“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 characteristics based on their personified colors. Employing poetry and prose, Shange brings to life the story of each woman, her path different from the other, but the pain eerily similar and familiar. Their pain as “colored girls” becomes the thread binding them together despite their differences. Shange’s choreopoem demands recognition and 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 Alice Walker.

Unfortunately, like in many of Morrison’s and Walker’s novels, Black men share their misery and solidify their power through (physical, sexual, and emotional) violence while trying to navigate external obstacles (institutional racism, sexism, colorism) and accept themselves.  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 oppression 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 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.

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