Coming to town to attend the opening ceremony for the National Cherry Blossom Festival landed me at Amtrak for the night. A man asked me to watch his bags for a while as I sat at a corner diner for the night, sorting through photography papers to study.
He returned shortly, begin to talk about himself rapidly, hoping I would like him. He was from Washington, DC, he said. He told me of being dark-skinned, while growing up going to a different school from the light-skinned black kids here in the District. Yes, here in DC naming the schools is important. He told me stories of himself and how he was short-changed in life starting with the military and on through many jobs. Many, if not most, of these acts of being short-changed stemmed from his dark skin.
When I got back to Annapolis I volunteered at the Annapolis Film Festival. It was hard work, but was fun viewing “Running from Crazy” with Mariel Hemingway. What really hit me hard–with all power–was a film clip presented on screen in a workshop presented to us by a group composed of Malcolm X’s daughter, Richard Pryor’s daughter, a relative of Alex Haley and the daughter of the Preston actor man who died in the movie “The Spook Who Sat by the Door”. “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” was there at the festival, and I did see it.
The workshop was about African American storytelling. Film clips ran across the screen. The two most impressive ones were a poem by Smokey Robinson of possibly seven minutes duration titled “Black and Proud”. It was real poetry orated like Yeah! Yeah! Smokey said this?
The other film clip from Lupita’s Nyong’o chat at the Essence 7th annual luncheon event blew my mind. Nyong’o was the Academy Award nominee who was given the Best Breakthrough Performance Award by Essence Magazine for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”
Nyong’o tells of her daily prayer for fair skin from God, offering him bargaining chips for the coloration change. She believes God is a miracle maker and expects to see fairer skin in the mirror the next morning!
Nyong’os’ Godly chips really hit me hard. So did the story I heard in the train station, that young man’s struggles with employment that he convincingly attributed to his dark skin. I never heard a story that amounted to a five to six hour reflection on the impact of skin color. More of Lupita’s Godly Miracle Fairer Skin Chips. I really had to stop and think.