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Bill Cosby Issues Call to Action; Bill Duke’s ‘Dark Girls’ a Must-See Film

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents:  On the “A” w/Souleo

Bill Cosby Issues Call to Action; Bill Duke's 'Dark Girls' a Must-See Film
Braxton Cosby, Marva Allen and Bill Cosby (left to right) Photo Credit: Peter Cooper

I was having one of those intensely productive weeks where sleep escaped me as I struggled to unplug the inspiration feed from my higher power energy source. I ended up with a wealth of new writing ideas and dark circles under my eyes. Needless to say, I didn’t look my best as I headed to Bill Cosby’s book signing event at Hue-Man Bookstore for I Didn’t Ask to be Born (But I’m Glad I Was).

While Cosby was there to promote his book the discussion quickly became much more profound as he addressed the state of youth. “This book will make you fall in love as opposed to go straight for what you hear on records, ‘I’m wet, you’re wet, let’s do it.’ Where are we with that and what’s the problem with that in the ears of 14- and 13-year-old people?” It’s a sentiment that Cosby has made frequent headlines with, but he notes that nothing will change until many more speak up and implement change. “… We have an apathy going on,” he says. “Our children need us. We have to be aware of these things.”

As support grows to make Red Tails, a hit historical action movie due to its African American cast, I’d like to nominate the independent documentary Dark Girls, for equal visibility. The powerful film examines the ever-present issue of colorism in the U.S. and abroad. During the post-screening Q-and-A at the Apollo Theater a young woman asked filmmakers, Bill Duke and D. Chansen Berry how could she start to feel beautiful? Duke and Berry focused on the need for family and the community to instill confidence in youth no matter their skin color. While they are absolutely correct, I walked home pondering how someone without such positive role models in their immediate surroundings could develop self-esteem.

The answer came unexpectedly while interviewing artist Aleathia Brown at her reception for “A Textural Journey” at Berkeley College. Brown’s works on burlap, canvas and mixed media are insightful representations of freedom, struggle and beauty particularly in, “Moods of Nature,” a colorful sculpture depicting women of color merged with elements from the earth. Brown revealed how she integrated beauty in an exhibition that references such painful topics as slavery. “You have to be still and silent with your own thoughts to measure what goes on outside and inside.” Instantly it clicked and I forgot all about those dark circles that were deeper after only four hours of sleep, making me feel nowhere near attractive. Apparently, we can all find beauty if we take the time to discover ourselves, disconnect from the negativity around us and embrace arts and culture that empowers. And yeah, sleep helps too.

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