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Dark Girls documentary long overdue say previewers

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Summary of story from The Guardian, October 4, 2011

A new documentary, Dark Girls, exploring the everyday experiences of dark-skinned black women in America, premiers at the international black film festival in Nashville, next week.

In the film, one woman recounts asking her mother to add bleach to her bathwater.

In another scene a five-year-old child, when asked to point to the smartest and best looking doll chose the lightest skinned one, and choose the darkest doll when asked to select the ugly and dumb child, “cause she’s black”.

Simone Bresi-Ando, founder of I’mPossible, a social enterprise for women of colour in the UK, thinks the film Dark Girls is “important and necessary” and also believes “it’s so important that we start looking above and beyond tones and hairstyles and colour.”

“We really have to be focusing on things that have trapped a whole race of people for so long. It’s time to push it on.”

Shadism and colourism are believed to have their origins in the ‘pigmentocracy’ of slavery.

According to Ruth Fisher, project manager of the Understanding Slavery Initiative, the darker a slave’s skin the more likely they were to be sent to be field slaves, while fairer skinned slaves would be given work in the house.

“That started a divide within the African community on the plantation, because then those who were closer to the house had some of the less back-breaking work and therefore they felt that they were a bit more privileged.”

Needless to say, the beauty industry has been more than happy to respond to this deep-rooted issue.

A stall called Fair and White controversially promoted skin-lightening products at the Afro Hair and Beauty show in London in May. And Elle magazine, accused of lightening the skin of actor Gabourey Sidibe last year, claimed ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ had been done to the photograph.

And just last month a study found that lighter-skinned women received around 12 per cent shorter prison sentences than darker-skinned women.

The preview of Dark Girls was released by film-makers Bill Duke and D Channsin Berry in May and received over 725,000 hits in just 28 days. Commenters wrote about how they were moved to tears and felt the film was well overdue.

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