It is very disheartening to turn on the news or log onto social media to find that there is yet another tragedy in the world. It seems like when we just enter the healing phase from the last one, there isn’t even time to catch one’s breath before a new one surfaces and we begin the cycle again. After each of these, I turn to literature and some of my favorite books to put things into perspective. Perspective is not acceptance— I will never be able to accept incidents like what happened yesterday in Sutherland Springs, TX. Like Marvin Gaye says in one of my favorite songs, “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.” When I feel this way, I always turn to one book in particular that has had an impact on me from the time I read it while in high school.
For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange is a choreopoem that has been performed hundreds of times over the last 40 years and was even turned into a film directed by Tyler Perry and starring Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Kerry Washington and Loretta Devine. The film was quite moving and brought these images I’ve seen on stage to the screen in a way that I never fathomed.
There are no words to console the many people who have suffered inconceivable loss this weekend. Even though this has happened before, understanding why these tragedies happen is a “metaphysical dilemma I haven’t conquered yet.” If you haven’t read For Colored Girls or seen the film, you should. These aren’t just issues that affect black women, though the book is centered on the lives of black women. The issues are universal: loss of children, falling in love, domestic violence, sexual discovery, falling out of love, and finding strength in one’s self as well as the courage to love that self, “fiercely,” while trying to find a rainbow in the midst of so much sadness. These are lessons we can all learn from. I hope, we won’t be learning them again any time soon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, NJ, Ntozake Shange is one of the most renowned feminist poets and playwrights of the 20th century. Her exposure to New World African religions led choreographer Halifu Osumare to cast Shange as a priestess in The Evolution of Black Dance, a dance-drama performed in Oakland and Berkeley public schools in 1973 and 1974. Upon leaving the company, Shange began to collaborate on poems, dance, and music that would become For Colored Girls. Her plays are still in production across the globe.