For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf: Book Review

by Angelinah Mofokeng

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. 

Each time these words leave my mouth, there is this deep breath accompanied by an overwhelming urge to repeat the words. The first time i picked up the book, i couldn’t believe that one title, one sentence, could be so loaded. This work of art is often referred to in theatre circles as a choreopoem – a form of dramatic expression that combines poetry, dance, music and song – as coined by the author. This work is a bitter yet beautiful reality of Black womxn inked on paper. Honest and unapologetic, the poetry is bound to leave an indelible mark on anybody who lends Ntozake Shange an ear.

i was sixteen when i first read the book. i always return to it rediscovering an entire poem or finding myself hung onto one sentence.  At the time, my world had been turned upside down and i was finally mourning a loss i did not understand or believe as a nine year old girl. i could not understand the emotions i was feeling. Insomnia had taken over my life and on those rare nights when i could finally get myself to sleep, my face and pillow would always be drenched in tears. The words i needed to hear were perfectly placed on pages four and five… “she’d been dead so long / closed in silence so long /she doesn’t know the sound/ of her own voice / her infinite beauty / she’s half notes scattered / without rhythm / no tune / sing her sighs / sing the songs of her possibilities /sing a righteous gospel / let her be born / let her be born…”

Let her be born, let her be born…let her be born. i am stern in my conviction that this is what Shange wanted for all Black womxn. The choreopoem captures the struggles of seven Black womxn who are subjected to oppression that is both racist and sexist. The womxn have no character names, Shange simply refers to them based on an assigned colour. i am moved by the choice. The work can lend itself to any womxn; it speaks to how these struggles are not specific to one womxn but many. It is painful and heart-rending that half a century later the script of womxn remains the same.

We have a vote however are still Shange’s Lady in Blue collecting apologies. We are not a priority. Our bodies and lives mean so little to “the system”, so much so it isn’t changing. All we ever get are apologies and more apologies. Sorry we rape you. Sorry we beat you to a pulp. Sorry we bring you sorrow. Sorry we have failed you. Sorry we have all the power. Sorry.

Well in 2016, “sorry” just doesn’t make the cut anymore. Ask the perpetrators and whoever is in charge at Rhodes University. We’re tired of sorry. Lady in Blue puts it so beautifully…”if you called to say you’re sorry, call somebody else…”

When i started university and was no longer ashamed of my feminism, i was soon classified as an “angry Black womxn”. i grew ashamed and did not want to be identified as one who wears bitterness on her skin. This was repeated countless times and the last time i confronted the hogwash, i was fuming. Then i found Lady in Orange… “ever since i realised there was something called a coloured girl / an evil womxn / a bitch or a nag / i been trying not to be that / and leave bitterness / in somebody else’s cup…” i decided not to police my emotions. Thanks to Shange, i leave bitterness in nobody’s cup. But try me or my sisters and see an angry Black womxn.

On the 9th of August 1956 twenty thousand womxn decided they couldn’t take another “apology”. Twenty thousand womxn – like Lady in Blue – decided they were going to do exactly what they wanted and feel sorry for none of it. Let her be born, let her be born…that’s what we should be fighting for. A fight for ourselves and a fight for the collective course. For colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbows is enuf calls us on to find and know our own voice. And when we find it , to roar until our throats are raw .

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