“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” Choreopoem Review

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Ntozake Shange shares the powerful stories of the red, brown, purple, blue, yellow, orange and green ladies and their struggles as black women. The ladies reminded me of the Orishas, from Yemaya to Oshun, each inhabiting particular characteristics based on the colors they personify. Employing both poetry and prose,Shange brings to life the story of each individual woman, her path different from the other, but the pain eerily similar and familiar. There pain as “colored girls” becomes the thread binding them together despite their differences.  Shange’s choreopoem demands recognition and a performance. It’s not enough to read the book, the words are daring the reader to give voice to the characters, to tell their stories aloud. Her writing style follows the literary tradition of Toni Morrison (her literary predecessor) and peer Alice Walker. Her characters are complex, the language is simplistic and there are domestic (The sexist black men in their lives. Men who for years experienced racial oppression, coming home and sharing their misery and solidifying their power in the form of physical, sexual, and emotional violence) as well as external obstacles (institutional racism, sexism, colorism) to overcome in order for the women to truly embrace and love themselves. Unfortunately, like in many of Morrison’s and Walker’s novels, the challenges are too steep and some of the women fall short. Shange’s book is a must read for every person interested in raising and developing their social and cultural consciousness and understanding the multi-systems of oppressions black women experience daily.  I first read this chapbook years ago as a teenager. When Tyler Perry adapted the book into a movie, “For Colored Girls” I was reminded of the brutality and violations these women experienced at the hands of men, and by extension society as a whole, as I viewed the adaptation on screen. While I found some of the scenes moving, Shange’s work is a better fit for the theatre stage, where the subtle nature of her characters’ collective pain can be deeply felt and not portrayed on a large screen in a sensational manner. On the large screen, the pain of the women is dwarfed by the naked violence of the men in their lives. A series of violent events presented on screen without the necessary social and cultural context provided in the chapbook. Instead, look for performances of the play by local actresses in your area. If this is not an option, check out a recent performance of the choreopoem by students at the Agnes Flanagan Chapel: 

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