for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf

by Ntozake Shange
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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1131

All the ladies come onto the stage and freeze in positions of distress. The lady in brown calls upon the others to sing a black girl’s song, to give her words and to bring her out of herself. Each lady declares her origins—the lady in brown outside Chicago, the lady in yellow outside Detroit, the lady in purple outside Houston, the lady in red outside Baltimore, the lady in green outside San Francisco, the lady in blue outside Manhattan, and the lady in orange outside St. Louis. Then they begin to sing songs of infancy and childhood: “Mama’s Little Baby Likes Shortnin’ Bread” and “Little Sally Walker.”

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The lady in yellow tells the story of graduation night when she was the only virgin in the crowd. She drank and danced and went out to the parking lot with Bobby, where she made love to him in the back seat of a Buick. The lady in blue then relates how, pretending she was Puerto Rican, she ran away at sixteen to the South Bronx to dance with Willie Colón, the famous salsa musician. When he did not show up at the dance hall, she got mad, refused to dance with anyone, and started yelling in English. Later she was possessed by the subtle blues of Archie Shepp, and she recited her poem as a thank-you for music that she loved “more than poem.”

The lady in red recites a note attached to a plant she gave to her lover when she ended the affair. She loved him for eight months, two weeks, and a day; was stood up four times; left him presents, poems, and plants; drove miles to see him before work; and finally decided that her experiment of debasing herself to gain love was a failure. All of the ladies then dance to Willie Colón’s “Che Che Cole”—they dance to keep from crying and to keep from dying.

A sudden light change stops the dancing, and the ladies in green, yellow, orange, and brown leave the stage. The ladies in red, blue, and purple discuss how difficult it is to press rape charges against someone you know, someone who took you out to dinner or made dinner for you and then beat you and betrayed you. The nature of rape changed; it haunts the places and people where companionship is sought. When the light again changes, the ladies are hit by an imaginary slap. The ladies in red and purple exit. The lady in blue reveals her experience of a lonely abortion. She went alone because she did not want anyone to see her or to know that she was pregnant and ashamed. After her monologue, she exits the stage.

Soft, deep music is heard and voices call “Sechita.” The lady in purple enters and describes the quadroon balls in St. Louis and the gambling boats on the Mississippi. She narrates the story of Sechita, as the lady in green dances her life. Sechita dances in a creole carnival after the wrestlers finish their match; she dances the dance of Nefertiti, of the Egyptian goddess of love and creativity, of the rituals of the second millennium, and then she leaves the stage. Portraying an eight-year-old girl in St. Louis, the lady in brown explains how she was disqualified from a library reading contest because she reported on a book from the Adult Reading Room. The book, a biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the liberator of Haiti, introduced her to her first black hero, and she fell in love with him and decided to run away to Haiti. When she got down to the docks, she met a little boy whose name was Toussaint Jones, and she decided that they might be able to move some of their own spirits down by the river in St. Louis, 1955.

The lady in red follows with the tale of a dazzling coquette who lured men to her bed and made divine love to them. At four-thirty in the morning she arose, bathed, and became herself, an ordinary brown-braided woman who chased the men from her bed, wrote accounts of her...

(The entire section contains 1131 words.)

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