Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” has garnered many conversations in the past two weeks.  I saw the film in a private pre-screening on November 1st and I was blown away.  I laughed, I cried, but most importantly – I identified.  I identified with the characters and their triumphs, trials and tribulations.  Watching the film, I felt as though I was in those often truth telling “intimate space” moments with my siblings, guy friends & girlfriends; my favorite cousins (who are all my mom’s age, some have daughters older than me); and with those who lives I’ve touched and who’s lives have touched mine.  It took me to a space and place in a short span of time in which I could see a seamless tapestry begin to weave between my life and what I was seeing on the screen.  Was life imitating art or art imitating life.  Or is life, simply an art form, that is in itself a metaphysical dilemma that hasn’t been conquered yet.  Beyond colored.  Beyond a girl.  Beyond rainbows.  Beyond enuf.

Before the credits rolled – I said to myself, “Finally – something that truly shows what it is to be the woman that I am.  A piece of work that identifies with my personal experiences and the ones closely knit around me.  Each and EVERY story represented in this work is a reflective mirror of what my life has experienced and endured.  Every story.  I have to say it again – EVERY story.  And I began to wonder as the lights came up in the theatre, as reality set back in, the images fading from the screen, and they began to prepare for the post Q & A – what would people think.  If you never had those experiences, even if you’ve only had a few – what would you think.  BUT if you’ve experienced each and every part of that movie either yourself or through someone extremely close to you, so close – you were literally there with them: losing their kids in death to an abusive man who himself was abused by a system/country/war; a loving couple unable to conceive; the dangerous abortion experience;  the woman who loves a man, but he wont commit/he comes and goes, until she says enough; the religious fanatic; the pull that professional women often feel between their professional and their personal – or how their personal (or professional) suffers and the self-imposed guilt felt.  I began to simply understand as my eyes adjusted to the theatre light that many would not give it a chance, would not receive it with open arms, based simply on the story line as I have.  But I still smiled – because I knew that many would.  Many strong men and women would get it.  But would the men go see it.  Would the “non” colored women go see it.  Would they listen to the “social sayers” or would they go see for themselves.  This movie is not just for “colored” women – but all men and women who have had to live through or pull someone up, out and through life – and all her (life) experiences.

Now I don’t want it to sound like a completely oozing love fest.  Cinematically I went to town after the film.  The blocking, the character development, etc – my critical intermediate film eye came into play.  This was distracting; that could have been played better; what was going on in that scene;  too much of this; not enough of that.  And there was never (that I caught) the direct correlation between the characters and I guess the colors that are represented in the book.  There was never a defining moment where I understood as I see now – that Jo was Red or Juanita was Green.  Perhaps if I’d have read the book – perhaps not.  But I loved the way the poetry was woven into the film, I got it from the first beat, and it made me want to read Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” all the more.  And of course the defining moment (there were quite a few) / the hook was when Janet Jackson’s character broke into the “I’m Sorry” dialogue – I became touched, inspired, heard and thankful.  Those are the words I’ve been longing to hear since a child, but had never had before.  Never heard them streamed that way before.  But those were my words.  Words I have wanted to say to every person who has attempted to mask the repetitive pain they’ve caused, due to a simple consistent level of emotional inconsideration, with the words “I’m Sorry”.   To this day, those two words have extremely little meaning to me.  Hearing them often as I grew up from the grown ups around me, I’ve become numb to the apology – often too little, too late.  And then during the post Q &  A – hearing insight and wisdoms from the amazing Phylicia Rashad – I knew one thing for sure after seeing this movie – I would encourage everyone to go see it.  Not because it would resonate for you the same way – but because for me it was a conscious stream of moving, validating moments that were intertwined in a way that spoke spirit and soul …  Spoke to my very existence.  In retrospect – when you see this film, you’ll actually see a little (okay alot) of me.  Truth speak! 

And whether we want to admit it or not, and for some whether you know it or not, you come into contact with at least two or three “For Colored Girls” type characters each and every day.  The woman who you always speak to at your favorite grocery store.  The random man who helps you shovel your car in the snow or fix a tire.  The lady at the DMV, the guy honking at you like a loon on the highway or the couple holding hands.  We all have these stories – we all are these stories.  Of course, we don’t wear these stories on our sleeves, we don’t mention it at dinner parties, on FB statuses, in our email signatures or on twitter feeds.  Some of us mask more than others, some of us don’t even tell those close to us the intimacy’s of our own lives – the good, bad, devastating, and ugly.   But there are some of us that do.  Some of us know that there is strength and healing in the sharing of our stories.  And for those of us with these stories – we carry them with us every second of every day.  They make us who we are.  And the lucky ones embrace the pain, then the healing, then the strength and in turn God & the universe gifts us with a support system like no other, sometimes through those close to us – sometimes by the most random of strangers.   At the end of the day – I cannot imagine the emotional rollercoaster that had to have permeated the set while shooting this film, the very rawness.  Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” is a beautiful, emotional reminder that says “I know”, “I understand”, and “I see you & validate the experience”.   And for some of us Colored Girls – that’s all we need, all we ask.  Because many Have Considered Suicide and many times the Rainbow Is not ever Enuf…..

