Ntozake Shange

Writer/Creator “For Colored Girls…,” Class of 1975

ntozake-shange-240x300Ntozake Shange understands what it means to be a prep school negro. Daughter of a surgeon and a psychiatric social worker, Shange attended an all-white school in St. Louis during the mid-1950s, graduated from Barnard College and earned her Master’s degree from the University of Southern California in American Studies. But for a long time Shange suffered from her own isolation. The language of survival Shange needed to create led to the 1975 hit Broadway play, “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”, which has recently been adapted into a film (For Colored Girls by Tyler Perry).

This Excerpt from The New Yorker, Nov 8, 2010, “Color Vision” By Hilton Als, captures Shange’s experience as a PSN…

Shange’s various internal schisms – the fact that, as a Barnard student, she was more entitled than many of the white girls she’d gone to school with, for instance – were not lost on her. “Before I went to college, I went to the S.N.C.C. office three times a week to offer my services and catch up on my Liberator magazine. The other two days I went to the Lycée Français to keep my French crisp,” she told me. “I felt comfortable in the diversity of my worlds. This continued until one of my floormates took some earrings and a dress from my room, and told me I had too much anyway. That’s when I realized there was something different about perceptions of me.” Eventually, she learned to put her divisions to use. To (Serena Anderlini, writer), she said, “Some people might think that I am a ‘doctor’s daughter,’ and I have been privileged, true, but I also know how to get from Little Italy through Little Puerto Rico to midtown to where the ‘niggers’ are. By myself. Without getting killed.” Shange could talk “street” and “siddity.” She was the daughter that Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man would never have imagined fathering.

View the full article here.