Friday, May 18, 2012

50 Shades of Black - African American Sex Symbols and the Complexity of Skin Tone

African American Sex Symbols & the Complexity of Skin Tone
Due to your positive response to this piece, the domain has been developed to further advance the conversation.
(originally posted 05/18/2012)
My latest art piece is fashioned in the style of a book cover.  Its title (most certainly) and its subject matter (very loosely) are the result of a creative play on the very popular contemporary novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.
Now that the art/cover is created, it’s time to write the book.  This is where you come into play.  While this subject could very easily lead to a book written by a sole individual, I am interested in a conversation…in a dialogue.  I’d like for that dialogue…those contributions from you to be the basis of the manuscript.
Share with me your responses to this piece.  It may be in the form of quick comments, reflections, essays, personal stories, anecdotes, memories of things you heard your mama say about Billy Dee Williams, etc.  Over time, I’ll organize, synthesize, group, copy and paste these comments into a document with the goal of ultimately producing a FREE downloadable e-book of your contributions to the topic.  It’s a book written on the Internet by Internet users.  Just like any other piece of art, it’s open for interpretation. 
Who knows how this will go?  I don’t.  I don’t even know if it has ever been done before.  But I am very curious what you have to say…and something tells me other people are too. 
Let’s talk.
African American Sex Symbols & the Complexity of Skin Tone
 Conceived and Designed by Carlton Mackey – Written by You
Due to your positive response, the domain has been purchased and is being developed to continue to build the conversation!


  1. This is a beautiful beginning.
    When I was younger I was so angry with people who color cast that I was determined to make my skin darker. And to establish my inner thought process at the time and to present, I love all the different shades of brown; I just happen to be considered light-skinned so I and others thought I had some Asian or European due to the relocation of Africans. I just recently had a genetic test done and to my surprise I found that I have not a single strand of Asian, Native-American, or European so where did the light color skin come from? Turns out there are many different shades of African too.

    1. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to comment on this post. In reading your comments I realize more and more the far reaching implications of this project and its potential to impact people on so many levels. I'm not sure if you have been able to follow the project's progression, but things have come quite a way since you made this comment. Please visit to learn more. I look forward do engaging with you further.

  2. I'm philippe. from central Africa (Cameroon) and I have been living in London for 10 years. I find your idea original and and I have been starring at that images for hours and it brought back some question I have tried to answered concerning the approach that some black people have of themselves and of the color of their skin. I have always tough and still believe that to complete my view on the matter, I shall travel and visit the USA because so far my opinions and views are based on what I read and listened on TV. I still struggle to understand the approach of black Americans when it comes to skin color and who they are and their heritage. I am black, living in a western society and I find myself lost or far away of some attitudes or reactions from black people. I came to realize that even the term "black people" can't be at a certain extend be applied with the same meaning to all black people especially if they don't have the same history. Certainly, not to have experienced racism when growing up affects my perception of things. I have been called "nigger" or "baboon
    " by people here but, for some reason, maybe personal, I have not been offended as I have always tough that I should be the one determining who I am not how some others might call me.
    Having said that, I respect any other person attitude towards his skin color or the fact that they are black and have to defend it, proclaim it or whatever it...
    I came randomly on your webpage and will check regularly, as much as I can for any comments or reply. If not, I'm reachable at to debate or chat with anyone.
    Once again, nice project that you have initiated