Colored Girl Talk: An Unforgettable Night with Playwright and Author, Ntozake Shange

Florida A&M’s Perry Paige Auditorium was the place to be for every African-American woman Tuesday evening.

If seeing the movie “For Colored Girls” wasn’t moving enough, witnessing firsthand the woman who made it all happen was definitely an unforgettable moment.

Ntozake Shange, whose name is a combination of Xhosa and Zulu words meaning “She who comes with her own things and one who walks with lions,” is an author, poet, dancer, writer and educator. Shange performed some of her poetic narratives and gave some insight on her award-winning play and book, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

“For Colored Girls” began as a theater piece in 1975. The plot consists of 20 poems for seven actors on black women surviving in the midst of pain and despair. In 2010, film producer, Tyler Perry made the play, “For Colored Girls” into a movie, which brought in $20.1 million during its first week and won an NAACP Image Award for Best Picture.

Shange said she can’t identify with one particular character from “For Colored Girls,” and has only experienced some of the circumstances portrayed in the “choreopoem.” She said she did however, witness a man throwing his children off of a balcony

The added elements of music, poetry and dance in the story all came as a result of Shange’s multiple interests in the arts.

Shange said she took dance lessons four to five times a week and wrote poetry, giving her a creative outlet for her thoughts.

Shange said she never anticipated “For Colored Girls” would become such a success.

“I never set out to be famous, I set out to be a poet,” said Shange. “It’s about watching your work grow, accepting recognition and moving on.”

During the event, Shange recited one of her poems which did not make it to the movie. The poem discussed the AIDS epidemic among black women.

The poem flew from her tongue with minimal effort, and too much of the audience’s surprise, she was quite soft-spoken. However, her work in itself demanded most of the attention. The poem told a story about a woman who contracted HIV from her “down-low” boyfriend. Though not the first time a story of this sort had been told, the colorful and vivid picture that the poem possessed claimed the audience’s attention. Young men and women outwardly expressed their emotions toward the story, some through gasps and others through shocked facial expressions.

“Using poetry as a tool to address an issue like this, is a creative way to get people’s attention and bring about change because HIV/AIDS is still a disease that is killing off most of our black women,” said Laonzve Crawford, a recent FAMU graduate and state social worker.

Shange said most of her poems come during her quiet time when her mind is clear and her thoughts are able to flow freely.

“It allows me to be free within myself, daydream and recollect all the things I saw that day,” said Shange.

Renea Jones, a third-year psychology student from Gainesville, Fla., said she was honored to meet such a talented and inspiring woman.

“For Colored Girls” was such a great movie, and to see the woman who made it all happen made it even better,” Jones said.