In her article Black Feminism, Tyler Perry Style Salamishah Tillet, of ‘The Root’ best articulated the significance of the original Shange piece ‘For Colored Girls’ when she said, ‘the play’s boldness was not simply in its diagnoses of black women blues but in its unwavering belief that black feminism was a viable remedy for those blues.’ Modern psychology will teach us that one of the most significant parts of the healing process is admission; actually being able to boldly state ‘this happened to me’ and following that statement with some sort of combination of these words: it won’t happen again, enough is enough, I’m free! That, for me, is in a nutshell, the overarching message of Shange’s work. She teaches us to embrace the whole conversation about black female identity. Even those parts which we might wish to omit in order to maintain some parts of our cerebral sanity. Her work is a guide that scripts our pain into poetry and symbolism making it more tangible and all the more easy for us to swallow.
After watching the ‘Tyler Perryesque’ rendition of Shange’s piece I was left to question the condition of my most immediate peer, the Black man. He, who must undoubtedly have thoughts of suicide himself living in a society which constantly hyper-masculinizes his self worth and tramples on his pride. Shange’s thoughts and Tyler Perry’s undeniably more melodramatic interpretation of her writings must resonate with him in some way. After all, he is my brother and he knows my pain. Its apart of our bond to each other historically,its one we have inflicted on one another in frustration time and time again. Its ours, isn’t it?
I was riding home from work late Friday night listening to Jamie Fox Radio on XM Satellite Radio, The Foxxhole. ‘Zoe’, one of the featured commentators on the channel was doing a segment on the portrayal of black males as villains in Hollywood films. I was awestruck by the number of callers who were presumably black males, who felt like the movie ‘For Colored Girls’ was yet another attack on black male identity. Simply put, the black male callers wanted to know why they always had to be the bad guy. Torn, I understood the plight of the callers. I too, wondered why Denzel’s Oscar came for him playing a narcotics detective turned criminal in ‘Training Day’ and not for ‘Ali’ or ‘Malcom X’. However, similarly I questioned why Halle Berry’s Oscar award came for her portrayal of a lost and sexually exploited poor black woman whose ‘fat son’ was killed in ‘Monster’s Ball’ instead of for her work in ‘Introducing Dorthy Danridge’.
I had all the questions, and at the same time I knew the answer. It was because they were black. Black actors in Hollywood had to work twice as hard; often paying their dues with a rash of beginner films featuring all black casts and second tier screen play. They told the stories the whole world secretly wanted to hear, but only 3/5th’s of the world was willing to watch. Even after the Black man on screen became more than a juggling Sambo and the Black woman put down her mammy cap, they were being backed into the corner of a Hollywood mainstream that couldn’t stand to see them smile, unless it was the sly-slick smile of evil.
But even with all of this being true, movies like ‘Waiting to Exhale’, ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’, ‘Beloved’, ‘The Color Purple’, and lastly ‘For Colored Girls’ did not subject the black man to some level of scrutiny of whic