“for colored girls”? Nope.

I really had/have no intentions of critiquing “for colored girls” by hurling the usual at Tyler Perry. How he hates black women, has mother issues, is a closeted homosexual, etc. Other folks can and have done so. I also really don’t intend to write a review of the movie, which I saw this afternoon. What I do want to do is reflect.

When I first read “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” I was 16 years old. I wasn’t a lady in blue or red or green or purple or orange but a precocious black girl who

usedta live in the world / now i live in harlem & my universe is six blocks / a tunnel with a train / i can ride anywhere / remaining a stranger

except my harlem was philadelphia and my train was the broad street subway. I’d never left my city, except for a girl scout trip to Savannah, and my knowledge of the world outside were through books like “for colored girls.”

When I read “for colored girls” the first time I cried. At 16, I’d established myself as a singer with a voice. I’d performed in assemblies, choirs, solos. But when, at 16, I had my first major depressive episode, “for colored girls” voiced my

black girl’s song / bring her out / to know herself / to know you / but sing her rhythms/ carin/ struggle/ hard times / sing her song of life / she’s been dead so long / closed in silence so long / she doesn’t know the sound / of her own voice / her infinite beauty

In high school, I was passionate about women’s sexual health issues. I chaired our peer health group, which provided peer counseling and peer sexual education. I remember meeting at a Planned Parenthood downtown for a workshop on sexual violence; all of us teenage girls learning about sexual violence and sharing our stories of sexual violence. At the time, we all learned that

a friend is hard to press charges against / if you know him / you must have wanted it / a misunderstanding / you know / these things happen / are you sure / you didnt suggest / had you been drinkin / a rapist is always to be a stranger / to be legitimate / someone you never saw / a man wit obvious problems

yet that date rape is real and we must protect ourselves and almost all of us in that room in the mid-1990s had been a victim of some form of sexual coercion by someone we knew. I remember that session vividly, for the tears and support, the hugs and the empowerment.

I even remember thinking I was one of a few virgins left in my group of friends, and feeling this pressure to not be a virgin anymore. Sexual tension is so high in high school, it threatens to overwhelm. And it’s not just social pressure – I had a boyfriend for which my body exerted physical pressure. So the summer after high school graduation I was

doin nasty ol tricks i’d been thinkin since may / cuz graduation nite had to be hot /& i waz the only virgin/ so i hadda make like my hips waz inta some business / that way everybody thot whoever was gettin it/ was a older man cdnt run the streets wit youngsters /martin slipped his leg round my thigh / the dells bumped “stay” / up & down—up & down the new carver homes/ WE WAZ GROWN WE WAZ FINALLY GROWN

At 16 I learned about abortions when a friend called in the early morning hours about how she couldn’t go through with the procedure because of the

tubes tables white washed windows / grime from age wiped over once / legs spread / anxious / eyes crawling up on me / eyes rollin in my thighs /metal horses gnawin my womb /…./get them steel rods outta me/this hurts/this hurts me

and while I sat in Planned Parenthood waiting rooms trying to get birth control so the same didn’t happen to me.

While I can’t go through what all the poems taught me and left a lasting imprint on my life, what I can say is this: Ntozake Shange’s original poem was truly “for colored colored girls.” The ladies in their various colors were meant to symbolize the many colors of the diaspora; the namelessness of the characters (with notable exceptions) to symbolize the universality of the experience. The title suggests that the concepts are aimed at colored girls – aimed at telling colored girls stories, from their point to view. For colored girls can be described as a healing safe space to share their pain, without any shame, without any further infliction of pain. For colored girls was for us, by us, in a language that only our souls could understand.

Yet this movie destroys this concept of being a safe, healing space for colored girls to share their pain without having to consider other people’s pain, to be a mother, sister, friend, without having to take care of others without having to consider others without having to take responsibility without having to be the superwomen that others think is a compliment but that is really killing us with the weight of the burden.

