Inspired by the film with the same name, Bill Duke produced a book of lovely portraits by Barron Claiborne and interviews by Sheila P. Moses of dark skinned females from children to mature adults.
Dark Girls wears a stunning portrait of Lupita Nyong’o as the book’s front cover. It releases now in February to celebrate Black History Month.
Duke’s compassion for the women of his race shows in his introduction, as he picturesquely describes his family growing up. Duke portrays his parent’s response to their young son’s first painful racial mocking:
That was the day my parents became even more protective of me and my sister. I went back to school the next day holding my sister’s hand, trying to protect her from what would become a lifetime of pain for both of us. My dad went off to work angry, and my mom tucked her heart back into her body and went off to the Dutchess County mental ward, where she worked for thirty years. She worked with the brokenhearted and the unwanted. She knew pain, like her patients’ pain, had come home to her children.
After sharing the reason for starting this endeavor, Duke steps aside to allow the dark-skinned girls to tell their own stories. Lawyers, artists, authors, actresses, business owners, musicians and other impactful citizens share how they have been viewed and the thoughts they choose to use to overcome the bias aimed at crushing them.
Portraits and quotes from people such as: Vanessa Williams, Retha Powers, James Brown and Sheryl Underwood express their experience of living dark skinned.
I remember being in a fashion show and standing backstage waiting my turn, when a little white girl turned to me in dismay and said, ‘You do not look like us. What’s wrong with you? You are so dark.’ I was only twelve trying to explain the best I could that there was nothing wrong with me or my skin tone. She was also twelve and had no clue that she had hurt my feelings.
Camille Winbush, actress
The collected quotes describe an array of courageous processes of overcoming the negative remarks that still, in this day of “post racialism” continue to inflict wounds.
After reading through the book the reader begins to see that it is a collection of undecorated heroines who wish to empower other dark girls to embrace their beauty and build an armor of confidence as protection against the arrows of ignorance that still fly.
“I look in the mirror and I can see my roots, which hold a history as deep and rich as my skin,” explains young college student, Jessica Blaylock Williams
“God only makes beautiful things. The color of your skin is beautiful,” are the words of a sage, Yvonne Duke Hampton, also sister to the book’s author.
“Go forth boldly, dark girls. Stay at your best,” a young college student A’Kia She’Kiba Benbo encourages.
The above quotes are some the expressions in the book. The overall tone gives a glow of positivity — like the sunlight warming a cold place in the shadows. Dark Girls gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our unconscious thoughts, words and actions.