Friday, September 28, 2012


The Blacker the Berry was a controversial novel written by Wallace Thurman in 1929 during the Harlem Renaissance period.  It explores colorism within the black community during a period when the light skinned vs. dark skinned dilemma was in full effect. The phrase blacker the berry has several meanings.  It can be used as a sexually exploitative way to depict a black woman's vagina and the pleasure it can bring.  Or, it is a pro-black mantra celebrating the beauty of being black.  Tupac describes the latter best in Keep Your Head Up: "some say the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice, I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots".

It all brings me to the timeless musician, vocalist, and prolific song writer, Nina Simone.  Her music is dark, rich and complex as her life ever was. The story of this legendary singer should be told.  A debate rages on about the biopic, yet to be filmed, starring Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Some say she is way too light skinned to play Nina Simone.  I have more of a problem with the fictional direction of the film than the casting of a caramel complexioned Latina.  Originally, Mary J. Blige was slated to play Simone and I had issues with her acting chops. A biopic requires a stellar performance by the lead. Some reasons I think Saldana should play Nina Simone.

1.  Malcolm X.

Denzel played Malcolm X with such brilliance and skill that it was ignored that Malcolm X was a lighter skinned redhead.

2.  Reverse colorism.

Historically there has been more value placed on lighter skinned women over sisters with a dark complexion. But, is denying a woman a role because she is deemed too light a solution?

3.  Zoe Saldana is a good actress.

I loved her in Colombiana which I specifically chose to see over the movie, The Help. A woman of color kicking ass as opposed to cleaning up after one, seemed like a better choice for me.  I was actually able to buy into the fact that a woman who looks like she might be too small to wear a size 2 could annihilate a slew of grown men.

4. Colorism is a cancer in the black community that has never gone into remission. We come in all shades and colors and that should be celebrated equally.

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