February 2012 Issue
January 29, 2012

Film exposes hurt of colorism

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT United
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Dark Girls movie poster

Dark Girls, a new documentary premiering in theaters around the nation, explores the cultural biases of skin color and investigates the deep-seated prejudice both within and outside of Black American culture toward people with different skin colors.

NYSUT, CSEA and Price Chopper sponsored annual Martin Luther King Family Day celebrations in Albany and Poughkeepsie, during which the film was featured this year as a means to open discussions about color, gender and race.

"This is a great teachable moment on how skin-color bias impacts the psyche in horrible ways," said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, whose office oversees the union's social justice mission. "It inspires people to be proud of the skin they're in."

Producers D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke are holding question-and-answer sessions after many of the screenings. Following the Albany showing, the producers called for including colorism — discrimination within one's own ethnic group based on skin color — in the education curriculum. They underscored the negative impact colorism has on children, especially young girls, and revealed plans for two future productions, one addressing the impact of colorism on fair-complexion children and adults, and another on colorism and males.

The prejudice and pain directed toward dark-skinned people is historical.

Since the time of slavery, darker-skinned people have been made to suffer greater indignities, the producers explained.

"The film explains the complexities of race and color in African American and Latino populations, as well as the population in general," said Kevin Johnson, president of Johnson Communications, which is promoting the social justice film.

"It basically is an exposé on each individual giving their story about how the issue of skin color affects them. The directors are hoping ... that by seeing how darker-skinned people are treated and how it affects them emotionally, you'll become aware of some of the things you're saying and doing. It affects people in a way that you may not have known."

Dark Girls made its New York debut at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem; screenings also took place in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Oakland and Atlanta. Dates will soon be scheduled in western New York.

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