When 31-year-old Lupita Nyong’o stepped on the stage to receive her award for the best supporting actress at the Oscars for her role in “12 Years A Slave”, it is clear that Black is beautiful.
Wearing a sweet Nairobian blue princess gown and accessorizing her flowing gown with a diamond-studded headband and a big smile, she demonstrates that the days of associating Black with negative and ugly are waning.
But it was the words of this African princess, that sent a strong message out to young Black girls and women worldwide and should change how they feel and should look at themselves.
“No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid,” she said in her acceptance speech.
She is a woman who has cut a path that extends worldwide and has the power to change the lives of any Black child living in any country.
She was raised in Kenya and educated in the Unites States. She is a graduate of the Yale University School of Drama’s Acting program.
Her father, a Kenyan Senator and college professor, was in Mexico as a visiting lecturer in political science. In March of 1983 during his vist, Lupita was born in Mexico City to Dorothy and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o. The family returned to Kenya for her upbringing and as a teenager she later traveled to Mexico to learn Spanish.
She read film studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and after working as a production assistant on several films, graduated from Yale School of Drama.
In the past, the color Black has not been looked upon favorably and pushed aside as a color with no life, no vibrance and character.
Dating back to the 1940’s, color preferences were studied and conclusions about Black were startling.
According to the “think-tank” The Black Institute, Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark were two Black psychologists that conducted important research among children and both were highly active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Kenneth Bancroft Clark would later become the first Black President of the American Psychological Association.
Together the pair founded Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, though they were perhaps most well-known for their experiments in the 1940’s using dolls to study children’s ideas, attitudes and opinions about race.
The Clark study, as it was called, was used as evidence in the Brown vs. Board of Education case.
The doll experiment showed that Black children overwhelmingly preferred White dolls to Black dolls, and that this preference sprung from a feeling that the White dolls were good and pretty, while the Black dolls were bad and ugly.
In 2005, a similar study duplicated the doll experiment to see how much, if anything had changed regarding children’s perceptions when it comes to skin color and value.
During the test, 15 out of 21 children that participated in the study, both male and female, preferred the White doll.
The mission of The Black Institute is to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue and impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora.
From the original doll experiment to the peak of the Civil Rights movement, Blacks have struggled with the image of that Black is a bad color.
Nyong’o big win at the Oscars, changes the perception of Black and her beautiful words do justice to every youth currently having second thoughts about skin color.
It is time to proclaim that Black is Beautiful and insist on the respect for Black beauty in every aspect of society.
“The lighter the brighter, the closer to white the better” idea among us is no longer acceptable. We must stop yielding to the idea and insisting amongst ourselves that fair-skinned Blackness is superior to Black skin.
It is up to us to reverse the trend of little Black girls and boys walking down the streets and seeing advertisements promoting the idea that being Black is bad and White is better.
When children, adolescents and adults alike (but especially children) see these images, it creates a subliminal value system. It says these are the images that are worth using. These are the images that are most valuable and will make you successful.
According to the institute report, Black people have the power to change the trend, build on the momentum of open the door wider on understanding and respecting Black. It is up to Black people to be proud of Blackness and stand behind the premise that “Black is Beautiful”.
If we stand behind Black is beautiful, perhaps when the doll experiment is done again in the future, the results will be different.