As I sat in the legendary Apollo Theatre, which I had just performed at in September, I knew that I was experiencing an event that was truly epic. As the beginning credits of the premiering film began to roll, the song playing in the background made my heart smile because the singer spoke true words about black women: there aren’t many songs written about our beauty.
I wanted to hear something positive. I didn’t know what I was in for. I wanted something that would make me feel warm inside. I expected the unexpected from the movie Dark Girls. But then in one swoop I was disappointed. I heard the words “enslavement” and talk of trauma passed down to us through our cells, post traumatic stress disorder and such, and I took out my pen and made a note to myself, “Got-damnit!” When are we gonna stop talking about this same bull-”
…I guess I became like a lot of white people in that way, I was just sick of hearing Black people talk about the history and presence of racism and it’s very real affects on Black people’s lives in general, and Black women’s in particular, self image. I wanted to hear something I hadn’t heard. And I didn’t wanna hear about me being oppressed. I’m living my dream right now. I’m in my bubble. Ain’t nothin’ oppressing me.
I guess it’s because when I first became “conscious” as a Black woman, meaning I studied some of the history of my people, (some hidden, some public) I really came into my own. It started when my sister gave me her copy of The Auto Biography of Malcolm X. I indulged myself in so called self-righteousness. I read Roots, I hated white people for a while, and I was a Black supremacist for a while. I think that’s what can happen when a person is well read on a certain topic. They get “over-zealous.” Instead of letting the highs and lows of life (which is a really good teacher), sound wisdom passed down through generations, and a really good book that has been banned from the library (just to spice it up for good measure) teach them some universal truths, we tend to get one-sided with the information that we obtain. So at that point in my life I was pretty unbalanced.
When I really started to be real with myself, my life began to open up in new ways.
I felt a knot in my stomach, like I was leading a double life, when I said that white people were the devil. I knew it wasn’t true. I knew it couldn’t be that simple, because if it were there’d be no need for me to continue living, because they simply cannot be escaped. And neither can my skin. One time on Facebook I posted “sometimes I wish I could forget my skin.” Not because I felt less than beautiful. It was because identifying with it too much made me feel less than spiritual. And in a way, less than connected to other humans. Less alive.
Basically, I didn’t wanna be sad for the rest of my life because I have melanin. In fact, it’s a reason to praise God.
I still remember riding in my Mom’s red station wagon pretending my skin was lighter and that I had long brown curly hair, and that my sister was light skinned too. But by the time I was in 5th grade, my sister told me I needed to get more Black friends, “dress Black” and start reading about my culture. I still love her for that, because it was important for me to interact with other children who were experiencing some of the same things that I would. It was just good to have one more thing in common with them.
Honestly, I don’t live inside a white supremacist framework anymore. That framework can only exist in your experience if it exists in your mind. I never said I was color blind. It’s not that I don’t see the difference in race in the wider context, but when dealing with individuals, I must feel their vibe first. (I’m sooo New Age in that way.)
So, I actually thought I had this whole movie Dark Girls wrapped up. But about 20 minutes into the movie, I realized I was wrong. That’s when I put my pen down and stopped writing. I realized that on this road of colorism there were some twists and turns I hadn’t yet seen, and I wanted to take my shades off and really take it all in.
What I realized about colorism, is that when you look at it through the many lenses that the movie does, you see that the rabbit hole goes as deep as one can imagine. I felt literal visceral responses to what was being said, good and bad. It would have been ideal if I could have paused the movie and had discussion upon discussion about almost every scene. Some of it made me angry, but maybe not for the reasons that one may think. Others just made me, more importantly, want to ask more questions to everyone around me, including the people in the film. The filmmakers, the characters in the film, and the person sitting behind me. This film will make you want to TALK. I have to give it to Bill and Chann (the co-directors/producers of the film), they threw me for a loop. Talking heads and oft reused b-roll can be powerful if the words spoken are from the heart. The real stories and accounts from real women who had once lived their life in skin that made them feel less than enough took me for a ride. But who knew the journey would be so rich, nuanced, so bumpy, disgusting, sad, disheartening, riveting, exciting, and beautiful? It made me feel a little guilty for not going out of my way to support more media that focuses solely on this issue…but then, I had to not beat up on myself for being where I am in my life.
There was once a time where if it wasn’t Black media, I wasn’t buying it. And I criticized and nitpicked every mainstream piece of media I saw. I thought my world was going crazy, my friends were watching Friends DVD’s and not bothered by the fact that there was only one Black woman in the whole series, when the show is set in New York City, the melting pot of the world. But now I’m just into what makes me laugh. And now that I’ve truly accepted the fact that regardless of all the scientifically proven superiority of melanin versus lack of melanin, spiritually, we all have a chance to live our dreams. Dark Girls burst my bubble. But tonight, as I close my laptop, I will go back into it, my crazy world in my head, where everyone forgets their skin, and doesn’t see a Dark Girl, they just see me.