New film explores the issue of skin tone

(Photo courtesy AlexKormisPS via Flicker)

The question of skin tone is an issue that many communities of color have pondered, from blacks to Hispanics to Asians.

Two prominent Hollywood producers are using the big screen to help today's young audience understand what this color complex is all about.

The creators of the movie called Dark Girls, to be released this fall, say the documentary captures the deep-rooted discrimination faced by women of darker complexions.

Famed Hollywood producers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry are directing the film.

The pair said they created Dark Girls not to hurt anyone, but to educate and empower the youngest members of the African American community.

“Our sisters, cousins, young children in our family - and we wanted to give them a voice,” Duke says.

While some may have grown tired of the issue, Duke and Berry point out this color complex is relatively new for younger people. For that reason, the film is broken up into several segments that tell the story from its beginning.

“Most importantly, there is a healing segment, we take them through different parts of this issue and give them a context and perspective in which to see it,” Duke says.

Bianca Chardei understands the issue.

She's a model who appeared as a contestant on Tyra Bank's hit show America's Next Top Model.

Although she has had a successful career partly because of her appearance, she admits she still faces criticism.

“(People say) 'You're pretty for a brown-skin girl' or 'you're pretty for a dark girl' or 'you're pretty for a chocolate girl' or 'you're pretty for a black woman.' And I'm like, why can't i just be a pretty woman?” she says.

Other women say that even though it’s a sore subject, it's a conversation{ } worth having.

“It hurts black women and it also hurts black men because they have a color complex that they do inherit from generation to generation,” says Jennifer Brooks, a District resident.

Ethelbert Miller, director of Howard University's African American resource center, agrees.

“This is an issue of culture, not just color of skin but culture,” Miller says.

Miller says common perception is lighter is better, so much so that thousands of people across the world have turned to harmful skin-bleaching products to try and change the way they look.

“They are powerful, fluorinated steroids...which means they are the highest-level potency of a cream that you can get. They will make your skin lighter, as well as do other things,” says Dr. Beverly Johnson, a dermatologist.

A 2010 report by the Global Industry Analysts revealed the bleaching cream market is predicted to reach $10 billion by 2015, fueled by new markets in the United States and growth in Europe, Africa and the Asian-Pacific.

Miller also says positive images of women with darker complexions in the media - like Michelle Obama - help.

“All of a sudden a young girl who is seven or eight under this administration does not sound like some of the women in that (movie) trailer because she grew up at a time when she picked up magazines and Michelle Obama was on the cover,” Miller says.

The Dark Girls producers say this is an issue of self-esteem. And it's up to the community to make sure our children are full of it.

They say their movie will show that the healing process starts within, while giving a voice to those who need it the most.

“What our message is, is that God does not make mistakes and how you were born is fine. That's right,” Duke says.

The pair is already in production of part two, a movie about women of lighter complexions. The title is "The Yellow Brick Road."

Dark Girls is being premiered here in D.C. later this month. Click here for more information about the movie.