Lastly, I have to say I was skeptical when I heard that Tyler was doing this piece – but because I had never read the book, my mind frame was different.  I’ve worked with Tyler before and there are aspects of his bodies of work that evade me, and I wondered if he would be burdened with the comparisons and expectations of those who grew up and loved Ntozake Shange’s work.  What would he do and how would he translate to the big screen, this body of work.   And so after I had seen it – I began to engage people in conversations about the film.  I knew what I thought would not change – simply because there was an artistic speak that happened when I watched the film.  And I have been amazed at the conversations that I have had.  I posted Courtland Milloy’s take on the film and the back commentary speak indicates Milloy believes the film has a “men bashing/men are bad” spirit – which is completely off base.  I assume Courtland does not know not 1 man who has abused their woman, come back from a war messed up, cheated on their wife on an out of town work trip or been on the down low.   And must I remind that Thandie Newton & Macy Gray’s characters were clear examples of “women are bad”.  There were mentally messed up men and women in this film — which, wait a second, is a reflection of society in general but especially Black society.   All of Milloy’s friends must be monks, eunuchs or – aaah & here we go – they don’t tell him.   Cortland – truth speak, they don’t tell you (or you don’t listen)…. and might I suggest that Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” may be more your speed.   This is real life –  and you’re coming off as a naive black racist who is completely out of touch with what really goes on.  I would dare say that any woman over at the House of Ruth would dispel your best rebuttal.  Enough air time for Milloy – I’ve said my peace & will leave that at that.  Because there were others who were extremely anti about seeing the film for different reasons.  They had been a part of the  movement/experience when the work first came out, and seeing it in stage play upon reading upon stage play – there was an elitist air and ownership – that Tyler “wouldn’t do it right, wouldn’t do it justice”.  And so they would not see it and by the end of our conversation – they would think about seeing it.  I encourage everyone to see it.  I challenge every person – but especially the Milloy “Likes” – to look at the film with these “2010 Rose Colored Girl Glasses”.   That as you watch, I would venture to say that 1 out of 5 women that are close, very close, to you – or the woman you just passed on the street, and in some cases, the man you just passed – have either gone through the experiences you see on film or have had to walk with & hold the hand of a woman who has.

Thank you & Bravo to Tyler Perry, Ntozake Shange  for granting the wisdom & permissions, Perry’s entire film / production team, and his stellar cast.  Cast: Phylicia Rashad as Gilda; Kimberly Elise as Crystal (Brown); Whoopi Goldberg as Alice (White); Janet Jackson as Jo (Red);  Omari Hardwick as Carl; Loretta Devine as Juanita (Green); Thandie Newton as Tangie (Orange); Kerry Washington as Kelly (Blue); Hill Harper as Donald; Anika Noni Rose as Yasmine (Yellow); Khalil Kain as Bill; Tessa Thompson as Nyla (Purple); Michael Ealy as Beau Willie;  Richard Lawson as Frank; and Macy Gray as Rose.   Many thanks to my friends at Allied Advertising and the simply awesome post film panel discussion held at The Historic Lincoln Theatre – moderated by NPR’s Michel Martin; with panelist Phylicia Rashad (Actress, For Colored Girls Star), Tracee Wilkins (WRC-TV) & Dr. Lila Ammons (Professor of African American Studies at Howard University).

Here’s hoping that with a pair of  “2010 Rose Colored Girl Glasses”, that Colored Girls will no longer Have to Consider Suicide and that The Rainbow will be more than Enuf.    Page 1 – “Dark Phrases of womanhood; of never havin been a girl; half-notes scattered; without rhythm / no tune; distraught laughter fallin; over a black girl’s shoulder; it’s funny / it’s hysterical; the melody-less-ness of her dance; don’t tell nobody don’t tell a soul; she’s dancing on beer cans & shingles……” – For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide with the Rainbow is Enuf – a Choreopoem by Ntozake Shange.

 

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For information about a For Colored Girls discussion group on Sunday, Nov. 14th – go to https://raenewman.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/for-colored-girls-in-theatres-nationwide-nov-5th/ posting and look in the comments.

If you are hosting a discussion in your city – definitely post it here – spread the word!!

Feel free to post your comments!!!  ALL comments are welcome.

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