you’re looking for Madea (Tyler Perry in front of the camera
in drag), or Black-faced versions of “Sex in the City” or
“He’s Just Not That Into You” then Mr. Perry’s adaptation
of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 womanist choreopoem, “For Colored
Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,”
will gravely disappoint you.
if you are also looking for Perry’s high-profile ensemble
of African American actresses - Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine,
Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni
Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg
and Macy Gray - to perform as “Big Mammas,” “Hoochie Mommas,”
and “Welfare Mommas” mouthing off “Madea-isms” these sister-girls
will disappoint you too; they have more depth, dignity and
dimensionality to their character development than that.
the movie, in my opinion, is a must see, it won’t be a blockbuster
hit. You won’t have to worry about waiting in long lines.
I went to view the film at prime time with an audience of
six - all women- in the theater.
some critics having already bad-mouthed “For Colored Girls”
as an anti-male melodrama, emasculating black males, who
would sit for 134 minutes of that?
the critic is wrong and let me give you some reasons why.
Colored Girls” illustrates the universal sisterhood of struggle,
strife and survival in which women find themselves in certain
types relationships with men.
characters in the film are you, me, and us all at certain
junctures in our life’s journey. And “For Colored Girls”
reminds us about the ongoing “dark phrases” of womanhood
that women of all colors of the rainbow, even in our supposedly
“post-feminist” era of 2010, continue to confront, like
spousal abuse, incest, rape, infanticide, infidelity, to
with the film set primarily in Harlem,
many will see the film as solely the typical “black faces”
of African American women.
that was neither the intent of Shange’s play nor is it the
intent of Perry’s film.
along Highway 101 one morning, she found herself passing
beneath the arc of a double rainbow. Seeing the entire rainbow
take shape above her, Shange realized that she wanted to
live, that she had to live; she had something to say, not
only about the fragility of her own existence, but about
the lives of the other colored girls she knew and loved
and imagined, ” Hilton Als wrote in “Color Vision: Ntozake
Shange’s Outspoken Art’ in a recent The New Yorker.
Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When
the Rainbow Is Enuf” was written during the height of the
second wave feminist movement, giving voice and visibility
to an era deluged with white women’s scholarship and sensibilities,
and an era discriminated with not only their racial and
ethnic biases but also with their class and sexual orientation
was part of the burgeoning black women writers, poets and
artists era of the 1970’s where Toni Morrison published
her first novel, and still my favorite, “The
Bluest Eye.” Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni,
Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara, to name a few, are some
of the early foresisters of the era.
her signature style of writing, the choreopoem, blending
music, dance and poetry and an amalgamation of what she
heard on the street, Shange’s play has influenced this generation
of spoken-word and performance artists.
like the idea that letters dance…I need some visual stimulation,
so that reading becomes not just a passive act… but demand
rigorous participation. The spelling result from the way
I talk or the way the character talks, or the way I heard
something said,” Shange wrote in Claudia Tate’s “Black Women
Writers at Work.”
directorial style in “For Colored Girls” captures Shange’s
poetic style in each of his characters, with of course,
a few of his own cinematic flourishes. But none where there
was room for Madea to surprisingly appear.
many may view “For Colored Girls” as a melodramatic mess
of black women’s misery, the play is about women’s empowerment.
film is about teaching and illustrating to women how to
have decision-making power of their own, access to information
and resources for making proper decisions, having a range
of options from which they can make good choices, having
the ability to exercise their assertiveness, and having
positive thinking of one’s ability to make changes in their
lives as empowered women.
Colored Girls” is not only for colored girls because it
offers a pathway to self-growth, finding our authentic power,
and discovering the divine in one’s self.
the closing scene of the film one of the women says,“i found
god in myself & i loved her/i loved her fiercely.”
we all looking for that woman?
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion
columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of theAfrican-American
Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific
School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary
at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American
church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her
doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s
list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society
that is frequently invisible. Her website
to contact the Rev. Monroe.