Issue 12.3-13.1 | Summer 2014/Fall 2014 / Guest Edited by Kim F. Hall, Monica L. Miller, and Yvette Christiansë

Black Feminist Collectivity in Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf

Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf opens with a poem entitled “dark phrases.” The first stanza reads:

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 dancin on beer cans & shingles[1]

Shange’s for colored girls produces and idealizes black feminist collectivity from the opening stanza to the final “laying on of hands.” Implicitly, if nationalist rhetoric and patriotic action aspire and move toward a more perfect union, that union remains an ideal that is always set at a distance from the lived experience of the citizen. for colored girls presents an aspirational black feminist collectivity as an alternative to the heteronormative domesticity that is the primary organizing social logic of the state. As an ideal, the black feminist collective destabilizes state fantasies including the American dream. Drama seeks to imagine a world that may be inspired by the mundane, but is not bound by reality. Therefore drama participates in crafting national, communal, personal, and social ideals. Ideals are important precisely because they are aspirational—because they provide a vision of worlds we wish to inhabit and possibilities worth fighting to realize.

for colored girls cultivates black feminist collectivity through the form of the choreopoem, which integrates poetics and scripted movement. Robin Bernstein has argued persuasively for the way objects as things inspire relationships with individuals, prescribing a set of actions, scripting behavior.[2] Bernstein suggests that objects create social cues that motivate certain actions from individuals: red lights encourage drivers to stop their cars, wailing alarm clocks provoke individuals to wake from their slumber, beeping iPhones prompt users to check their messages. Using thing theory, Bernstein explains that in the moment when the object inspires action, it transforms from an object into a thing and blurs the strict hierarchy between humans and objects. Bernstein’s formulation of scriptive things uses the dramatic text—the script—as its ideal object-turned-thing, calling attention to the way the dramatic text participates in encouraging social relations. I would further suggest that the imaginary and sometimes visionary process that the dramatic text scripts differentiates artistic endeavors from quotidian ones. This means that the script as a thing not only calls forth social relations but imagines them as well.

In this essay, I explain how scripted actions create fantasies and attachments that sustain intellectual, political, and social projects. Shange’s for colored girls presents and establishes alternative socialities for theater practitioners and audiences as well as students and scholars reading and studying the play in classrooms and intellectual communities. My analysis focuses on the way storytelling through poetics becomes intertwined with the touch in the first and final scenes of the choreopoem. The touching that opens and closes the drama creates links across and between the individual poems, enabling individual innovation and expression within collectivity. The touching in for colored girls imagines a nonsexual but yet still intimate mode of racialized communal formation.

In the choreopoem, bodies become conduits for producing social relationships. Instead of emerging as props in the social drama, the women, through touch, express feeling, cultivate community, confront pain, and engage in play and pleasure. The movements that facilitate touch work against the demonization of black women because of their bodily difference. Through the touching bodies, the women demonstrate the humanity of black women, disrupting subject-object relations by having the body express itself. Moreover, the structuring of for colored girls through touch purposefully engages with the black feminist calls for intersectionalist approaches to literary and cultural studies that emerged during the black women writers’ renaissance of the late-twentieth century because the choreopoem as a formal innovation demands an understanding of how intimate contact produces race. While Bernstein’s essay “Dances with Things” calls attention to how the enlivened object as thing may create racist interactions, I am suggesting that Shange’s dramatic text functions as a liberatory object by drawing subjects formerly known as objects into intimate relationships as humans.

shange-playbill

Figure 1. for colored girls playbill.

As Michael Awkward’s thoughtful analysis of the opening lines of for colored girls explains, the dramatic work foregrounds “the struggle to make articulate a heretofore repressed and silenced black female’s story and voice. Against a backdrop of patently stereotypic misreadings of black women (‘are we ghouls?/children of horror?/the joke?/…are we animals? Have we gone crazy?”), Shange’s woman in brown plaintively cries out for accurate, revelatory representations of Afro-America women’s lives.”[3] Awkward draws attention to the discursive designations that shape black women’s social roles in the United States. Alongside the call for storytelling that will narrate a social drama that does not demonize black women, lady in brown describes the distorted movements that accompany the mischaracterizations, “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 dancin on beer cans & shingles.”[4] The imagery in the opening lines suggests that colored girls diffuse pain with laughter, dance, and secrecy, which, considering the hostile environment, is only partially effective in producing the joy of dancing. At the same time, the imagery calls attention to a history of black dancing in the midst of circumstances that range from unfriendly to dangerous. From the plantation to the Broadway stage, black dancers have co-opted spaces to perform and transform environmental dissonance into syncopation.

