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.