The playwright, poet and author Ntozake Shange, whose most acclaimed play is the 1975 Tony Award-nominated play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / If The Rainbow Is Enuf", died Saturday after her daughter. She was 70 years old.
Shang's "For Colored Girls" describes the racism, sexism, violence and rape of seven black women. It has influenced generations of progressive thinkers, from #meToo architect Tarana Burke to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. After learning of Shange's death, Nottage called her "our warrior poet / playwright."
Savannah Shange, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said on Saturday that her mother died while sleeping in a supervised residential facility in Bowie, Maryland. She had suffered a number of strokes in 2004.
"She spoke for and embodied the ongoing struggle of black women and girls to live in dignity and respect in the context of systemic racism, sexism, and oppression," Savannah (1
It played some 750 Broadway performances – just the second installment of an African American after "A Rosin in the Sun" – and was turned into a feature film by Tyler Perry starring Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington and Janet Jackson.
Paulette Williams was born in Trenton. In New Jersey, she graduated from Barnard College and earned a master's degree from the University of Southern California. Your father, Dr. Paul T. Williams, was a surgeon. Her mother, Eloise Owens Williams, was a professor of social work. She later adopted a new Zulu name: Ntozake means "She who comes with her own things" and Shange means "She who walks like a lion."
"For a colored girl" opened at the public theater in downtown Manhattan with Shange, then 27, performing as one of the women. The New York Times reviewer called it "extraordinary and wonderful" and "a very sobering but inspiring thing a white man can experience." She received the Shange-an-Obie Prize and in 1981 won a second award for her adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and her Children" at the public theater.
Shang's other 15 pieces include "A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty" (1977), "Boogie Woogie Landscapes" (1977), "Spell No. 7" (1979) and "Black and White Two Dimensional Plans" (1979) ).
Her list of published works includes 19 collections of poetry, six novels, five children's books and three collections of essays. Some of her novels are "Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo" (1982) and "Some Sing, Some Cry" with her sister Ifa Bayeza. Her poetry collections include "I Live in Music" (1994) and "The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African American Family" (2004). She appeared in an episode of "Transparent" and helped to tell the 2002 documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."
She worked with black theater companies such as the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco; the New Freedom Theater in Philadelphia; Crossroads Theater Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey; St. Louis Black Rep; Penumbra Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota; and the Ensemble Theater in Houston, Texas.
Shange taught at Brown University, Rice University, Villanova University, DePaul University, Prairie View University, and Sonoma State University. She taught, among others, Yale, Howard, New York University.
In addition to her daughter and sister, Shange is survived by sister Bisa Williams, brother Paul T. Williams, Jr. and a granddaughter, Harriet Shange-Watkins
Mark Kennedy is at http: // twitter.com/KennedyTwits