In-Dahomey
image-1943

Figure 2. Hattie McIntosh, George Walker, Ada Overton Walker, Bert Williams, and Lottie Williams in In Dahomey (1902).[5]

Black women often provide the supplemental, ghostly, and unappreciated labor necessary to maintain the nation-state as an ideal and lived reality. The controversy over Beyoncé Knowles lip-synching the national anthem at the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama recalls Farah Jasmine Griffin’s analysis in “When Malindy Sings: A Meditation on Black Women’s Vocality.” Griffin asserts, “Since Marian Anderson, the voice and the spectacle of the singing black woman often has been used to suggest a peacefully interracial version of America. In the majority of these spectacles there is the suggestion that the black woman singer pulls together and helps to heal national rifts. This singing spectacle offers an alternative vision of a more inclusive America.”[6] When Beyoncé stood before the podium on January 21, 2013, to sing the national anthem she became a part of “the voice and the spectacle of the singing black woman.” Beyoncé’s choice not to lay her body on the line—not to risk damaging her vocal chords by singing in the cold—in the service of nation-building caused a flurry of speculation and criticism as it called attention to a particular national intimacy with black women’s bodies.[7] The events that followed, including the press conference where Knowles clarified her actions and sang the anthem a cappella, reinforced the notion that black women must pay a national debt and therefore owe the populace an explanation for the deployment of their bodies. The persistent questioning of her choice may be understood as a demand for her ongoing excess labor in nation-building. “A figure,” according to Griffin, “that serves the unit, who heals and nurtures it but has no rights or privileges within it—more mammy than mother.”[8]

beyonce

Figure 3. Beyoncé Knowles singing at the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

The designation of black women as social outcasts, more mammies than mothers, provides insight into what Lauren Berlant calls the cruel optimism that results from black women investing in institutions—the patriarchal family and nation-state—that offer access to limited measures of national belonging, but only in the midst of danger and pain (dancing on beer cans and shingles). Berlant explains, “A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing.”[9] The object, whether the patriarchal family or the neoliberal state, is desirable by definition and exists as a site of longing in advance of late-twentieth-century black women’s subject formation. The first two lines of for colored girls (“dark phrases of womanhood / of never havin been a girl”) reveal how subject positions emerge in relationship to preexisting social configurations—values, systems of desire, and structures of disenfranchisement. Therefore, establishing an alternative object of desire not only requires an act of will but it also entails restructuring desire itself through word and deed.

While Berlant offers a rubric for understanding the precarity of the late-twentieth century and the waning appeal of what she calls “the good life,” one may suggest that at least since Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun appeared on the Great White Way in 1959, the United States has been depicted as a site of deferred dreaming for black folks as a result of the state’s continual deferment of equal rights. The state’s false promise of equality places black folks in a perpetual state of longing that calls attention to the necessity of creating alternative sites of belonging. One may read the alternative ideal of feminist collectivity that for colored girls provides in relationship to the tenuous hold of the twenty-first century of American exceptionalism, which seems to be losing its grip everywhere. At the same time, one may also understand Shange’s play as a response to the call for dreaming that A Raisin in the Sun issued in 1959. for colored girls sings a black girl’s song in a way that interrupts deferral and prevents the dream from drying up like a raisin. The choreopoem creates collectivity based on the intertwining of bodies in space and words in rhythm in order to counter the displacement and dehumanization of black women’s voice, bodies, and experiences.

