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Film examine media images

October 27, 2008

‘Souls of Black Girls’

When filmmaker Daphne Valerius flipped through magazines as a young girl, she rarely, if ever, saw anyone that looked like her – then a shy young black girl growing up in Rhode Island.“You looked through the magazines and didn’t see one woman of color,” the 26-year-old mused. “And you think, ‘Well, damn. And you ask yourself – am I pretty, am I beautiful, am I good enough?’”This push and pull of the media barrage with the self worth of young girls, especially black girls, is examined in a tough-minded documentary Valerius recently produced as part of her master’s project called The Souls of Black Girls. Valerius will be on campus for a screening of the film at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 in the Chris Knutsen Hall at the UC . Valerius will be on hand for a meet and greet at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but an RSVP is requested. Call the admissions office at 253-535-8716 to RSVP.

The documentary has black women, and men, talking about the constant barrage of media images black women have to combat from a very young age. Valerius – who counts her mother, Adeline Regis, as one of her heroes – has rounded up some heavy hitters for the documentary including Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gwen Ifill, PBS Washington Week commentator and vice presidential debate moderator.

One might wonder how either woman – the stunning Pickett Smith or the confident Ifill – could have image problems. Apparently one did and one didn’t.

Pinkett Smith was small and skinny as a child and had to deal with her self image, while Ifill grew up during the era of black pride.

“She internalized that,” Valerius said. “So there wasn’t anything anyone could say to make her feel she wasn’t beautiful.”

Both Barack and Michelle Obama are also breaking apart the stereotypes that have often shaped how black women and men see themselves, Valerius added.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from St. John University in New York, Valerius went on to earn her masters in journalism from Emerson College.

Still, with all these academic credentials behind her, Valerius remembers turning away from an acting career because “I thought I wasn’t pretty enough.”

Black women are also conditioned from a very young age to fit into a certain role, she added. There are certain roles, both socially and professionally for men and women in black culture.

“We are conditioned on what a woman buys or doesn’t buy, and to wear high heels and look like Barbies. For the media, that is beautiful, that is desirable,” Valerius said.

Valerius said she never had a conversation with her mother about self image when she was growing up. It just wasn’t a conversation that was going to happen in that household, with Regis, a Haitian immigrant, raising three children by herself. There were jobs to do and bills to be paid.

“But my mother was always a strong figure and a maverick in her own right,” Valerius said. “She was a strong, beautiful black woman, and she didn’t deviate from that. She set the example.”

Screening: The Souls of Black Girls

PLU is screening the film The Souls of Black Girls and hosting the filmmaker Daphne Valerius at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 in Chris Knutzen Hall at the UC.

A meet and greet will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided. The public is welcome to attend. The event is a great opportunity for students to experience an interesting and engaging college lecture. Mentors are encouraged to bring along their student. An RSVP is requested. To do so call 253-535-8716.