If you ask me, it’s no coincidence that the empowering awards show Black Girls Rock, premiered the same weekend as the screenplay adaptation for Ntozake Shange’s critically acclaimed choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf…
The two pieces were praised and shunned all at the same time for various reasons. Whether they be labeled groundbreaking or a disgrace which fell severely short of its original work, they appeared to be two sisters staring at each other’s reflections.
For Colored Girls
I will admit that I’ve never seen the play, nor did I finish reading the book. I checked the book out from the library around age 14 or so, after “Freddie” made reference to it on A Different World. The long title was intimidating, but I figured if I could read Waiting to Exhale at 12 years old, surely I could handle it. I couldn’t. Maybe I was too young to get it. Last year, I settled for dinner and nap, instead of taking a church member up on an offer to see her perform in the stage play at a black repertory here. Judge me if you must, but I’m being honest.
I went into the theater with no expectations. My bar wasn’t set into the heavens like so many other writers, bloggers and intellectuals who’d reviewed it after the official premiere. I would look away when the trailer came on because I didn’t want to figure the movie out. It’s as if people went into the movie expecting it to be awful simply because it was written and produced by Tyler Perry.
As for me, I was pleasantly surprised, not only at the story lines, but at the actresses’ performances. In the original play, each woman, nameless, represented a different color of the rainbow, hence the “Colored Girls.” The movie added much more detail maybe, but the characters’ poems, dialogues and soliloquies were the same. That is the component of the play that should always be constant, no matter what the adaptation. These women had their own struggles and experiences that they spoke to so eloquently.
A male writer I follow on Twitter referenced a Newsweek review excerpt which said the movie will make you “smile and cry,” asking what part of the movie makes you smile. Men. How about Loretta Devine’s poem, “Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff”? What about reminiscing about the man you let back in your life for the millionth time before you finally had the strength to say goodbye for the last time? Phylicia Rashad’s cut and dry interactions with her tenants? Priceless.
To critics who complain about Perry’s repetitious story lines and plots, consider that even Shange was criticized then because her story had no conventional plot. Perry’s additions to the story to make it movie length certainly weren’t cliché. Each woman dealt with an issue: unresolved childhood issues, abuse in every form, denial, self-esteem and self-love. Are these not real issues that African-American women–women— experience daily?
Of course, they are.
Perhaps every woman cannot relate to the promiscuous woman who brings men into her bed night after night. But do you not know or know of one? Just because we don’t see ourselves specifically doesn’t mean it’s not a reality for someone else. Acknowledgement of and respect for other’s experiences is critical for self-growth.
With every review I read, it seemed that African-Americans want to live in a fantasy and pretend that these images that flash across the screen don’t exist–like we don’t hurt. We, as a people, hurt. African-American women hurt. And we never tell a soul. The original play was written in 1974, and the main themes are still relevant today. Yes, I’d love to see more movies like The Best Man and Love Jones, which show African-Americans on top, in love and living the American dream, but there are other parts of our lives that need exposure, as well. You can’t recognize joy if you haven’t endured pain.
So we black girls—we colored girls–need to see these movies and plays, read these books. Our colored men (because they have issues, too) need to do the same. I left the theater, not downtrodden, but proud to be a “colored girl.” The beauty of this particular artwork and life, in general, is, historically, we’ve always been resilient and capable of moving past our hidden hurt to thrive. We should celebrate every part of that, the good, along with the bad.
Black Girls Rock
What a wonderful presentation! Millions of African-Americans who blame BET for the downfall of our race even tuned to see what the fuss was about. It was awesome. From honoring big-name celebrities and legends, such as Raven Symone’ and the great Ruby Dee, to the dynamic “Four Women” performance by Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi, the show was a great confidence booster to Black girls, young and old. The best part of the show was acknowledging young girls who are making a difference. How many times will I see a Beyonce or Alicia Keys receive an award in my lifetime? Every unknown girl who does some good for her community deserves recognition.
For two hours, my Twitter timeline was filled with #BlackGirlsRock hashtags and encouraging words for the award recipients, as well as each other. That’s the picture we want and need to see painted as often as possible as encouragement to keep rocking on. Beverly Bond, founder of Black Girls Rock, said “When you grow up being told you’re less than special, you sometimes act less than special.”
Bond is right, but even amidst all the admiration and empowerment beaming from the television into my own heart, I couldn’t help but think about all of the “colored girls” seated in the theater. How many of them had been abused, carried heavy broken hearts around with them, endured major hardships, were told they weren’t special or had countless doors closed in their faces?
Quite a few I’m willing to bet. There is some pain that is inevitable, but we black girls—we colored girls rise above it all. And that rocks.