• Jerry L. Burrell

For Colored Girls

Ntozake Shange's play for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf premiered on Broadway September 1976. It was the second play by a black woman playwright to reach Broadway and went on to be nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.


I was 12 years old.


I don't know that I've seen the play itself but I've definitely witnessed numerous recitations of excerpts of the play. It seems that if there was a talent show during my high school years at least one of the woke black girls would perform one of the various choreopoems from the play.

I just watched Tyler Perry's film adaptation "For Colored Girls" on Netflix and am still untying the knots my heart was twisted into. Yes it does have the look and feel of a Tyler Perry movie but but I didn’t let that get in the way of the rocky rambunctious ride.


The women actors were ridiculously believable. Their deep love, their unbearable pain and their eternal hope was laid bare all raw and messy and complicated.


These were not just run of the mill actresses. The movie was released in 2010 and each of these women were then or have become notorious for their contributions to theater, film and TV. The cast is a sort of Who's Who in acting and they kill it in every scene.


My favorite is Kimberly Elise who plays a mother of two doing everything she can to protect her man from himself and herself and her kids from her man.


The others are:


Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Michael Ealy, Macy Gray and Omari Hardwick.


Watching this movie gave me opportunities to marvel at the sheer resilience black women have had to wield just to make it in this world and the power of sisterhood support which tides them over when their wells run dry. I witnessed again and again the love they provide even when the love they need keeps coming up short.


Much of black women's disappointment in this story comes through their relationships with black men and their relationships with power structures which seek to dictate, oppress and even annihilate. While the play nor the movie dives into the men’s stories, it gives just enough to conclude that there is enough PTSD to go around for every man whether the result of military battle or the battle to retain dignity.


Each of the main characters in the film adaptation are connected in one way or another and this underscores how in real life, even if we fail to see it, our love, our pain and our hope are connected with the love, pain and hope of others.


The movie illustrates how devastating economic, emotional and spiritual poverty can be and the ways these women compensate for the deep voids that exist in their lives.


During these quarantine times we live in with voids becoming wider and deeper for all of us, I am most impacted by the movie’s message that no matter the tragedy, surviving to live another day is light at the end of the tunnel and that really can be enuf.


Thanks Ntozake Shange for your generous gift to the world.



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