This past weekend, CNN’s Soledad O’ Brien took a deeper approach with the In America series by exploring the complex ideologies behind colorism within the African-American community for “Black in America 5”. Among the many individuals she spoke to – posing the question ‘who is black America?’ – commentary about the difficulties that blacks still face, no matter how light or dark their skin is, seemed to surface in several conversations.

Slam poets Hiwot Adilow, Telia Allmond, and Kai Davis explored the theme of color and identity through artistic expression for CNN. The young women from the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement performed “Team Lightskinned”, a poem that explores both the negative and positive experiences that light-skinned black women face growing up in America.

The poem opens with the lines, “Your worth a little more if your golden, yellow enough to remind them of precious metals.”

Imbued with deep reflections and colorful language, the poem recalls the historic struggle of colorism within the black race– for light skin women can “past the paper bag test in the dark…can dodge handcuffs without paying a fine”, unlike their darker brothers and sisters.

It also expresses their desire for darker beauties to accept themselves, despite how society may currently demean them: “black might be beautiful but right skin might be the light skin.”

Speaking of society, the poets negate popular belief: “it doesn’t occur to them that them that some of the most gorgeous stones are obsidian, opal, onyx.”

What are your thoughts on the poem? Can you relate?

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  • Pseudonym

    What is a “regular black woman?” Your wording alone makes you sound like an ass.

    I don’t get personal with comments, but you’re obviously a troll, so I’m treating you like one.

  • LadyP

    @ PJ

    Yes, you make some valid points. That is exactly what I’m going to tell her the next time we discuss it. If we start back embracing and teaching the “good” aspects of our history, maybe we will start back loving ourselves.

  • LaLa

    Can we have some examples?

  • yumm

    “regular” black women? my friend you ARE a “regular” black women. Implied in your choice of words, is the idea that your special, and most people don’t react well to someone that is consciously or subconsciously treating them them as an inferior – which my explain your experiences.

  • I think the key is not in trying to get others to accept us and think our dark skin beautiful. The key is in loving and accepting ourselves. When that happens you won’t NEED the validation of the media, light-skinned men, etc.

    It’s Just like with the natural hair movement. We didn’t wait for the media and other bearers of beauty standards to tell us that our hair in its natural state was beautiful. Instead we began to set our own standards. We empowered ourselves through education on how to best care for our hair, and we built this amazing online community and networks where natural sisters shared tips and styles in love.

    Low and behold, now the media and others have embraced our hair as a fashion and beauty statement. Big-afro’d chicks like Julia Sarr-Jamois are being touted as style icons. However, the key was that we embraced and loved our hair first, and then the world couldn’t help but follow.

    I believe the same spirit and principles that helped the natural hair movement can also be used to combat colorism. The root of the problem is that we’ve allowed another culture to to define what we think is beautiful.

    It’s time to love and embrace our dark skin. It’s time to educate our selves on how to best take care of it. It’s time to raise up communities of like minded dark-skinned sisters where we can share tips, ideas, stories, and journeys lovingly. An inclusive community where light-skinned sisters are welcomed and encouraged to join in the struggle for self-love and acceptance.

    We will start by loving ourselves. If the world wants to respond by loving us back, great, if not oh well–we love ourselves anyway. I don’t believe our kind and loving God created dark skin with a curse in mind but as an expression of a beauty that we must learn to reclaim. :)