“dark phrases,” the first poem in for colored girls, introduces an imperative—“somebody/ anybody / sing a black girl’s song”—as it establishes a context for the absence of the black girl’s story. Lady in brown laments, “dark phrases of womanhood / of never havin been a girl” in order to introduce “the predominant perceptions of black women and the historical uses of their labor,” which, according to Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman, “have brought black motherhood and black girlhood into such unbearable and convoluted proximity that their differences eventually bottom out.”[10] The lack of innocence, premature aging, and experience of having never been a girl that suggest an accelerated sexual maturation resulting from black women’s dominance and exploitation through rape, violence, and poverty—ideas which were reaffirmed in 2013 with the sexualized slur hurled at Oscar-nominated child actor Quvenzhané Wallis by The Onion—are issues that are explored in detail throughout the choreopoem. The reclamation of black girlhood functions not only to confer innocence, but also to clear space for black women to function as desiring, erotic, and sensual subjects. The predominant perception of black women as overtly sexual not only bars black girls from girlhood but also imbricates desire in the production of race.

Lady in brown’s opening line does not produce a traditional familial relationship but creates an intergenerational one, establishing how communal ties may develop in addition to heteronormative familial structures. From the opening line of the dramatic text, for colored girls troubles national fantasies of men protecting girls as they mature into women. Black women have long been blamed for the black family’s inability to approximate the ideal of the nuclear family, and while it is not the purpose of this essay to rehash those histories, which often begin with an investigation of the notorious Moynihan Report, I would like to establish the historical context as a point of departure in Shange’s work. The choreopoem is situated between the black nationalist desires of the Black Arts Movement and the black feminist longing of the black women writers’ renaissance.

The opening lines of the choreopoem establish the production of social roles as central to the story that will be told, insofar as the other characters respond to the lady in brown’s call through a reclamation of black girlhood in the form of singing familiar children’s songs. According to black feminist critic Cheryl Wall, quoting Hortense Spillers:

“Family,” as we practice and understand it “in the West”—the vertical transfer of a bloodline, of patronymic, of titles and entitlements, of real estate and the prerogatives of “cold cash,” from fathers to sons and in the supposedly free exchange of affectional ties between a male and female of his choices—“becomes the mythically revered privilege of a free and freed community.” Bereft of this “privilege,” African American families historically assume configurations for which the dominant order has no category. In contrast to most public discourses however, in black women’s writing these configurations, like Morrison’s three-woman households, do not necessarily become a cause of despair but a site of possibility.[11]

In “dark phrases” the choreopoem introduces a history of discursive practices that alienate black women. She asserts:

this must be the spook house
another song with no singers
lyrics / no voices

& interrupted solos
unseen performances

are we ghouls?
children of horror?
the joke?

Providing a solution to the depiction of black women as the source of national degeneration, the play scripts lady in brown moving from being the only speaker onstage to being joined by a chorus of other voices.

for colored girls stages collectivity, which functions alongside Toni Morrison’s three-woman households as nonpatriarchal sites of black living and becoming. The alternative forms of kinship that Shange and Morrison provide advance a black feminist sensibility central to the black women writers’ renaissance. As Susana M. Morris argues in Close Kin and Distant Relatives, “Black women writers advocate a fundamental reimagining of kinship to include examples of extended and fictive kin (as opposed to making the nuclear family the only legitimate model), platonic unions . . . and queer families.”[12] Lady in brown draws the other characters to the stage and they begin to sing children’s rhymes and play youthful games to reclaim the girl within and offer a woman-centered vision of collectivity. The choreography and storytelling allows the actors to enter into a social script that does not presume their degeneracy, as it introduces the audience to black women flourishing across generations without the mandate of a genetic connection. It also suggests how social scripts function to produce ideals and work in relationship to embodied movement and narrative.

While my interpretation of for colored girls emphasizes the ability to create community across bloodless lines of transfer, the two film adaptations of the play offer opening sequences that shift the dynamic of moving from a singular to collective communal voice scripted in the dramatic text. The American Playhouse made-for-television movie (1982) of the play begins with Pattie LaBelle singing “dark phrases” and then moves to Shange questioning her ability to communicate the stories of the women in her family to her daughter Savannah. The scene ends with Shange holding her daughter. In Tyler Perry’s 2009 adaptation, the voices of the actresses in the film merge together to recite “dark phrases.” As a medium, film is more readily accessible than live theater and therefore has the potential to reach a larger audience than a single theatrical production. Therefore a scholarly examination of the dramatic work, either in writing or discussion, cannot ignore the 1982 and 2009 film adaptations as acts of interpretation that have greatly informed reception. My contention, however, is that Shange’s drama functions not only as a cultural object but also as a scriptive thing that calls forth relationships in live theatrical production. The filmic adaptations must be understood in relationship to but not in replacement of the choreopoem as a formal device enacted in live performance. My interpretation also aligns for colored girls with depictions of collectivity in the work of Shange’s contemporary black women writers.

