For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf Quotes and Analysis

"sing her sighs / sing the song of her possibilities / sing a righteous gospel / let her be born / let her be born..."

- lady in brown, pg. 19

In the opening poem of the choreopoem, the lady in brown indicates that although the play will be referencing the "dark phrases" of these women's lives, it will also be a celebration. Until the debut of for colored girls..., very few theatrical works had sought to address the experiences of women of color in America. Shange's play was an instant success because she gave a voice to the voiceless and articulated the realities of modern life. While some of the poems were hard for audiences hear/watch, and some presented black women in moments of weakness, sorrow, or shame, Shange presents her work without apologies. In these lines, Shange establishes that women of color deserve to be heard and never stifled. She also sets forth the major arc of the play, which begins with themes of growing up, moves onto the trials and tribulations of adolescence, explores the tragedies and triumphs of young adulthood, and ends with a message of empowerment, community, and self-awareness.

"bobby started lookin at me / yeah / he started looking at me real strange / like i waz a woman or somethin / started talkin real soft / in the backseat of that ol buick / WOW"

- lady in yellow, pg. 24

In this poem, the lady in yellow explains how she lost her virginity to one of her friends on the night of her graduation. Both of these events are significant rites of passage in a young girl's life, signifying her transition from child to adult. Although there will be many moments later in the play where men are cruel, disappointing, or confusing, the lady in yellow loses her virginity to a respectful young man. This makes her first sexual experience positive and affirming, even if it is in the back of a Buick. It is one of the few moments in the choreopoem where a woman does have a positive sexual experience. However, as the ladies get older, Shange presents their sexuality as becoming increasingly complicated. This moment, however, is simple, sweet, and has since formed a treasured memory.

"this waz an experiment / to see how selfish i cd be / if i wd really carry on to snare a possible lover / if i waz capable of debasin myself for the love of another"

- lady in red, pg. 28

This quote sums up some of the poems in for colored girls... that deal with love and relationships. The lady in red wonders if she has given up too much of herself to be in a relationship, and if she has forgotten what she really wants for the sake of being loved. As the poems progress, the ladies are able to articulate their desire for lasting, authentic love, both from men and from each other. These insecurities are common across races and genders, and the universality of Shange's writing is what makes for colored girls... so relatable and appealing.

"cuz it turns out the nature of rape has changed"

- lady in red, pg. 34

The ladies come together to describe how different rape actually is from what girls learn about. Rapists are not necessarily monsters waiting in the bushes, but rather, a rapist is more commonly a man that the woman knows. One of the realities of the patriarchal system is that a man can often believe that when he is in a relationship with a woman, the woman's body belongs to him. The women also highlight women and men's tendencies to blame the victim in cases of date rape, particularly if she is wearing provocative clothes or has been drinking.

"sechita / had learned to make allowances for the distortions / but the heavy dust of the delta/ left a tinge of grit n / darkness"

- lady in purple, pg. 38

In this poem, the lady in purple depicts Sechita as a goddess, comparing her to Nefertiti. These mythological allusions connect Sechita to her racial history. However, the Creole Carnival in Natchez, MS covers her goddess-like features in grime as she performs in front of the drunk and rowdy audience members. Sechita may have adorned herself in the glittering trappings of sensuality, but, as the quote explains, there is a symbolic and literal veneer of dirt and dust that obscures her true worth. This dust and dirt is the legacy of slavery in the USA, which obscures the regal dignity of Sechita and her ancestors.

"& she wanted to be unforgettable / she wanted to be a memory / a wound to every man / arragant enough to want her / she waz the wrath / of women in windows"

- lady in red, pg. 46

In this passage, the lady in red describes the sense of power and pride that this woman feels when men desire her and women envy her. She has the upper hand in her sexual encounters and releases men from her grasp before they have the chance to injure her. However, these lines reveal the shortfalls of this kind of life. The woman in "one" does not expresses compassion for other women or her male "victims' (this word is appropriate because she says she wants to wound them). However, this woman's vengeance proves to be a facade for the loneliness and pain she feels after her makeup is off and her sexual partners have left.

"i usedta be in the world / a woman in the world / i hadda right to the world / then i moved to harlem"

- lady in blue, pg. 53

Harlem was the center of the Harlem Renaissance and at the turn of the century, the neighborhood became synonymous with African American art, literature, poetry, music, and dance. However, the depression hit Harlem hard, and by the 1960s and 1970s, the area was beset by poverty, crime, and homelessness. A sense of desperation resulted from the entrenched racism in America and the changes that resulted from the Civil Rights Movement. Riots and unrest permeated the neighborhood, especially as disfranchised veterans returned from the Vietnam War. The lady in blue describes moving to Harlem from another unspecified location (probably somewhere more suburban). She feels isolated in her new environment. She comments that the neighborhood has stifled her natural kindness because it is cold, lonely, aggressive, and unsafe. In this poem, Shange captures the precarious state of the Harlem economy and its deleterious impact on its inhabitants.

"bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical / dilemma/ i havent conquered yet"

- lady in yellow, pg. 59

In this quote, the lady in yellow is blatantly honest about being marginalized in America because of her race and her gender. Although the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement were winding down and ramping up, respectively, when Shange wrote for colored girls..., many Americans (like the women of color in Shange's play) still felt oppressed by the racist and patriarchal society. However, this quote cites the fact that a large swath of humanity shares in these struggles. While her status as a woman of color certainly carries its own challenges and burdens, there are basic struggles of being a human that she is still trying to comprehend. This is what makes Shange's work so relatable. She is writing about the world through the eyes of a woman of color; takes special care to make her perspective accessible to a diverse audience.

"why dont ya find yr own things/ & leave this package / of me for my destiny"

- lady in green, pg. 65

In many of Shange's poems about relationships, the women are beset by men's contradictory behavior, violent or abusive tendencies, cheating, lying, and constant apologies. However, the lady in green demonstrates a profound sense of self-empowerment as she demands that her last lover give her back the pieces of herself that she sacrificed to him. This does not mean her material possessions, rather, she reclaims ownership of her identity, her memories, her flaws, and her heart. She proclaims that the man (whom she barely addresses) should get his own things so he can figure out who he is, and let her do the same. The poem indicates that the lady in green is growing more self-assured and that she will not let her relationships with men define her.

"i found god in myself / & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely"

- lady in red, pg. 87

By the end of the choreopoem, the women have narrated various trials and tribulations stemming from growing up, falling in love, racial identity in the modern world, as well as rape, abortion, broken hearts and marriages, domestic violence, HIV, and more. This catalog of sorrow might be overwhelming if not for the strength and fortitude the women demonstrate as they work their way through these struggles. They learn to appreciate their race, gender, and unique beauty, and turn to each other for solace and support. In this last poem, they open themselves up to the power of female divinity, allowing this god(des) to fill them and provide them with a sense of empowerment and solidarity. Thus, although for colored girls... is honest and occasionally painful and brutal, the shared experiences allow the women to grow as human beings and finally embrace who they are - together.