For Colored Girls: Empowering Black Women

For Colored girls book

Now I know we’ve all seen Tyler Perry’s, “For Colored Girls” and if you haven’t shame on you.  Just Kidding!! But, I bet you didn’t know that it was an adaptation of the famous choreopoem by Ntozake Shange called “For Colored Girls That Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf”. Tyler Perry took Ntozake Shange’s vision and gave it a new life using a different type of platform. Ntozake poetry gave black women a voice where they talked about  personal crisis, heartbreak and other challenges, things that black families are known for sweeping under the rug that reveal different issues such as, abandonment, rape, abortions, domestic violence, HIV, std, and unhealthy relationships that impact women in general and especially colored women around the world. Tyler Perry created his movie around the monologues, implementing them at some of the most surreal times grabbing hold of each character’s emotions. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know, hell I didn’t realize it either until I spotted the book a few weeks after it came out at a library on their little book sales cart for 50 cents. If I could’ve died! Only a book nerd could understand my genuine excitement I felt at that very moment. Little did I know how much these 20 poems would mean to me.

The book is structured like a normal book of poetry with side notes of what it would be like on a theatre stage. Each woman is represented by the colors red, green, brown, yellow, blue, purple and orange. And each woman or color would tell us a story, her story. In these pages we are introduced to girls that then introduce us to other kinds of people of color, other worlds. We open ourselves to these realities all within the same lines, where we learn to live smile through our pain. In her rather revealing intro about how how For Colored Girls was born, Shange refers to the “cruelty” that we often think we endure alone, when in actuality we do not. Shange captures many hearts and speaks to our souls with every stroke of her pen. I’ll also bet that Ms. Shange couldn’t have known in 1975, that once she began to find her voice, she would give other women the courage to  find their own and speak their own truths. And by sharing with one another begin to find strength  and help bring to light the common cautionary tales we women face.

Shange originally wrote the poems in 1974 as separate poems, and just before the end of that year she performed the poems alongside four other women. As time went on she continued to work on the piece and by 1976 after moving to New york, Shange and her play was making its debut on Broadway. making it the second play by a black woman besides, Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 “A Raisin in the Sun”, to ever make it to broadway. For Colored Girls has been performed on and off broadway, adapted into a book by three different publishing companies;twice in 1977 and once in 1980, before it was adapted into a television film on WNET-TV/ PBS in 1982 and last but not least the theatrical film/version by Perry.

Ntozake Shange, was inspired by events that happened in her life. She came up with the concept while driving on the freeway and was overcome by the appearance of two rainbows that brought upon the feelings of near death and catastrophe. And once she drove through the rainbow those feelings went away. That’s how she came up with the title and used the colors of the rainbows to represent the essence of each woman. For Colored Girls, tells the story of the everyday struggles that comes with living in a racist and sexiest society. The play consisted of the choreopoem accompanied by dance movements and music, in which it touches on the concepts like love, empowerment, struggle and loss into a complex representation of sisterhood. This is one form of artistry all women and especially women of color should read or watch in theatre or film form.


About the author

Ntozake shange photo

NTOZAKE SHANGE is a renowned playwright, poet, and novelist. Her works include Some Sing, Some Cry, which she with Ifa Bayeza; Betsey Brown; and Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo. Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and Pushcart Prize. A graduate of Barnard and recipient of a master’s in African American Studies from the University of Southern California, she lives in Brooklyn.



For colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf
by Ntozake Shange


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