their coffee.

By coincidence, Shambrey and Huntley were dispatched to Italy together in 1944 and came back home together.

As the years passed, neither man talked much about his military service, which isn’t unusual for Tuskegee Airmen, Brewington said.

Shambrey would throw barbeques from time to time and invite his old military buddies. As many as 150 people would attend.

Huntley’s daughter Sheila McGee said he had a ready answer when people asked about his service: “I was doing what I was supposed to do, and that was to serve my country.”

Both men served again during the Korean War, as combat engineers.

After their military years, Shambrey worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. Huntley worked as a skycap at airports in Los Angeles and Burbank, a job he held until his late 80s.

___

Associated Press writer Robert Jablon contributed to this story.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Black History

DeBoraha Akin-Townson: Trailblazing Cowgirl

According to the Texas State Historical Association, weekend rodeos featuring Black cowboys began in the late 1940s, thanks to the formation of the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association in 1947.

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Rodeo is a sport in which cowboys and cowgirls showcase their skills in riding and roping. Its storied history has deep roots among many Blacks and Native Americans in the Midwest and South. 

Developed during the second half of the 19th century, events mainly took place in northern Mexico, the U.S., and western Canada. Despite the numbers of Black cowboys at that time, none were able to compete.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, weekend rodeos featuring Black cowboys began in the late 1940s, thanks to the formation of the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association in 1947. Many from this organization would eventually pass the torch to DeBoraha Akin-Townson.
Quickly rising in the sport, Townson not only picked up the torch but made history by becoming the 1989 International Professional Rodeo Association Western Region Champion and, in 1990, the first Black cowgirl to compete in the International Professional Rodeo finals in Tulsa, Okla. 

She is also the only Black woman to compete with a professional card in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events throughout the U.S.
Very little has been recorded about Townson’s life. What is known is that she is of Native American heritage (Cherokee and Arkansas Indian) and was born in Rockford, Ill. She is about 62 years old and still married to her long-time husband, Stewart Townson. Her all-time hero, she told Indian Rodeo News, is her “maternal grandmother, who taught me to please God first through obedience and discipline. She was a true Proverbs 31 woman, and I try with all that I am to model myself after the godly example that she showed me.”
In 1980, Townson attended her first rodeo in Hemet, Calif. That’s when her interest in participating in the sport’s professional ranks was piqued.
Her event of choice was ‘barrels,’ something she had enjoyed since she was a child. In this event, a horse and rider attempt to run a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. 

Participants in this women-only event are known for quick turns and high speeds. The winner is determined by thousandths of a second, and Townson was fast. Yet she joked about a time when her horse finished the race before she did.
“It wasn’t so funny when it happened,” she told Indian Rodeo News, “but it became something that I could laugh about later. I fell off the back of my horse trying to pick up the third barrel. My horse finished the pattern without me with the fastest time of the rodeo. The barrel was up, but since I wasn’t on him when he crossed the finish line, it was a [disqualification].”
Today Townson works as a horse-racing instructor and has passed her love of the rodeo down to her children. She advises all youth to “dare to not just dream but dream big and find a rodeo mentor to advise you and spur you on.”

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Coronavirus

Journalist Describes Getting COVID-19 Vaccine in Taiwan

Taiwan’s office of foreign affairs contacted me to ask if I would be interested in receiving the Covid vaccine.

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Greg Taylor in Taiwan gymnasium where he received the first shot of the Moderna vaccine.

Taiwan’s office of foreign affairs contacted me to ask if I would be interested in receiving the Covid vaccine. I was told to go online and make an appointment stipulating that I worked as a foreign journalist.

This dispensation granted me full and unfettered access to the Moderna vaccine. However, I think this access had more to do with President Joe Biden’s campaign of 80 million doses dispensed around the world that sent 2.5 million doses of Moderna to Taiwan.

On the 14th of July, as instructed, I showed up at a designated gymnasium to receive the first of two shots. This was indeed an exception extended to the foreign press in Taiwan. I saw no other foreigners in the entire gymnasium while I was there; and I learned on the 15th of July, that most Southeast Asian foreign workers were to receive AZ (AstraZeneca)—a debated lesser vaccine in the Pfizer, Moderna, J&J regimen.

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Community

New Strain of COVID-19 Proving Fatal to Unvaccinated People

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. 

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Technician holding tube of blood test identified with the label Covid-19 DELTA Variant. Doctor with a positive blood sample for the new variant detected of the coronavirus strain called DELTA/ Shutterstock

Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. 

According to medical doctors, the U.S. is currently dealing with a new strain of the virus, the Delta variant, which is more lethal and virulent than previous strains. The Delta variant originated in India toward the end of last year and was first identified in America in March.
The Los Angeles County Health Department is so worried about a new outbreak, it told residents to mask up again.
“Since the Delta variant is more infectious than other variants, Public Health recommends wearing a mask around others in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status,” said the LA County Department of Health in a tweet.
Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles, has already seen signs of the new strain in the Los Angeles community. He said medical professionals are already gearing up for what he called the “fifth wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s already in L.A.,” he said. “We assume the rates will go back up.”
Like other viruses, COVID-19 is constantly mutating. When the virus encounters new hosts (particularly unvaccinated bodies,) it changes and gets stronger. The best way to eliminate the disease is to vaccinate about 70% of residents in a community (herd immunity,) so the virus doesn’t have any places to grow and survive.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Wash., D.C., emphasized this point during a recent Ethnic Media Services virtual briefing on the efficacy of continued mask use.
“The more warm bodies the virus has, the more opportunity it will have to mutate,” said Feigl-Deing, who is also the Chief Health Economist for Microclinic International, a San Francisco-based non-profit that bills itself as an organization that revolutionize how deadly diseases are prevented and managed worldwide.” 

 “If you let it spread, it will mutate,” he warned.
Feigl-Ding added that, at this stage, reaching herd immunity is not realistic, and we need to look at alternative solutions to contain the virus, such as continued mask usage, ventilation, hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and air purification devices.
But over the last year, the debate about vaccinations became political. A large number of people who supported former Pres. Donald Trump downplayed the virus and accused Democrats of overstating the severity of the pandemic. A lot of those skeptics even refused to take the vaccines. 

Some say they don’t trust the science. Others do it to resist what they see as pressure coming from liberals. But health experts say refusing to take one of the three vaccines approved to fight COVID-19 in the U.S. is dangerous and only allows the virus to thrive. 

Data is beginning to show the effects of politicizing public health. Deaths and infections are going up in red states, while the numbers have been steadily declining in blue states.
Medical data shows that 99% of recent COVID-19 deaths were unvaccinated people, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading virologist and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Abraham is a big proponent of vaccination and estimates his clinic has given about 300,000 inoculations to people in the South Los Angeles area. But he still sees worrying trends. According to Abraham, only about 40% of Black men in the area are vaccinated.
Abraham also warned the situation would worsen during the fall when it gets colder, and people spend more time inside. “It’s not a matter of if,” said Abraham.

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