Without “giving away” the movie, in typical Tyler Perry style, he wants colored girls to “take responsibility” for their condition, understand the men in their lives and why they do the things they do, to explain some of the complexity of black relationships. And that’s al well and good. But that’s not what “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf” was about. Because understanding the complexity of colored girls and their pain is enuf. Its enuf to say that I’m in pain because

i stood by beau in the window/ with naomi reachin
for me/ & kwame screamin mommy mommy from the fifth
story/ but i cd only whisper/ & he dropped em

without having to also “consider” beau’s pain and why as an abused partner and mother she didn’t leave him before. Its enuf to be in pain because I was date raped in my home without also visually suggesting that my clothing was actually suggestive. Its enuf to be in pain because my husband sleeps with men without having to also understand the “plight” of black men on the DL.

Why can’t I have a movie where being and feeling and living as a colored girl in this society is enuf, where I don’t have to consider everyone else’s feelings and being and lifestyle when nobody else is considering my feelings and being and lifestyle?

are we ghouls? / children of horror? /the joke?
don’t tell nobody don’t tell a soul / are we animals? have we gone crazy?

It’s a good thing that

i found god in myself / & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely

before I saw this movie. Because I feel sad for the multitudes of colored girls who will think this is what “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf” is about. For unfortunately, this movie is not “for colored girls.” Its just another way for TP to tell us how fucked up our lives are and how we need to take responsibility for it.

But I’m here to tell you that being a colored girl is enuf.  You don’t need to always consider others. Other people are sometimes screwing with you, and its NOT YOUR FAULT. If you’ve been date raped, ITS NOT YOUR FAULT. If your partner is beating you ITS NOT YOUR FAULT. If your partner is cheating on you, ITS NOT YOUR FAULT.

& this is for colored girls who have considered / suicide/ but are movin to the ends of their own / rainbows

All quotes from Ntozake Shange, (1977). “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf”

24 thoughts on ““for colored girls”? Nope.

  1. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

    You have expressed so eloquently the emptiness i was left with after seeing #FCG. Why am I not enough of a person to be dealt with wholly, as opposed to fragmented problematic tidbits strung together with tears, lipgloss…only good enough to be mirror of others pain, no thought to what makes up the mirror.

    I’m rambling…just know that this is an excellent post & I thank you for writing it.

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    1. Real Brother here.

      I’m boycotting the movie and I’m asking that my wife and daughter boycott it too. The group of Black lesbians who introduced gay azz Tyler Perry on our community have an agenda to destroy Black heterosexual relationships and why anyone would want to support that is beyond me. I love our Black families and I won’t support anything that is designed to break them apart. http://wp.me/p18LGX-1V
      TKCAL

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      1. Real Brother — I think what you are saying about Black lesbians and Tyler Perry’s gay agenda to destroy back heterosexual relationships is pure nonsense. One really has zero to do with the other – if you are attracted to the same sex what in the hell does that have to do with me and my marriage to my opposite sex partner? It sounds like a whole lot of homophobia that has no rational basis to it but hate. That’s why my critique has nothing to do with TP allegedly being gay – I don’t care, and whether he made the movie as a gay man, bisexual man, or straight man, he still made the movie as a MAN who is invested in patriarchy due to his manliness and he still made MEN more front and center than was otherwise required to stay true to the original playwright’s intention.

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      2. “Real” Brotha… thou doth protest too much
        They say the ones who speak the loudest “against” are usually the deepest “for”

        “It may not make sense to you but to a Black lesbian it makes all the sense in the world.”

        Maybe that’s why I, a Black bisexual woman, can’t understand what exactly you’re saying.

        “Black men are competing with Black lesbians for Black female companionship”

        Hmmmm, one would think there should be no competition if people are true to their natural desires. A man can’t make a lesbian straight and a woman can’t make another woman gay.

        “Gay women seek babies from Gay Black men not straight ones”

        Most lesbian mothers I know have children by straight Black men. Try again.

        “Its why 85% of all new Aids/HIV cases are Black women”

        This statistic is incorrect, by the way. Try again.

