With a number of Black male entertainers, particularly in the realm of rap music, quite open about the value they place on acquiring a lighter skin woman, it’s hard to see colorism as just an issue that only concerns the fairer sex. Duke acknowledged that the community does not give as much consideration to how colorism affects Black men, however he insisted that when it comes to discrimination, Black women are more severely affected than Black men.
“As a young Black man I didn’t go to my senior prom because I was too dark and none of the girls were attracted to me,” said Duke, admitting that the experience was very painful. However he also notes that about 1/3 of the dark skinned girls at his high school too were not asked to go to prom. “Pain is pain. But what I observe is what the dark skin women go through, even today, is something that should be addressed.”
Nevertheless, Duke intends to cover all angles of the colorism conversation. In fact, Dark Girls is part of a larger series of projects he is producing (along with the Oprah Winfrey Network) as catalyst for both dialog and activism. His next documentary is entitled Light Girls, which he said is an exploration and examination into what he believes is a taboo subject in the Black community. The film, which is completed, is expected to air on OWN in the coming year.
Duke said that he interviewed both lighter skinned Black girls and women. Many viewers, who will likely be expecting to hear stories of light skinned privilege, will be horrified by stories of abuse and objectification which were also inflicted upon them for the shade of their Blackness. He recounted briefly an interview he did with a lighter skinned Black woman, who had Nair hair removal thrown onto her head and her hair pulled out from the roots by a gang of darker skinned women, who were likely jealous because of the lightness of her skin. He also said that the film will feature Black men, who readily admit to desiring lighter skinned women as status symbols.
“With these films, I’m not trying to judge anybody and just presenting the truth of how people feel,” he said. “My point with this film is that you [dark skinned and light skinned] both should stop.”
In addition to the colorism issue, Duke said he plans to explore Black man- and womanhood in depth, which are two other hotly debated topics within the community. The films entitled ‘What is a Man,’ and ‘What is a Woman,’ are already in production with What is a Man, slated for some time in 2015. The filmmaker said that his plans are to do coffee table books around all these projects. He has already been approached about publishing photo books around his Black masculinity and femininity projects.
Duke sees all of his films as a way for him to contribute to larger conversations, which he said need to be happening more often in the Black community, in particular. When asked about the St. Louis grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson [note: this interview was done before a New York City grand jury decision to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo], Duke said that he was not surprised.
However that decision too is a clear sign that we as a community need to be more proactive against the attack of young Black men and women.
“If we as men do not stand up for our children this madness will continue to occur. And when I say stand up, I mean in an organized economic political and activist model. Because we can’t keep getting all these warnings. We are being told that our young boys lives have no worth and can be taken at any time. And the men of community have to stand up.”