By Bill Duke
Interviews by Shelia P. Moses
Photographs by Barron Claiborne
192 pages, Illustrated
Book Review by Kam Williams
“In today’s society, dark skin has become linked to longer prison time, higher unemployment rates, low self-esteem, lower standards of beauty, and higher psychological distress. The skin bleaching industry is a multimillion-dollar business. Women go to great lengths to lighten their skin in an attempt to be more attractive in the eyes of male partners and society as a whole…
Studies have also found that young girls… feel as if they are not as ‘pretty’ or ‘desirable’ as their friends with lighter skin. That is one of the reasons why this project is so important. It is showcasing dark girls from all over the world…
This book will be an inspiration to [help] people... realize that our dark skin tone makes us unique and beautiful as opposed to viewing it as a constraint that needs to be altered or avoided.”
-- Excerpted from the Postscript by Dr. Tenika Jackson (page 172)
Last year, the documentary Dark Girls was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Now, the film’s director, Bill Duke, has published an equally-valuable companion piece celebrating the beauty of ebony-hued black women.
The classy coffee table book is comprised of over 80 full-page portraits of sepia-skinned sisters of every age and from every walk of life. Besides breathtaking photographs by Barron Claiborne, the opus includes the heartfelt reflections of each of the subjects about her coloring.
Retha Powers recalls being teased in grammar school by a mean classmate, before she expresses her concern about the welfare of her 6 year-old daughter, Isa. Sensitively answering her curious child’s questions about hair texture and styling, the supportive mom asserts that “90% of beauty is between the ears. It’s an inside job.”
Another contributor is Camille Winbush, best known for playing niece Vanessa on The Bernie Mac Show. She admits that her feelings were hurt at the age of 12 while participating in a fashion show, when she was asked “What’s wrong with you?” backstage by a white girl pointing out her pigmentation. Fortunately, the gorgeous child actress had already been taught that “dark was normal and beautiful.”
Among the other luminaries weighing-in, here, are the comedienne Sommore, TV Judge Mablean Ephraim, Hip-Hop star Missy Elliott, actress Loretta Devine, Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson, and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, to name a few. Artist/communications strategist Floydetta McAfee probably sums it all up best when she says, “I know and understand my history as an African-American. I come from the bloodline of many proud and self-assured people who are dark like me. I embrace that bloodline and our skin tone. In this dark skin I was born, grew up, traveled the world, and live proudly.”
An uplifting collection capturing both the intelligence and elegance of darker-skinned sisters.
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