On Wednesdays, we watch documentaries.
My husband and I try to be selective about the amount of TV we consume, so one night a week, we set aside time to watch documentaries about the black experience. These films combine education with entertainment, and I always walk away with a new perspective of what it means to be black. But most recently, there were three documentaries I watched that left me feeling just a little bit stronger and just a little bit more powerful. So, I wanted to share them with you.
Dark Girls explores colorism and its historical context. The thing is, colorism isn’t just an American problem…it is a global one. In this film, women and girls share their stories about skin color, trying to lighten themselves and how it affected their ideas of beauty and intelligence. Researchers and historians explain how ideas of beauty were ingrained in our psyche, dating back to slavery and colonialism. Men also share their ideas about beauty.
I stopped by my parents’ house the other day, and my sisters were helping my mom take down her braids. They were watching Dark Girls, and I sat down to watch it with them. (Even though, I’d already seen it twice.) My mom ‘amened’ through the entire film. But afterward, we had a really deep conversation about racism in the workplace and what it means to be beautiful.
I recommend gathering a group of girlfriends and watching it together.
Next, we watched a documentary about the first black prima ballerina.
A Ballerina’s Tale
Misty Copeland is unabashedly a black ballerina. In the film about her meteoric rise, she explains,“I didn’t fit the mold. Based on my body type, pedigree, and background I should not have been a part of one of the world’s greatest ballet companies.”
Inherent in the ballet world is the Eurocentric mindset of beauty. But Copeland, with the support of other black dancers, rose above that. In one scene, Copeland links arms with Raven Wilkinson, her mentor and the first black ballerina to dance full-time in a major company. And they dance together.
Her story reminds me of the power in community and what can happen when we link arms with our sisters. (For more about this film, read: New Film Shows Misty Copeland’s Journey as a Black Ballerina)
Last, but definitely not least, is the first black classical pianist to headline at Carnegie Hall.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Nina Simone was a singer and an activist. At the height of her career, the Juilliard-trained classical pianist put everything on the line to empower her people. Songs like, Mississippi Goddam, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel To Be Free and Young, Gifted and Black ruffled a lot of feathers. But they gave her people hope doing the struggle of the 1960s.
In a recorded interview, Miss Simone explained, “I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
And she did just that, despite her own inner turmoil and the cost to her career.
Beautiful, Strong and Powerful
Living in a world that constantly questions our capabilities and worth. I think these films serve as important reminders that we are beautiful, strong and more powerful than we know. So, please, add these to your Netflix queue and let me know what you think.
BMWK: What other documentaries would you add to this list? Once you’ve the films, let me know your thoughts?