Shange notes that the transformation of for colored girls from a set of poems to a choreopoem happened as a result of actors taking on her words and embodying her characters. She explains, “I was suddenly surrounded by a circle of women, sacred in construction. My solo voice began its journey to many voices.”[13] The movement from a single voice to a multitude of voices marks a transition central to the choreopoem as a feminist and visionary project that connects women based on their shared experience instead of their reproductive labor, amounting to chosen families instead of required ones.

In “dark phrases” Shange stages a history of black womanhood based on loving play. Slapping and holding hands, singing and dancing, the ladies in brown, yellow, purple, red, green, blue, and orange reclaim black girlhood. In for colored girls, touch oscillates from intimacy to violence, demonstrating the way that physical interaction reproduces modes of sociality. In Lost in Language and Sound, Shange contends that understanding the black body attenuates the strength of narratives that turn black women into monstrosities. She explains, “With the acceptance of the ethnicity of my thighs & backside came a clearer understanding of my voice as a woman & as a poet. The freedom to move in space, to demand of my own sweat a perfection that could continually be approached, though never known, waz poem to me, my body & mind ellipsing, possibly for the first time in my life.”[14] Rather than trying to assimilate into a system of desire that diminishes the shape of the black woman, Shange suggests that in order to find her voice she needed to accept her body. Dance was part of the process of moving toward acceptance.

Physical reproduction functions through touch, as do many disciplinary practices. The choreopoem first introduces the nurturing quality of touch in order to offer a mechanism to alleviate the sting of bodily violations, which affect black women disproportionately, including rape and domestic violence. The touching in “dark phrases” also has its own reproductive potential because it cultivates intergenerational relationships. While touch has the ability to signify sexual histories, according to Sharon Holland, via a reading of Jacques Derrida:

Both physical and psychic, touch is an act that can embody multiple, conflicting agendas. It can be both a troubled and troublesome component in the relationship between intimates, as in the case of Derrida; or, alternatively, the touch can alter the very idea as well as the actuality of relationships, morphing friends into enemies and strangers into intimates. For touch can encompass empathy as well as violation, passivity as well as active aggression. It can be safely dangerous, or dangerously safe. It also carries a message about the immediate present, the possible future, and the problematic past. Finally, touch crosses boundaries, in fact and imagination.[15]

Through touching, teasing, and playing in the opening scene, for colored girls creates connections among women and recoups a past in order to prepare the characters to express their individual stories and come together at the end of the dramatic work through a laying on of hands.

The choreopoem is bookended with poems, pieces that emphasize the interweaving of scripted movement and poetics. The voices that emerge in the poems depend on positioning the body in certain spaces and in relationship to other bodies—choreography. According to dance scholar André Lepecki, choreography is “a technology that creates a body disciplined to move according to the commands of writing.”[16] Shange’s dramatic text manipulates the poetic form “using a shortened form of spelling and a typography that juxtaposes fragmented elements to emphasize shifts in the tone and intensity of the language. Shange’s poetic language manifests the sounds and rhythms of African American speech,” and therefore issues a culturally specific command to the performance.[17] Poetics as an expressive practice exceeds the singularity of the written that Lepecki describes. The poetic speech acts creates a rhythm that coincides with the movement of the bodies and the creation of community through touch and shared space. The structure of the speech acts in poetics has a performative function that facilitates the black female collectivity central to the choreopoem.

