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”