        “Ask a hard core Black lesbian and she’ll tell you they don’t need Black men.”

        Hard core, as opposed to soft core? Hmmm ok. What is that exactly?

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  2. What is wrong with people who prefer to take charge of their lives rather than wallow in their misery? I wish colored girls to be victorious not victims.

    I’ve rarely known any movie that lived up to the book it was based on! That’s why reading the book is so important.

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  3. Awesome post. Melissa Harris-Lacewell gave a talk recently entitled Black Women: Citizens of the Crooked Room which dealt with some of the stuff you are getting at in your post/(righteous) rant. Basically, the condition of being in the crooked room is that you are in a space where everything is slightly off kilter, and you are either able to find the upright and see the room as crooked, or you are bending yourself always to try and be aligned with the crooked room. I thought of it as I read your post because what you say is right, sometimes there is real crookedness out there and NO, it is not you/it is not us, NO you dont have to bend and twist yourself to fit in with the crooked flow. The fundamental struggle for many black women is, as MHL said, to “find the true North.” Your post was like a North Star this morning. Keep up the good work.

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  4. Great post! I don’t think anyone can say it better than this. I walked out of that movie wondering why didn’t I shed a single tear and feeling uneasy about the whole thing. This post gave voice to my uneasiness..

    V

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  5. “Yet this movie destroys this concept of being a safe, healing space for colored girls to share their pain without having to consider other people’s pain, to be a mother, sister, friend, without having to take care of others without having to consider others without having to take responsibility without having to be the superwomen that others think is a compliment but that is really killing us with the weight of the burden.”

    You mean a Black woman isn’t a mammy or caretaker? Wow. Paradigm shift for half the world and many black women themselves.

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  6. I co-sign all of the commenters in saying, “True dat!” My students were excited to see the film and hoped that I had seen it already, too. I haven’t. We’ve already had a number of conversations about Perry’s work, but my response to most everyone who asks is, “Go see a stage production and read the original.” I think I’ve only seen one man (a friend) who remarked that other men should see it in order to help them understand women’s pain and the importance of being solid, compassionate men. You are so right that Shange’s “For Colored Girls . . .” is for and about colored girls. And no one else.

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  7. It was refreshing to read a review from someone who was actually familiar with the plays. I don’t 100% agree, but only because I think some of the issues you raised in this blog where necessary in order to adapt the play/poems into entertainment. How can you have a movie that does not develop the characters and motivations of the men. Maybe the question we should be asking is if this work should have been turned into a movie, by anybody… PERIOD. Thanks for the read.
    The SoapBox Princess
    http://www.soapboxprincess.com

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  8. I enjoyed your post
    I have expressed my own critiques of the movie in other forums, but they are different from this. Mine focus on TP’s deficiencies.
    You definitely captured the personal connection you have with the choreopoem and that is important.
    Great post!

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  9. This post is so beautifully written. The way you have those quotes interwoven with your own experiences was so eloquent . I had no idea about the original poem but did not expect the movie to do justice to it as something always get lost in an adaptation for the screen. However, your post allowed me to see how TP went far for the intention of the author and I appreciate knowing it. I did not feel the plight of the husbands while watching the movie, I stayed with the women all the way and cried with them . Our pain is enough. Sharing it who can understand or relate is enough…

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  10. I can always tell when you write a post, LaToya. And I love you for it. This was great!!! And I love the fact that you’re asking the universe for an expression of how awesome we are and that we are enuf. Because we are. And that’s okay. Now, you’re in movie town so let’s hope you can be a part of making it happen!

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  11. @Real Brother: Why would gay people, who were born from heterosexual people, want to destroy straight relationships? That makes no sense. Why would they want to destroy the relationships of their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers? Gay people are black too, and have an interest in continuing the black community, which is achieved by having black children. Gay people aren’t trying to stop that – they depend on black straight people coming together to make black babies they can adopt! Please stop this foolishness.

    Like

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