As a child, the month of February held a special place in my heart. Not because of Ground Hog or Valentine’s Day, but because of Black History Month. Black History Month allowed me an opportunity to explore the endless contributions and vast history of African Americans in The United States. I gained a thorough sense of pride and knowledge. This was one of the best feelings ever. Something I’d always remember and wanted to prosper from in my adult years.
Bill Duke has been prospering for decades. From acting on stage and film; to becoming an acclaimed author, he has established himself as a prominent and well respected figure in the entertainment industry. Globally, Bill’s efforts as a humanitarian has partnered him with the United Nations to help continue the fight against conquering the AIDS epidemic. These are just a few of the various accomplishments that Bill has achieved within his life time. I recently had the honor of speaking with him about his tremendous career, current projects and much more. This was definately history in the making. Enjoy!
Terry- With so many accomplishments (College Grad; Broadway,TV & Film Actor; Director, Producer and Writer) is there anything that Bill Duke has not done?
Duke- Yes, I would like to make as many contributions as I can to society through media to leave a better world for the future than what we have now.
Terry- You’ve seem to have excelled so diligently in an ever fickle entertainment industry. How did you remain ‘Human’ through the years?
Duke- Through Transcendental Meditation techniques, my belief in God and the ongoing humbling in the industry of rejection.
Terry- What has been your most defining career moment?
Duke- Tough question. A defining moment was when I was in my first film, Car Wash, as an actor and people stopped me on the street and they said they appreciated me and my work. Up until that point I was an unknown actor that was still trying to define his presence and self-confidence in this industry.
Terry- Is there an actor/director/writer who has influenced you?
Duke- So many. Actors: Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Marlon Brando, and Ivan Dickson
Directors and Writers: Federico Fellini, Gordon Parks, and Frank Capra
Terry- Many consider you to be a pillar of African-American film (and film in general). What do you think of that statement?
Duke- I don’t think I’m a pillar, I think of myself as a pond of consciences that hopefully is evolving, growing, and learning.
Terry- Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about your Dark Girls Project. I’ve viewed the 2013 documentary after having several conversation with various female family members about the negative connotation behind the saying “You look good for a dark skin girl”. What prompted the exploration of this subject?
Duke- My growing up in the prejudice of upstate Poughkeepsie, New York and experiencing my own dark pain as a dark-skinned colored boy/man, observing the pain that my sister and friends and relatives experienced, as well as the bullying in schools today. That light-skin and dark-skin girls continue to experience and the anguish of those that love them and wanted to give a voice to the voice-less so that we can begin, hopefully, a meaningful dialogue.
The “Dark Girls” book I consider a tool that will enable dark-skin young girls to show people that demean them in any way that they have proof through these pictures and testimonials that women that look like them and face similar trials and tribulations have gone to do great things with their lives and continue to contribute greatly through our society.
Terry- A pivotal moment in the documentary was the opening scene where we see a young African-American girl (with her head down) sitting with her mom. She responded to a question and later stated that she didn’t like being called black. Why was that very moment chosen for the opening?
Duke- I wanted to show the impact of media and global consciences on the conscience and sub-conscience of our children of today. Globally dark or black is associated with bad, scary, dangerous, foreboding; the impact it has on children subconsciously is that they do not want to be black. They want to be the opposite of black. My hopes is that perception can be reversed or impacted, but until the “bad guys” stop wearing black and the “good guys” stop wearing white and all good happens in the day and all bad happens at night, until some of these messages change, this little girl will never want to be what she is.
Terry- Last month, you released the novel of the same name Dark Girls. What do you hope readers will take away from this printed experience? (A full book review will be in part 2 of this interview).
Duke- My hope is that they will take away that the only true race is the human race and that pain has no color – God does not make mistakes, no matter what the beauty business tells you. The color you were born, your size, shape of your eyes, nose, and lips, texture of your hair were all designed by the only God we should all worship and we should never bow to the Godless lips that tell us that we are not beautiful as we are – Don’t drink the “kool-aid”!
Terry- If you had one thing to say to our readers, what would you say?
Be proud of who you are. People treat you the way they see you treat yourself. Your beauty transcends definition. Do not be defined!
Terry- Any social media links for our readers to follow?
Duke- Twitter: @REALBILLDUKE