Filmmaker Bill Duke Talks “Dark Girls”, New Doc “Light Girls” And More

December 5, 2014  |  


Actor and filmmaker Bill Duke, most recently known for the critically acclaimed documentary Dark Girls, is taking his message of self- acceptance to a coffee table near you.

In an interview last week Duke discussed the recently released coffee table photo book of the same name. With help from the Dark Girls film production team of Shelia Moses and Barron Claiborne, the book version is a stunning 174-paged celebration of dark skinned women including the likes of Sheryl Lee Ralph, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Loretta Divine and Camille Winbush. In addition to photos, the book also features quotes, poems and personal essays of love and encouragement from both the notable as well as mothers, grandmothers and daughters about the importance and value of self-love.

But what’s most striking about the book is the gorgeous cover, which features a multi-colored feathered boa faced Lupita N’yongo, who we all know is Hollywood’s newest “it” girl – as well as Black America’s newest fancy.

“She is a gorgeous, beautiful dark skinned woman,” said Duke, speaking about N’yongo’s true diversity of beauty. Additionally, she doesn’t just have intellect, but every time she speaks, she speaks from her soul and her heart about her journey and attempts to encourage other women -dark and light- to never stop.”

Likewise he believes that N’yongo’s rise, along with a number Black themed productions starring darker skinned Black women including “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” signify a change in how Hollywood relates to darker skinned Black woman in particular. However, Duke also said that he is not ready to declare Hollywood cured from its social ills yet. Matter of fact, he is not even ready to declare the Black community itself healed.

Duke argues that while the media and society-at-large have on one level accepted her, he also believes that there is a history of hatred of dark skin in this country that means both entities also might feel threatened by her. He cites the recent flap over Vanity Fair allegedly brightening N’yongo’s skin for a editorial in the February 2014 edition of the magazine, as proof of just how the issue of colorism is ingrained in us culturally.

He adds, “My hope and prayer that we as a community will support this beautiful woman not only because of the color of her skin but her talent and what she represents to other dark skinned Black women. Because sometimes we are our worse enemy.”

The internalized enemy, he said, also includes the #TeamLightSkin and #TeamDarkSkin, which have become staple forms of entertainment within Black social media. Colorism, he said, is both pervasive and destructive. And it is time that Black folks in particular acknowledge the ways in which we are as cruel to each other as any White person. At the root,  this dysfunctional lies squarely at the foot of White supremacy, Duke also believes that colorism is ultimately our issue. And if we want it to go away, we have to take responsibility for its eradication.

“Nobody is coming to save us. If they were coming, they would have came already, right?” We have two options to blame everyone for our issues or get off our lazy, ignorant Black butts and stop it,” he said.

It’s a pretty harsh condemnation, however Duke believes that he is speaking from a place of action. In fact, he said that a major motivating factor behind Dark Girls, both the film and now the coffee table book, was what he called an “urgency” to deal with the suffering of young dark skinned Black women.

“In my family – relatives I have and friends that I have – [some of them] little Black girls being called: monkey; tar baby; blackie; ugly…and the list goes on and on and on,” he said, talking about the personal inspirations behind the project. “It’s not just a film or a book; it should be a movement because anybody with any kind of awareness at all can see what young girls are going through today. They should have some compassion that leads them to action. If they don’t see it then they are living in a world of oblivion or just ignoring it.”

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  • positivebeatsnegative

    I am so over this topic, its been sliced, diced, hashed and re-hashed to the max….

  • Milly

    Sort of off topic but……I’ve always wondered why Americans can’t go to their Prom without a date? I’m not American, we just went to our Prom as singles and had a great time. It just seems so sad and ostracizing for many people….. Does it really happen like that, or have things changed?

  • blogdiz

    A lot of these Black men so called social activism is just internalized racism turned inside out
    So Mr Duke thinks We ” need to Get off our lazy, ignorant Black butts” ???? Lost me there That comment tells me all I need to know about him.
    I swear some Black Folks Just as patronizing and tone deaf as white folk .

  • word

    allyuh not tired of this beaten out conversation? enough with the colourism! dayum!

