Ntozake Shange, a black feminist poet and playwright who cast aside linguistic conventions, racial obstacles and criticism from her male colleagues to compose works of provocative honesty and radiant beauty – especially her 1976 debut film "For Colored Girls Who Beareed" Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf "- died October 27 in a shared flat in Bowie, Maryland, she was 70.
Her daughter, Savannah Shange, anthropology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, confirmed the death but there was no reason Mrs. Shange had multiple strokes in 2004. In recent years, she suffered from a neurological disorder called CIDP, a chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy that prevented her from writing or writing with a pen
Growing up in the segregated St. Louis, where she was one of the first black children in the whole Ms. Shange grew up amid the political fermentation of the Civil Rights Movement and was a teenager when The Black Arts Movement took root in the mid-1
"There was nothing to strive for, no one to honor," she told the Village Voice as she remembered a childhood with a few strong black female figures. "Sojourner Truth was not a great role model for me, I could not stop abolishing slavery."
In nearly 50 plays, novels, children's books, and poetry and essay collections, Ms. Shange continued to be one of the most prominent To establish voices in American letters, as a stylist innovator who blended forms and genres to address issues such as women's empowerment, racial inequality, domestic violence, abandonment and self-esteem.
Born Paulette Linda Williams, she adopted a Zulu name in the early 1970s when he chose Ntozake (en-to-ZAH-key), meaning "she, with her." Shange (SHAHN-gay) means "who walks like a lion" before landing in New York with an early, highly improvised version of "For Colored Girls"
Inspired by the work of the lesbian poetess Judy Grahn was written the piece as "choreopoem", which alienates monologues and modern dance into a jazz soundtrack. Their characters referred only to the colors they wore on stage – red, blue, purple, yellow, brown, green, and orange – and recited monologues in verse, about abortions, failed relationships, lost children and wastage
"I have found God in myself," explains the lady in red in one of the most memorable lines of the play, as reproduced in Ms. Shinge's non-standard spelling and capitalization "and I loved her / I loved her fiercely. "Another character yells," I'll raise my voice / & scream & scream / & break things & run the engine & tell all secrets about yourself. "
" For Colored Girls "was the second appearance of an African American on Broadway after Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun"
"Black Sisterhood, this is Ntozake Shang's most extraordinary and wonderful evening …", sc hounded New York Times theater critic Clive Barnes. "These insights into life and life make theater an incredible marketplace for the soul, and just because it's about black women – not just blacks and not just women – it's a very sobering but inspiring thing for a white man."
The piece "shook the socio-cultural moment," said writer Marita Golden, co-founder of the Hurston / Wright Foundation, a black-writing resource center that honored Ms. Shange with her career award a week before her death. Shange, she said in an e-mail, "allowed her black women to speak the unspeakable about relationships with blacks in a particularly thundering manner," at a time when writers like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor were telling similar stories  Ms. Shange may have been accused by some African-American critics and authors, including Baraka and Ismael Reed, who claimed that their work smeared black men as violent, unfaithful women's wives. In a real-life scene, Ms. Shang's friend Thulani Davis, a writer and African American woman, is threatened by a friend who drops her children out the window.
"These scenes were familiar to the audience," said Davis, who helped Ms. Shange compile and organize the monologues of the play. "It has opened something that women can experience suddenly, together, in the theater – suddenly, there is a room full of people who understand what you have not told anyone about a trauma you have experienced."
The oldest of four Children, Ms. Shange, was born on October 10 in Trenton, New Jersey. 18, 1948. Her father was a surgeon and her mother was a psychiatric social worker; both were politically active and mingled with a crowd that includes the musicians Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and the writer W.E.B. included. Du Bois
She lived in St. Louis and then in Trenton before graduating from Barnard College, Manhattan, in 1970. At that time she had married and separated from her first husband, a law student, and attempted suicide several times. She had also begun to find her voice as a poet, according to Davis, a classmate from Barnard, who said they would perform together after receiving advice from members of the Last Poets, an early hip-hop group. Shange earned a master's degree in American Studies from the University of Southern California in 1973 and settled in New York two years later, along with a friend, choreographer Paula Moss, who danced for an early version of "For Colored Girls." 19659019] The production of the work, including at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side, drew attention to Woodie King Jr., a producer who helped make the verses one-piece. It received an Obie Award and a Tony Award nomination for Best Game. For the first three weeks on Broadway, she played Ms. Shange as the lady in Orange.
The play was adapted into a 2010 film by director Tyler Perry, starring Tandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington and Janet Jackson. In the aftermath of "For Colored Girls," Ms. Shange said she was struggling with substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and finally physical illness. Nevertheless, she continued writing and producing plays such as "Spell No. 7" (1979), in which black actors discussed the humiliation of working in a white-dominated industry, and "Lost in Language and Sound: Or How." I found my way The Arts "(2013), an autobiographical piece she described as a" choreo essay. "
As a writer, Ms. Shange was known for a style that mimicked natural language, using unusual slashes of spelling and abbreviations around" language. " Her books included the novel "Some Sing, Some Cry" (2010), written with her sister Ifa Bayeza, about seven generations of a fictitious African-American family, and the poetry collection "Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems "(2017), which included Spanish-language translations that Ms. Shange commissioned to reach readers in Latin America.
She taught at meh Other universities and also received a Guggenheim Fellowship as honors including a Pushcart Prize.
Her marriages to artist McArthur Binion and jazz musician David Murray ended in divorce. In addition to her daughter, from her marriage to Binion, the survivors include two sisters; a brother; and a granddaughter.
In interviews, Ms. Shange often said that she wanted to build a legacy in which black culture was honored and preserved. When she was asked if poetry was capable of doing so, she was firm.
"You have to behave as if it's enough," she told the New York Times in 2013 to some friends. "You still have to confirm it and bring yourself in. You have to hope it moves the mountain."