Ntozake Shange Dazzles DePaul Audience

Janean L. Watkins, Managing Editor

Ntozake Shange during a photo shoot. The Poet and author spoke to a crowd at Depaul University Copyright

“When you’re a great poet, you can write yourself something that’ll make you feel better,” says the 63 year-old author of such titles as Cypress Indigo, and for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem. Ms. Shange read a combination of her older and recent poetry to a packed audience at the DePaul University Student Center last week.

The author, whose choreopoem was recently adapted to the silver screen by director/producer Tyler Perry, talked about the motive behind her writing, her views on feminism, race relations, and love. When asked what she expects viewers to take from the recent adaptation of her work, she responded, “I didn’t have much to do with the production of that movie… [Perry] didn’t stay in contact with me, and I wasn’t on the set for the filming… I can’t speak to what I want them to take from that movie, but from my work, I want young people to open up to friends, feelings, and laughter. Don’t be afraid of your deepest darkest secrets – they make you who you are.”

Audience members learned that her novel, Cypress Indigo, was created after she was dared to write a story instead of a poem by her ex-lover. She read poems about women who find love within themselves, power in their actions, and even about the abused women of the world, and about the lack of coverage regarding violence towards women.

She prefaced her poem, With No Immediate Cause with a story about her experience 30 years ago, when reading an article in the New York Times which focused on the frequency in which women were raped in the U.S. She described her feelings of sadness at the figures, and emphasized that women face violence, “…every 3, 5, or 10 minutes”.

“It’s worse now. Given the culture where women are so man-handled, visually and verbally, it’s important for us to recognize what’s going on and that our girls need us.” said Shange. She admitted to dropping out of graduate school program after being sexually harassed by a professor, and not knowing where to turn. Despite this, she showcases that she feels that her charge is to empower women through her writing.

The NEIU community will be screening Tyler Perry’s adaptation of her piece “For Colored Girls”, and discussing its relevance on two panels. Wednesday, February 23 at 7pm in the Golden Eagles room, with panelist: Kim Everett, Michelle Morrow, Professor Olivia Perlow, Professor Emeritus BarBara Scott. The second screening will be discussed with student panelist brought to you by the Black Caucus. Visit the movie website at: forcoloredgirlsmovie.com