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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Souls of Black Girls

Why do we women of color straighten our naturally coiled African hair? Why do we wear long European weaves and straight hair extensions? Why do we use products like Ambi to “even our skin tone”? Why do we wear acrylic nails, despite the knowledge that the chemicals are harmful to us? What kinds of things do black women go through in the quest for beauty and acceptance, and what do these things tell us about our own self-image?

At first glance, these may seem like just a string of probing questions that are meant to point a finger at women of color who choose to utilize primarily European standards of beauty for their own self-worth. Yet these issues are the kinds of things black women and other women of color face on a daily basis as we negotiate our identities in a world overflowing with media images that are laced with value judgments about race and beauty.

The producer and filmmaker, Daphne S. Valerius, explores these issues in “The Souls of Black Girls.” Valerius is an alumna of the Master’s of Journalism program at Emerson College and a recipient the McNair Scholars Award at St. John’s University. The film tackles the issues of being accepted in American society, and the high price that it costs women of color.

Are black women caught in a unique cycle that causes us to suffer from a kind of self-image disorder as a result of the media? To address this question, Valerius conducts a series of interviews with women of color, hoping to facilitate open and honest discussions about what it takes to truly feel beautiful for black women.

Valerius interviews prominent stars like Jada Pinket-Smith, Regina King, Gwen Ifill, Michalea Angela Davis and other women. Chuck D., former member of Long Island, NY’s, most critically-acclaimed rap group, Public Enemy, also makes an appearance and offers his own social commentary from a black man’s perspective.

The documentary came about as a result of the producer’s own personal experiences growing up as a black woman in the United States. It originally started as a part of Valerius’s research for her graduate work. It began with a small focus group she held with a group of local women of color. In making this documentary, Valerius has said that she has finally been able to come to terms with her own self-image issues.

In a personal message to the public, Valerius said, “on a personal level, the production of ‘The Souls of Black Girls’ marks the end of my lifelong journey to be accepted as a beautiful Black woman within our society.”

With its candid approach and fearless subject matter, it is no big wonder that since its premiere last March at the Apollo Theater in New York, “The Souls of Black Girls” has won wide approval. The film has become an official selection of The Harlem Film Festival, The Pan African Film Festival, The H20 International Film Festival and The Roxbury Film Festival. Last August the film was named The Best of the Best at the 5th Annual Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival.

The name of the documentary, “The Souls of Black Girls,” was derived from the book The Souls of Black Folk, written by W.E.B. Dubois in 1903. Dubois’ book explored the self-identity of black people caught between two seemingly contrasting identities: Blackness vs. Americanness, and attempted to reconcile the nature of this duality.

The screening for “The Souls of Black Girls” is on Thursday, March 13, in the Ryan Lounge. The Ryan Lounge is located in the McCormick Building on the 3rd floor. The screening will be followed by a discussion and commentary from the film’s producer, Daphne Valerius. This event is being sponsored by the Community Advocates. For more information about Community Advocates, please call 617-287-6042.