Actor/Director, Bill Duke has spent more than 30 years on and behind the big screen. Growing up in New York, he received a formal education and continued as an adult to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in the Arts. A stately Black Man with kind eyes, Mr. Duke has certainly shared the spotlight with Hollywood’s most prestigious actors. Today, he is shining the spotlight on a very dark issue that has gravely impacted the Black Community both yesterday and today.
Growing up in a predominately White neighborhood, and having attended predominately White schools, I can honestly admit today that I have not seen racism in the way my ancestors did from White people.The battle I had was within my own community among people who looked just like me.
Although there may have been a time or two when a parent of a White friend of mine seemed a little EXTRA cautious, allowing them to play with me outside, they still invited me into their homes and allowed me to eat at their tables. Quite possibly because my Father took it upon himself to walk up and down our street and knock on every door, announcing that he is Mr. Smith and his family lives in the house on the corner…
I never saw the riots that took place when we moved into the neighborhood. I wasn’t born yet. I never saw the teachers look at me down their nose because my elder siblings endured that. So their experiences with racism were of the traditional, and most talked about, kind.
As for me and my childhood, I felt the humility my Grandparents, Parents and Siblings did, but not because someone of another race treated me as less than. I felt the humiliation among my own people. My blood line, my extended family, my friends. I was teased for everything about my body. I was defeated before I had a chance to develop a healthy opinion of myself.
I was called Dirty, Ugly, Big Headed, Big Lipped, Big Hipped, Big Butted, Greasy, Thirsty, Dusty, Crusty….well you get the idea…that came from my “neighborhood friends and even a few family members along the way”. I never heard anyone say that I should be lighter in complexion, but it was certain that I was not pretty because I wasn’t.
What’s more is that the agony continued as I grew. When I joined the church choir, I was the talk of the hour. I had “nappy” hair and bowed legs. I was short and ugly, and girls only pretended to be my friend so they could be close enough to talk about me to my face.
Needless to say, some of our Mothers, Aunts, Sisters, Cousins, Aunts and Friends have scarred us far greater than any slave master would have been given the power to do. At least then, we had our pride. But what do Little Black Girls everywhere do when the very core of their foundation is the thing that causes the most , virtually, irreversible damage?
This new film will be interesting to see, as pertaining to this still-very-present, ailment in our Community.