Bill Duke, an acclaimed director and actor with film credits that include Red Dragon, Menace II Society, and Predator, has spent the last few years of his career patiently perfecting what can only be considered a true labor of love. Duke, long bothered by the painful stories told to him by his sister and other women born with darker skin, says he was frequently overwhelmed by the seemingly endless accounts of exclusion, cruel comments, and blatant disregard shown to a particular segment of women in the black community.
Duke strikes a towering presence at 6 feet 4. His booming baritone voice only serves to highlight his rich ebony complexion. Fueled by his own memories of attacks and insults as a result of racism, the actor decided the usually taboo subject of skin-color preference needed its veil lifted in a way the public would find too difficult to ignore. Dark Girls was born soon after.
The actor contacted friend and producer D. Channsin Berry, and together the two men embarked on a journey that would profile and document the experiences of countless dark-skinned women from around the country.
“God doesn’t make mistakes,’’ says Duke. “He created these women the way he intended them to be and they’re fine—no matter who tries to tell them otherwise. That’s the point of this film.
”Dark Girls was completed in 2011, and after touring the country with the film at private screenings for most of 2012, Duke and Berry got the call they’d always wanted.
“We’d always hoped Oprah would get involved with this project in some way,’’ said Berry. “It’s a topic she can really speak to and have people listen. But her network had only just began, so we weren’t really sure if it could happen.’’
It did. Dark Girls premieres on June 23 at 10 p.m. on OWN. It follows Oprah’s Next Chapter, which highlights the talk-show icon’s interviews with four well-known African-American actresses. Alfre Woodward, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, and Phylicia Rashad all discuss the issue of skin color as they address the host of other issues facing black actresses in Hollywood.