A Poem & a Movie in a Poem: for colored girls

This post continues a week-long meditation on Ntozake Shange’s 1976 choreo-poem, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf and Tyler Perry’s 2010 feature film of the same name. For the full series follow the tag sing a black girl song. NOTE: The tag for posts specific to this Nunez Daughter series has changed. Since the movie’s release, the global conversation has deepened by tens and hundreds, all using the for colored girls tag. But the ND series is still tagged for colored girls: click either and join the conversation….

There are texts you encounter because you happened to pay attention in class that day. Others fall in your lap courtesy of good friends and stupid enemies. The few great ones are placed in your hands by God herself.

I can’t hear anythin
but maddening screams
& the soft strains of death
& you promised me
you promised me…
somebody/ anybody
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you

When I first met for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, I was a thirsty undergraduate, searching for something that would help me make sense to myself. I use the full title above because part of me hovered on the silver edge of suicide/insanity/lost wonder. We forget–for black girls, the very air we breathe is toxic. The violence of our silence, our erasure, is a cancer that eats our bodies whole from the inside out. Acting out, bitter back talk, a roll of the eye perfectly timed to make you feel 2 feet tall–lazy weapons we wield against a miasma of racialized tropes already configuring what can be seen, who we might be. We commit suicide everyday without knowing it then keep moving, walking dead, zombies & shadows.

We see our days stretch forward, a half-life with no point and no end.  By twelve years old we are already tired of the same old shit.

I was young-tired by the time I stumbled across Shange. A choreopoem? I asked my self. Are you serious?

I devoured the text.

For an apprentice wordsmith preoccupied with the kinetics of language, with the chemical reactions a misplaced “wench,” “black bitch,” or “quadroon” cause,  Shange’s text is pure alchemy.

for colored girls took the written word with all of its racist and sexist significations, made it speak. It took the spoken word with all of its unseen and multi-tonal meanings and music and wrestled it through the chests and out of the mouths of seven black women–an act of death and resurrection.

sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you

When you leave the text, you know yourself. The world no longer excludes you, because you are the center of it and the view from your front yard reveals the human as a guise, a farce you’ve simultaneously exploded and reshaped in your own image, giving birth to a new form.

Could this, I wondered, be translated onto the big screen? Could black womanhood giving birth to herself be confined to a narrative structure, be tied to the visual impact of real black female bodies, retain its poetry, confront stereotypes and assumptions (and fear and pain and coping-silence and coping-anger and shame), dialogue with tropes and trauma and conflict while still handling the griot call?

Yes. It can. It was. Full bodied women appeared on the screen and for two hours I fell back in love with myself and with movies and with black women who fight to be whole beings never mind the work we do in our own minds to diminish them, to bring them low.

But let’s not forget–

it is the poem that made the movie.

& it is Shange who saves Tyler Perry from himself.

…to be continued….

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2 thoughts on “A Poem & a Movie in a Poem: for colored girls

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