In addition, for colored girls scripts movements, and through “choreography creates its process of subjectification.”[18] The hybrid form of the choreopoem calls forth black female subjectivity as practices that constantly negotiate their own limits insofar as the choreopoem functions as a doing and as a thing done. The final piece, “a layin on of hands,” enacts a ritualized mode of performance that draws from spiritual practices and allows women to connect physically and on equal ground. The engagement of touch and speech offers a way to appreciate communal belonging that affirms black women’s humanity. Lady in purple specifies, “not my mama/ holdin me tight/ sayin / i’m always gonna be her girl / not a layin on of bosom & womb / a layin on of hands / the holiness of myself released.”[19] Affirming a mode of reproductive futurity that requires not an intergenerational transfer from mother to child but a coming together among women, this sociality depends on “the touch, crossing boundaries,” which “affirms the inadequacy of this boundary between selves.”[20]

As I have shown, the choreopoem depicts black feminist collectivity in the dramatic text, which actors recreate in each staging of the drama. In a 2010 production of the play at Tufts University, Monica White Ndounou, the director and a member of the New England Black Scholars Collective (of which I am also a member), transformed the theater space by using a lynching rope, which communicated the devaluation of the black body in the opening scene, and which transformed into a jump rope by the end of the scene. The two actors turning the rope connect through an object they transform into a mechanism of play. The transfer from actor to object back to actor again creates a circuit of bloodless becoming that also remembers the blood loss the lynch rope enacts. The object of persecution becomes a mechanism of remembrance, joy, and play.

As Ndounou suggests in this video clip, the play offers a remedy to the alienating characterization of black women through the fantasy of black female collectivity. In lingering for a moment with Ndounou’s production, I seek to call attention to how her practice informs my own work and how the work of our collective resonates with that of another “group of Boston-based black feminists,” the Combahee River Collective, who are invested in seeing the world differently and creating sites for their irreverent, improbable, and therefore powerful visions.[21] According to Berlant, “Fantasy is the means by which people hoard idealizing theories and tableaux about how they and the world ‘add up to something.”[22] Fantasies do not merely function as amorphous, inconsequential longing. They organize the logics of desire that produce value and values. Many cultural wars have been waged in the name of the family and its values, even though the nuclear family remains a fantasy for the majority of Americans.[23]

for colored girls demonstrates the process of producing an alternative ideal as it offers audiences an object of desire. “Circuits of desire are particularly meaningful in the African American context because desirability, both in social and political contexts and in cultural production, is a crucial part of ascribing individual and communal value to blackness.”[24] The choreopoem is not only aspirational in that in carves out physical space on the stage for connection and psychic space to imagine alternative modes of intergenerational transfer, it also presents black women as desirable and desiring subjects. In depathologizing black women’s desire through the communal-forming practice of touch, the choreopoem reclaims black women’s bodies and affirms black women’s voices. Consider how the erotic pull of “graduation nite” and “sechita,” and the reclamation of desire in “no assistance,” “no more love poems #1,” “no more love poems #2,” “no more love poems #3,” “no more love poems #4,” “somebody almost walked off wid all my stuff,” and “sorry” position black women as implicitly valuable and also as arbiters of value.

alfre-woodard

Figure 4. Alfre Woodard in the New Federal Theater’s production of for colored girls.

My final comments appeared alongside a blank frame during my oral presentation of this essay because in concluding, I venture to make a gesture that riffs on Morrison’s acknowledgement of the reader’s participatory role in the crafting of narrative. In her Nobel lecture and in the final lines of Jazz, Morrison reminds the audience that meaning-making is in your hands. Similarly, the haptic experience that for colored girls enacts enables a bloodless form of transfer that leads to the possibility of collective world-making. Participating in the value and valuing of black feminist collectivity does not end in theoretical examination or theatrical production. In fact, what is sustaining about for colored girls as a choreopoem is that it requires students and scholars to engage with body and voice in studying the play.

for-colored-girls-cast

Figure 5. for colored girls film cast.

