For Colored Girls: A Play about Self-Love and Empowerment

Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, is a play that deals with the most difficult issues in womanhood, specifically the womanhood of women of color. Without censoring, Shange uses the play to touch subjects such as abortion, rape, and abandonment. She is not afraid of facing the truth and being blunt, but she is able to do this in a beautiful way. The play is made out of very powerful and expressive poems and dances, which she considers necessities for women. In essence, she uses womanhood to express and explain womanhood. Despite its title, Thomas DeFrantz states, “For Colored Girls is undoubtedly a play for all people…This play has reflections of everyone, not only black women.”  It is a reflection of our society as a whole. The usage of colors such as blue, green, and purple makes racial differences unclear and open-ended. It enables all women to relate to the play, and find a character who have gone through similar experiences. I found the unique play to be moving, memorable, and beautiful.

Shange argues that words are losing their power and women need to express themselves differently. The lady in orange states “i dont wanna write in english or spanish, i wanna sing make you dance.” Dancing is a necessity for women; they “dance to keep from crying” and “dance to keep from dyin” (15). Through dancing, women can express themselves in the most sincere way. Words are losing their meanings because they are too often thrown around. The women claim that their men use the word “sorry” as an excuse, and expect to always be forgiven. However, these apologies don’t “bring the sun back, they don’t make them [me] happy” (52). The lady in blue used very strong imagery when stating “didnt nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars, cuz a sorry.” When people scatter around meaningful words, they are no longer of any value. Therefore, women are forced to resolve to a different method of communication, such as poetry, singing, and dancing. Through these means, women can finally liberate themselves from patriarchal society’s constraints. As a playwright, it is Shange’s job to turn words into a living creation. Her writing comes off the page and becomes something more powerful than simply just words. She uses plays as her method of expressing the hardships that women of color go through daily. By doing this, she is able to publicize personal stories and make a difference. In addition, Shange herself “made public appearances as a dancer and reciter of poetry” (aalbc.com).

Personally, the line that struck me the hardest in the play is “i found god in myself & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely.” This line is about personal acceptance, faith, and love. Not only is god referred to as “her,” but also Shange claims that god is in all of us, in every single woman. She uses the word “god” as opposed to a specific “God.” She dissociates from a particular God for a particular religion, and instead uses god as a core of belief, trust, and strength. It is an accessible source of power that is available to us. The self-love to the god that is present in all of us is what helps women keep on going even when life is difficult. It helps women stop being submissive and begin taking control of their lives. It helps women not give up “when the rainbow is enuf.”

I can imagine that this play was seen as controversial in the 1970s. Shange uses the play to protest “the treatment of African-American women by the men of their race” (play review). After the vital 60s and the fight for civil rights, it is very likely that Shange’s play was seen as a turn against her own race. I am convinced that many African-Americans feared that this play would drive black women and black men apart. Doubtlessly, it is very dangerous for a minority to split up. However, Shange believed that it is very important for black women to have a voice. For centuries, women of color have been completely silenced. They were expected to put up with whatever came their way, without complaining, or desiring change. Through her play, Shange gives women of color the power of speech and the ability to express their anger and let it be publicly known. Only when problems are vocalized, there is hope for change.

Ntozake Shange created a play that succeeded in proving to women of color that they are not alone. She made it clear that the “personal is political,” and that our whole society needs to fix these problems. She delivered a very clear message of strength in sisterhood and unity. For colored girls promotes self-love, acceptance, strength and a desire for change and action.

4 thoughts on “For Colored Girls: A Play about Self-Love and Empowerment

  1. Lidor,
    I love that you bring up Shange’s work in terms of the expression the women want to convey. The fact that sometimes words are not enough to convey one’s emotions, but through combining them with song and dance, your personal emotions are more fully communicated. I also enjoy the background information you have written about the protest the play was initially based around. This point gives more body and structure to the books history into the female struggles of our past.

  2. Lidor, on top of this wonderful piece I have only to add to your concept of words being used “too much” and becoming less and less powerful. This is true, your quotes on the men saying sorry provided good imagery of words having less and less meaning. Yet one aspect which I feel I could add would be the very fact of how she used words in her own play. These are not the words that we are used to. These are not the words that have been over used and played out. These are words which although are grammatically incorrect have the same meaning and therefore express a new way of expressing words. She is using the same old messages in a new way and I find that fascinating.

    On top of the dance and song it further replies to her concept that words need to be thought about differently. What better way to make people think about words differently than to make the same words different themselves? Shange challenging the ideals of conventional wording is basically genius, even if controversial. It is controversial because in context when understanding what she was truly trying to do is simply a work of art. Yet of all the people reading this text, there are going to be those who simply do not see the reasoning. Those who do not understand are quick to judge. To those people I can only say that they are missing the entire point of the text. Yet that is something that I believe Shange accounted for beforehand. Why do I believe this? Because Shange did not write this book so that it could be loved across the boards. She wrote it to help deal with the issues at hand, such as the issues these women of color are dealing with. And dealing with these issues is not pretty, as there are those who would rather live in denial. There are those who overlook these issues entirely, but more importantly she wrote this play for those who could get something out of the stories.

  3. Lidor, I love that you brought up “I found god in myself & I loved her”. I thought that was a major theme throughout the book with all of the women. Some women seem to love themselves, but they don’t have god. I also love how you discussed how controversial the play was. It seems to me that it was a major issue, discussing how black men raped black women, and that all these things should be kept in the closet, not shown to everyone for all eyes to see.

  4. I really like that you gave an answer to the topic Olivia also brought up in her post, by saying, “Thomas DeFrantz states, ‘For Colored Girls is undoubtedly a play for all people…This play has reflections of everyone, not only black women.’ It is a reflection of our society as a whole. The usage of colors such as blue, green, and purple makes racial differences unclear and open-ended. It enables all women to relate to the play, and find a character who have gone through similar experiences. I found the unique play to be moving, memorable, and beautiful.” I think that is really a beautiful notion. I was thinking about the connect that I felt with these women and their stories even though I can not actually imagine what they went through, this is a perfect answer to those feelings. I also really like that you question the meaning of language and the power it has. I was actually troubled by Shange’s notion that words are losing power and I like that you discuss it. As someone who finds language to be, not only the most beautiful and moving thing I know to exist, but also a historical resource and mode of communicating feelings more clearly and recording those feelings forever. Although Shange grapples with the sincerity of words, I think they, when used in the right way, can better define a genuine emotion, without fear of misunderstanding, better than anything. I find the fact that Shange thinks words, something I personally cling to so strongly, are losing their power, to be terrifying. I argee too that she continually comes back to this theme at many points in the book.

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