feature: ‘pretty. period.’ project uses photos to tackle colorism

March 19, 2014

Scholar Dr. Yaba Blay offers her rebuttal to the statement “you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl” in her latest project, ‘Pretty. Period.’. The collection of photos showcases strong imagery of dark-skinned women. “Pretty. Period. is an emphatic statement,” Blay said.
Her decision to use photos to inform consciousness, incite dialogue and inspire others to action comes from her conviction that we need to value the things people can pass along and archive.

By Priscilla Ward, AFROPUNK Contributor *

In addition to posting existing images on the Pretty. Period. blog, Blay teamed up with photographer Ann Blake in order to fill the void in the too often light skinned bias towards black beauty. Blay said she believes shifting the conversation starts with seeing ourselves on the same side of the lens. We need to be able to combat white supremacy in all of these different types of ways.

Blay points out that even within the context of black magazines, images reflecting dark skinned women are lacking. “Ultimately the goal is to print something. The idea is to format it as a magazine,” she said.

“Lupita Nyong’o is not the only dark skinned woman to materialize in our eyes. I am more concerned about people recognizing that there are other Lupitas that need to be heard,” said Blay.

Blay is Co-Director of Africana Studies and Assistant Teaching Professor at Drexel University. All of her academic discourse revolves around colorism and trying to figure out ways to shift the conversation.

Alice Walker first coined the term “colorism” in 1982. Walker defined it as discrimination based on skin color. Which translates into people being treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.

“I see Lupitas everyday. I see her as often on the streets of Philadelphia as I do on the streets of Accra. I see her in my classroom. I see her at the corner store. I see her at the mall. I see her everywhere. And so do you. Only you don’t know it. If it took the media’s fixation on Lupita’s Otherness to introduce you to the beauty of dark skin, then you don’t know what you’re seeing when you look at dark-skinned women. Or maybe you don’t even see us,” Blay said.

Prior to working on ‘Pretty. Period.’ she worked on (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race. The project explores potential disadvantages related with having light skin, particularly among people of African descent – racial ambiguity and contested racial authenticity. Bley sees Pretty Period as an extension of (1)one Drop.

“I am interested in the ways in which colorism impacts lived experiences throughout the world, and black racial identity,” Blay said.

* Priscilla Ward is a DC native and microwaved New Yorker. She enjoys keeping an active pulse on the arts, entertainment and cultural scenes of DC, New York and Philadelphia. She also freelances for Brooklyn Exposed and
She aspires to one day have her own cartoon. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Macaronifro