Mind Opening and Eye Widening: For Colored Girls

When I first opened the cover of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, I didn’t think I was going to like it.  I was skeptical about the words spelled such as “enuf,” and the lack of capitalization in the title.  I was unsure about the idea of a choreopoem and I have had some pretty tough experiences with spoken word.  But as soon as I got past my initial doubts, I was completely blown away.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, is an incredible testimony to the lives each of the seven women face and their battles with abandonment, rape, abortion, and love.  The poems are incredibly beautiful and powerful when they stand alone but when read as a complete series of stories told by women, it not only shines a brighter light on each of the individual stories but also gives the sense that all the women are together in their struggles, that they are there for each other, just as other women should be for their sisters, mothers, and friends.

As the prologue says,  Shange was simply “exploring the realities of seven different kinds of women” but in doing so she sheds a completely different light on these realities (xiii). She shows the reality without smiles and falsehoods; she shows these women’s inner psyches; she shows their most internal struggles; and she shows the ones that are not voiced nearly often enough.  She has narrated, “all our struggles to become all that is forbidden by our environment, all that is forfeited by our gender, all that we have forgotten”(xv).

One poem I found especially moving was the lady in green’s poem.  This poem embodies what the entire play is about for me.  The line “somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff,” points to how someone literally took everything she had but this person ALMOST walked away with something even more valuable.  But she stops them. She sees this person making fun of the way she acts, “how [she] sits with [her] legs wide open sometimes…” or her “chewed up finger nails.”  But she is strong, and she wants her stuff back.  I was especially moved by the line “now you cant have me less i give me away”(50). She finally says, “& it waznt a spirit that took my stuff/ waz a man.”  She has to have her stuff to make a poem or dance, or be, and she won’t let some man run off with her most important things.  Most beautiful, however, is the way she got everything back was by being everything she is, regardless of how society or any man saw her.

The play opens with a poem about a girl, the lady in yellow, who loses her virginity on prom night in the back seat of a Buick.  She is not sad about this loss of her virginity, as she was ready to see it go.  She is the embodiment of the innocent girl the play first portrays.  But the themes of the text darken and this innocence is lost as the play progresses.  As one reads further and further into the book, just like time that passed during the years these women spent eroded by society, the innocence is lost.  Once this innocence is gone,  once all the women can do is “dance to keep from dyin,” the epiphany is revealed (15).  By the end, they all declare: “I found god in myself & I loved her/I loved her fiercely”(63).

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf was truly a moving and inspirational read.  After reading this play, I felt the need to do something.  My eyes were painfully opened through reading this choreopoem that I will not soon forget. These seven women’s stories will stick with me for a very long time.

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