“Ntozake Shange is someone who I have felt so close to recently. She created a whole new language to speak her story into existence, and because she did that, I have found parts of myself in her magic. She was an unapologetic Black feminist and playwright and dancer, and expressed her whole self always, and that is so inspiring.” -Vera Grace @gmveragrace
In 1971, Paulette Williams, changed her first name to Ntozake—Zulu for “she who comes with her own things”— and her last name to Shange, which means “walks like a lion.”
With this name change, Ntozake Shange divinely recalibrated onto an artistic path that would forever change her people.
After years of learning, teaching, struggling with depression, writing, dancing, and fluidly moving between art forms and zip codes, Shange wrote a choreopoem named “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf.”
In 1976, it premiered on Broadway at the Booth Theatre, with Shange performing as the “Lady in Orange.” It was an experience like never before. The show combined poetry with dance, music, and incredible acting. It also dealt with a range of difficult topics such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and abortion with a vulnerable and transformative power. On top of all of this, it was an overwhelming success and sold out for weeks on end.
for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf has since been performed all over the world, adapted for television and film, and been a spiritual touchstone for generations of Black women.
Experience this choreopoem or one of Shange’s many novels or poetry collections today.