  • Guest

    Okay, I appreciate the fact that Bill Duke is attempting to see both sides of the colorism issue by focusing on lighter-skinned women. By NO means am I trying to negate the hurtful, real-life experiences that lighter-skinned women have, both within and outside of the community. Nor am I saying that their voices don’t need to be heard. But I am concerned about the scope of the upcoming documentary. Colorism is a symptom/product of racism, in which all Black people are assigned a value based on their complexion. Under this system, all Blacks suffer, but just because we all suffer doesn’t mean that we all suffer the same way. And the truth is that, because of this racist system, darker-skinned people, especially darker-skinned women, experience a vastly disproportionate amount of discrimination. There is no way around this. As with “Dark Girls”, I am concerned that this documentary once again will not focus enough on the true root of this entire problem, which is white supremacy, and will just tell us that we need to “fix” an issue that we didn’t originate. That’s impossible, as well as extremely unfair. Furthermore, I’m not sure that shifting completely away from talking about lighter-skinned privilege is a good idea, especially if we want to talk about healing. In order for any progress to be made about the problem, we have to admit that there is a hierarchy of privilege in the first place, one that we didn’t start but nonetheless partake of in different ways. Again, I do not want anyone to think I’m talking about downplaying pain or just railing against light-skinned people; I’m not, and I want to make that very clear. Pain is pain, and we cannot tell people how to feel. But I think it’s important for people to understand the root of certain behaviors that some may exhibit within the Black community. That is a terrible thing indeed what happened to the young woman with the Nair, and such behavior should not be excused. One can only imagine the confusion and hurt that she must have felt. But we have to understand why those darker-skinned girls may have felt compelled to do such a thing in the first place. (For example, I noticed that the common “jealousy” angle was used to possible explain that gang’s motivations, something that I hear often when talking about these types of issues.) They are victims of this form of racism as well. Like I said, it’s good on one level to see the other side, but we need to be more honest with ourselves. And part of that honesty is acknowledging the cause and source of this division in the first place. And that also means acknowledging each other’s pain.

    • MM82

      I agree that the root of the problem is white supremacy but I’m glad another side will be viewed. For the past few years all we’ve discussed is dark girls, there’s another side. I think if dark girls are able to see that it’s not all that great being light skinned then there can be a mutual understanding. I remember going to an interview at an all white company that went really well , when I came home I told a friend about the company and they said you’re not going to get it because they’re looking for a real black chic. I was completely thrown because I’m 100% black. Long story short, they hired a dark girl with natural hair. My point is we’re all discriminated or stereotyped at some point but if we can understand each other then we can come together as a unit.

  • lexdiamonz

    soooo… WHY didn’t HE ask a “dark-skinned” girl to go the prom then??? yeah I am DONE with black men or ANYONE else DEFINING my beauty….. I will do it my own thank you…. here comes another magically finding out the cure for colored folks is other colored folks…. nope not gonna do it.. UNTIL we have an open honest discussion about racism and how it created colorism….THEN we can move forward

    • Justwow

      I looked for the part regarding his prom scenerio before responding and I echo your sentiments. If you see someone else hurting why not ask them so at least you both can go and go with another person…unless he’s another self hating negro who didn’t want to be with someone who looks like him and his family members.

    • A.J.

      I was thinking the same thing. If it hurt him and he saw how others like him were hurting, shouldn’t that have been the initiative for him to step in and help, to show that they were not alone? By not doing anything he became part of the problem.

  • mmmdot

    There is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with understanding the SHEER SCOPE of colorism and that it is NOT just a “black problem.” This moron is acting like there wasn’t a study a couple of years ago showing that WHITE JUDGES were systematically sentencing lighter skin black women to LESS JAIL TIME than darker skinned black women. Or that there weren’t studies showing that WHITE PEOPLE pay darker skinned black men LOWER WAGES than lighter skinned black men. Yea, let’s keep acting like colorism is a “black problem.” ::Eyeroll:: Idiot. In a white supremacy system, it is “LOGICAL” for the darkest people to be at the bottom and to pile on brown, yellow, near white, and white on top of them so they can’t get up. If we want to eradicate racism AND colorism we need to understand that BOTH stem DIRECTLY from white supremacy and that it is problem that we have to address with white people AND people of color. Period.

    • enlightenment

      Preach. And we, particularly black men, look like pure idiots squawking about “yellow bones” and “dark butts” on social media and continuing to perpetuate this divide based on melanin pigmentation. I mean…really? Old white racists are partying in their graves right now in successfully causing a rift among the blacks.

      • Guestest

        That grinds my gears.

  • TrillProphecies93

    We have better things to worry about like the fact that whites are slaying us left and right! Does anyone realize they don’t see dark skin or light skin? They just see BLACK! We need to stop dividing ourselves!

    • Guestest

      Yeah the whites just see black but too bad we (blacks) act like light skin and dark skin are two completely different races… Smh

    • A.J.

      Actually, whites engage in colorism as well in terms of their treatment of Black people, rather heavily, in fact. At the end of the day we are all Black, but they too treat us differently, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, based on how we look. Remember, they are the ones that started it.

    • secret87

      My bully was a dark skinned girl in 5th grade. One day trying to stand up for myself said I don’t like you. Three classmates who were white said your not dark like her your brown. Kids are honest,adults say they see black.