Monday, October 4, 2010

81: The Self-Empowered Woman: Ntozake Shange

Dear Followers,

Sorry I haven't posted as regularly as normal, but the hunt for CCSVI treatment has entered an exciting new phase. If I'm lucky, I may be able to receive the procedure in Albany before the end of the year; anyone who knows what it's like to live with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) will understand my scattered state of mind as I wait for a date...

Today's blog is prompted by the news that on November 5th, Tyler Perry will release his new film "Colored Girls," which is based on the play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf." This Obie Award-winning play has long been considered Ntozake Shange's signature work, and it was produced on Broadway in 1976, when she was 28 years old.

The film is expected to be successful (like most of Perry's productions, but Shange's new novel, "Some Sing, Some Cry," which she co-authored with her sister (Ifa Bayeza) is getting lots of positive press and is expected to become a national bestseller. It took the two women almost 15 years (7: Magnificent Obsession) to complete the story of seven generations of black women who - with the help of music - overcome the violent challenges and heart breaking roadblocks that stopped them from reaching their dreams.

As Kaiama L. Glover wrote in the New York Times "[the authors] give us generation after generation of black women whose greatness and potential for happiness are undone, or nearly so, by men...If any of the Mayfield women managed to realize some measure of success, it's despite-or to spite-the men in their lives...After every near defeat, these women pick themselves up, sometimes literally off the ground, and take the next impossible step."

Shange was born Paulette L. Williams in Trenton, New Jersey; her father was an Air Force Surgeon and her mother was a Psychiatric Social Worker. As a little girl her family moved to (segregated) St. Louis, and she was bussed to a white school where she experienced racism. After completing high school in New Jersey, Shange attended Barnard College (where she graduated Cum Laude in American Studies) and USC (for her Master's Degree in the same field).

During her first year in college, Shange married, but the relationship ended bitterly; reportedly, several suicide attempts followed (15: Forget About Prince Charming), and soon after she adopted her Xhosa/Zulu name which - roughly translated means - "she who walks with her own things" and "she who walks with lions."

Shange is no stranger to challenges. In 2004, she learned that she had suffered a series of minor strokes, which at one point left her unable to read, speak, or write (12: Hard Times). Today her balance and speech are still mildly impaired, but the playwright and poet who calls herself "A Black Feminist" is ready for a new chapter in her life to begin.

Looking forward to your comments...

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