BRATTLEBORO -- Shanta L.E. Crowley remembers watching "Charlie's Angels" with her Dad when she was about 6 and idolizing the show's blonde, white stars.

She asked her dad, "When we get to heaven, do we get to change our skin color and our hair?"

That memory is one of many she has of questioning her dark skin color and the judgments people and society made about it.

It is because Crowley is not alone in having memories like this that the Root Social Justice Center is hosting "From Ghetto to Granola: Shades of Reality Among Black Women in Vermont," a forum and community conversation about racism, classicism, degradation and the shared responsibility communities have for addressing these issues.

The event takes place on Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., at the Root, a Brattleboro-based space at 28 Williams St., which exists to bring people together to examine issues around, and further the cause of, social justice in the community and the world.

The event will include a screening of the documentary "Dark Girls," a fascinating exploration of the issues darker women of color face around the world.

It will also include a "fishbowl format" conversation in which a diverse group of black women will talk about their experiences with race and color, while the audience watches and listens.

"The idea is not to debate, not to argue, but to honor each other as black women in Vermont," said Crowley.


Advertisement

The film "Dark Girls" brings to the fore an underexamined issue of race -- the concept of colorism, or internalized racism, where the experiences and opportunities for darker-skinned people of color are different from those of lighter-skinned people of color.

"It really underlines and illuminates internalized racism that black women face today," said Shela Linton, an advocate, activist and community organizer who works for the Vermont Workers Center and is one of the driving forces behind the Root Social Justice Center. "Colorism is about shades. Throughout history, black people have been put against each other in terms of shade."

Historically, Linton said, opportunities for lighter-skinned black people were different than those of darker shades. Questions of who's considered beautiful and who can "pass" based on shade were significant influences on opportunity and success. Those distinctions are with us still, she said.

"It is our job to be accountable for this. For people of color, we don't have the option of not dealing with racism," said Linton.

Actually, it's everyone's job to deal with this.

"You are of this community and of this society, and this is something that we all helped to build. We have this responsibility to call ourselves to the carpet ... to put it out on Front Street," added Crowley.

Organizers hope Saturday's event is the first of many aimed at examining these issues, acknowledging common ground and prodding us all into asking some uncomfortable questions about our beliefs.

Everyone is welcome to participate in "From Ghetto to Granola: Shades of Reality Among Black Women in Vermont" on Saturday. For more information, visit www.the rootsjc.org and RSVP to the event via its Facebook page.