Thursday, February 21, 2019

BLACK is BLACK


Black History Month is celebrated in February, the shortest month of the year (that is a different topic).  This year my local performing arts center offered a 3-week series entitled, Arts Legacy Remix, Black Artists Film Series. 
Week one was the screening of the movie, Rosewood.  Rosewood is a movie based on the true story of a Florida town burned down and many, many African Americans killed over the accusations of a white woman towards a black man.  Not a new story but because it happened in a state I was born and raised it hit closer to home for me.
Week three was an intimate evening with Poet Laureate James Tokley Sr.   Attendees were able to view short films featuring his poetry and listen as he recited some of his work.  When I hear this man speak, it is nothing less than music.  His articulation and flow are akin to listening to a symphony orchestra underneath a starry night.
Now, week two was just as interesting but in a much different way.  Week two was a showing of 1943’s Stormy Weather starring Lena Horne and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.  I had previously watched this movie at home on Turner Classic Movies but viewing the movie in this environment and audience helped me to view it with new eyes.
First, let me say.... I love Lena Horne.  When looking up the word grace in Webster’s dictionary, there should be an 8x10 picture of Lena Horne.  She has an aura about her that makes her appear to float across the screen.  I dare you to picture anyone else playing her role as Glenda the Good Witch in The Wiz.  She is just plain ole beautiful!! 
Then, who can forget Bill “Bojangles” Robinson tap-dancing up and down the stairs with Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel.  He made tap look effortless.  I have trouble keeping the beat tapping my foot while listening to good music but Bill tip-tapped as if it was second nature to him. 
They were both spectacular.
Although I really enjoyed both the singing and dancing of Stormy Weather, it is a movie of colorism at its best. 
Colorism is discrimination based on not just race but the hue of skin tone.  For the African American community, this stems from slavery.  Typically, slaves of darker tones did hard labor out in the fields, while slaves that were lighter were used in the house.  Even though being in the house afforded those who worked there a few more luxuries, they were still slaves which meant those luxuries came with problems of their own.  Darker skinned slaves were not given many luxuries and the hard, sweaty, tedious field work was both physically and mentally exhausting.
Although, the practice of colorism has gotten significantly better over the decades unfortunately it can still be seen even today. 
In the Stormy Weather movie, the ugliness of colorism can be seen in several places.  Firstly, none and I do mean none, of the actresses and female dancers has skin tones darker than beach sand.  The irony is that was not the case for the men.  The male cast did consist of at least a few dark-skinned men.  Another noticeable example of colorism is when two light-skinned male characters put on black face.  While in black face they were portrayed as mentally slow giving the implication that “real” black people were uneducated.  Finally, during a scene dancing the cake walk female dancers in flower costumes turned around to reveal black face painted on the center of the flower.  Although there were other areas in the film related to skin tone discrimination those were the most blatant and sparked quite a few question and comments during the panel discussion after the movie ended.  The conversation was at times uncomfortable but also informed, intelligent and needed.  The saying, “Those who do not know their history is doomed to repeat it” leads credence to why these types of events are needed.  Needed, not only during the twenty-eight days of February but year-round in workshops, conferences, homes and especially schools.  We need to educate children to love all cultures, races, and skin-tones.  They also need to know that all black is beautiful from Lupita to BeyoncĂ© and everyone in between!! 

Including yours truly,
Beautyful Dark-Skin Girl

Now go Netflix or download Stormy Weather and let me know your thoughts.