Daphne Valerius’ The Souls of Black Girls, the culmination of her Master’s thesis project, opened the 11th Annual Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series. Featuring interviews with journalist Michaela Angela Davis, actors Jada Pinkett-Smith and Regina King, news moderator Gwen Ifill, rapper Chuck D, among others, Valerius’ film addresses the lingering question of beauty, how the media shapes these standards, and the impact those media standards have on real black girls. The film also alluded to the desire black girls and women have to be loved and valued by their black male counterparts, a running undercurrent of the film that was left unexamined and uncritiqued(and needless to say the heteronormativity was not probed).
In other words, teaching black girls to love themselves for themselves — not to meet male approval, black or otherwise — could have been emphasized more. To be sure, some black women feel unloved and abandoned by black men, including their fathers, as Pinkett mentions in the film. The broken ties between black fathers and daughters is not given nearly enough attention by today’s critics who continue to study the “negro problem.”
Valerius’ film is sure to spark some much needed conversations, especially in this climate where suddenly the U.S. public is “paying attention” to gender. Most importantly, young girls will benefit from seeing Valerius’ film and talking about it with their peers and supportive older women (mothers, sisters, mentors …).