The collaboration of voices and bodies come together to communicate a common experience that affirms the danger of lady in brown’s singular voice at the beginning of the play and the necessity of collectivity, whether in the classroom or in a scholarly community. “The poems,” in Shange’s words, “introduce the girls to other kinds of people of color, other worlds. To adventure, and kindness, and cruelty. Cruelty that we usually think we face, alone, but we don’t. We discover that by sharing with each other we find strength to go on.”[25] The laying on of hands communicates connection, solidarity, and commitment as it reiterates a process that one engages with when reading and studying the play. It also follows the disruption of biological inheritance as depicted in filicide central to the penultimate poem “a nite with beau willie brown.” The laying on of hands in the final scene offers a model of healing the rupture of family ties enacted through the severing of maternal rights in the previous poem. But as Hortense Spillers explicates in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” the black woman’s peculiar relationship to the United States of America depends on a tenuous relationship to biological modes of kinship, but that relationship must not determine her claim to national belonging. As lady in brown instructs, the emergence of an alternative national filial relationship requires the audience’s participation. She entreats, “let her be born / let her be born / & handled warmly.”[26] The handling does not begin or end in production but continues through the turning of the page, the thoughtful engagement of the reader, and the world-making she chooses to endeavor toward enacting.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Kim F. Hall, Monica L. Miller, and Yvette Christianse for inviting me to take part in the Worlds of Ntozake Shange Conference and the yearlong events to celebrate Shange and the twentieth anniversary of Africana Studies at Barnard College. I am also thankful for the feedback I received from the members of the New England Black Scholars Collective as I revised the essay, and the challenge to be a fearless scholar and teacher posed by the students in my Black Theater USA class at Dartmouth College in the fall semester of 2012.

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Footnotes
  1. Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf (New York: Scribner, 2010). [Return to text]
  2. Robin Bernstein, “Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race,” Social Text 27.4 (2009): 67-94. [Return to text]
  3. Michael Awkward, Inspiriting Influences: Tradition, Revision, and Afro-American Women’s Novels (New York: Columbia UP, 1989), 1-2. [Return to text]
  4. Shange, for colored girls 2010: 17. [Return to text]
  5. Daphne Brooks, Jayna Brown, and I provide histories of the cakewalk dance that demonstrate how the dance’s deployment shifted the relationship between the performers and the space in which they performed and opened up new sites of performance for black dancers. See Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham: Duke UP, 2006) ch. 4; Jayna Brown, Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern (Durham: Duke UP, 2008) ch.4; and Soyica Diggs Colbert, The African American Theatrical Body: Reception, Performance and the Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011) ch. 3. [Return to text]
  6. Farah Jasmine Griffin, “When Malindy Sings: A Meditation on Black Women’s Vocality,” Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies eds. Robert G. O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin (New York: Columbia UP, 2004) 102-125, 104. [Return to text]
  7. A similar expression of intimacy occurred in the regulatory responses to Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. For a cogent reading of the media response to Jackson’s exposed breast see chapter three of Nicole Fleetwood’s Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality and Blackness (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011). [Return to text]
  8. Griffin, “When Malindy Sings,” 104. [Return to text]
  9. Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke UP, 2011) 2. [Return to text]
  10. Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman, Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race (Durham: Duke UP, 2012) 17. [Return to text]
  11. Cheryl Wall, Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2005) 10-11. [Return to text]
  12. Susana M. Morris, Close Kin and Distant Relatives: The Paradox of Respectability in Black Women’s Literature (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2014). [Return to text]
  13. Shange, for colored girls 2010: 3. [Return to text]
  14. Ntozake Shange, Lost in Language and Sound: or How I found My Way to the Arts: Essays (New York: St, Martin’s, 2011) 8. [Return to text]
  15. Sharon Patricia Holland, The Erotic Life of Racism (Durham: Duke UP, 2012) 100. [Return to text]
  16. André Lepecki, Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement (New York: Routledge, 2006) 6. [Return to text]
  17. Gwen Raaberg, “Beyond Fragmentation: Collage as Feminist Strategy in the Arts,” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 31.3 (1998): 153-171. Accessed online 7 April 2013, paragraph 18. Available at http://search.proquest.com/docview/205369107#. [Return to text]
  18. Lepecki, Exhausting Dance 6. [Return to text]
  19. Shange, for colored girls 2010: 86. [Return to text]
  20. Holland, The Erotic Life of Racism 101. [Return to text]
  21. Farah Jasmine Griffin, “That Mothers May Soar and the Daughters May Know Their Names: A Retrospective of Black Feminist Literary Criticism” Signs 32.2 (2007): 489. [Return to text]
  22. Berlant, Cruel Optimism 2. [Return to text]
  23. See http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/18/opinion/the-changing-american-family.html. [Return to text]
  24. Abdur-Rahman, Against the Closet 15. [Return to text]
  25. Shange, for colored girls 2010: 3. [Return to text]
  26. Shange, for colored girls 2010: 19. [Return to text]