Since the beginning of time, we have fought against others, each other and ourselves. What exactly is the battle? Colorism.
Could it be perpetuated by the notorious Willie Lynch letter, created to control slaves and make them envy each other by separation of color? What about the media or the entertainment industry which suggest lighter skin women to be of higher stance than darker women?
Regardless of how, it is an everyday social issue amongst many.
Due to these beliefs, some dark skinned blacks use chemical products to straighten their hair or creams to lighten their skin tone, all to fit in with what the media finds “appealing”.
Bill Duke, director/author of Dark Girls has become the voice of reason and revolutionary on the more than 200 year old debate. He has been a prominent voice in this cultural discussion of beauty and its effect on black women and black children, in his most recent documentary and now in a new book, “Dark Girls,” that discusses the misconstruction of beauty in America and why blacks must redefine beauty.
On Nov. 14, the Urban Issues Breakfast Forum held an event at the California African American Museum with an open discussion on cultural identity and complexion conflict in African American culture.
The forum provided a free breakfast, an open discussion with Duke, and a book signing.
“This book will give people the opportunity, young girls in particular to have an instrument that has women that look like themselves, who have accomplished great things and took pride in the color of their being,” said Duke.
His book features, beautiful photographs of sophisticated, alluring, and elegant dark skinned women from all walks of life. In Dark Girls, celebrities such as Lupita Nyong’o, Vanessa Williams, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Judge Mablean Ephriam, Brandi and Karli Harvey, and over seventy-five other outstanding women share intimate insights into what their dark skin means to them.
Forum Host, Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad said he thinks Duke is doing an excellent job.
“He is trying to start a conversation around how we will address this issue and I think he is doing an excellent job,” said Samad. He continued, “He (Duke) tried to address the pathology of separation that we allow ourselves over the construction of beauty and that black women are beautiful no matter what complexion they come in. Particularly, dark girls who are often times assigned a stigma that they shouldn’t have to bear with all of their lives around their complexion, and their hair.”
Following the forum, many have learned a valuable lesson on how to approach women of color; even if they too are a woman of color. Supporter, Lena Cole Dennis found the forum to be “fabulous”.
“I am one of those women who walk down the street and tell black girls you look beautiful. I like that color on you. I like your skin, I love the way it glows. Just telling a girl that she’s pretty does not really say anything; you have to have a specific. What he said today about everybody doing that, if we all do that it will make a difference,” said Dennis.
The 100 Black Men of Long Beach Chairman, Eric C. Burroughs had positive things to say about not only legendary, Bill Duke, but the Urban Issues Forum as well.
“I took a lot out of today’s festivities. Bill Duke is inspirational and has done a great job on the documentary and now, book. He is hammering in on some deeper issues. What I take out of it is that African American men and women need to work closely with one another. We need to tear down the psychological issues and dig deeper. The more we dig into it, the more we will unify as a people,” said Burroughs. He continued, “The Urban Issues Forum is one of the best forums ever. It’s a grass root, ground zero forum and I credit Dr. Samad for the great work he has done over the years. To have this discussion at ground zero in Los Angeles and to be here at 7:30 in the morning signifies that we have some serious people that want to handle some serious issues. By having these type of real forums, discussions and meetings. It is strong signal that we intend to work together and that there is positivity there and we do have a bright future.”
No group has been more negatively impacted than black people. The self-hate many have gained over the years has grown to a new level. Thanks to Bill Duke and his prominent voice, there is still hope on how we redefine beauty.