Tyler Perry and I have a love/hate relationship. It’s either hit or miss with his films for me – mostly miss. Raised on the beautiful imagery of Spike Lee – I couldn’t stomach the black man in the Mammy costume… the misrepresentation & overly comedic representation of poor black people… so I stayed away from most of his films until recently. When I found out that he was making For Colored Girls, I was filled with anxiety. He… could NOT…. Mess up this story… I read “For Colored Girls” as an angry, confused and creative 16-year-old girl in High School. My white, Catholic High School English Teacher – Melissa Borgmann introduced me to the text in “Writing As Performance.” With that class, I discovered and developed my voice.
All this week, I’ve been re-reading the for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf by Ntozake Shange. Examining my initial – premature annotations. Trying to make sense of the words that were so familiar to me on the page. Reintroducing myself to the colored girls who made me laugh, cry, angry and inspired exactly 10 years ago. I added new annotations… my understanding has changed greatly… Another layer of experience and emotion added to the page. A decade makes a difference.
I went to see the film with two of my sorority sisters and friends – both colored girls. We planned this months ago. In the car ride to the theater – we caught up. Talked about the multiple spheres of our lives as mothers, teachers, employees, girlfriends, wives and daughters… The good… the bad… the ugly. When we got to the theater – we ordered our refreshments, sat in the wrong seats on purpose to get a better view and cackled and laughed for one fast-moving hour. “Did ya’ll hear what 50 cent said about Drake?” “Naw, girl, what?” “He said he makes non-confrontational music.” “Well… he is from Canada.” We cackle like hyenas. We discuss Common and Erykah Badu’s relationship plus her relationships with the other man. “I want to know what she has. She needs to give me some of that oil!” “He still ain’t the same after her.” “He’ll go back to her…” And we’re confronted by three colored boys (wanna-be colored girls), 2 minutes before the packed midnight showing because we’re in their seats. We move to another section and sit in other seats that don’t belong to us channeling our inner Rosa Parks.
The movie begins and our eyes are glued on the screen. With low expectations and high hopes, Tyler Perry creates magic on the screen. From the choice of cast, with particularly strong roles played by Kimberly Elise and Loretta Devine, to the elegance and depth of Phyllicia Rashad. At times, we grab each other’s hands. We pass around a shared large cup of Cherry Coke. We laugh at loud. We cry. We hide under our jackets. Our eyes bulge from surprise. Squint from disappointment. We smack our lips at the chiseled abs that appear every now and again. We watch our story being told in a humanized and dynamic way. We recognize ourselves and our family members on the screen. We think about our relationships with our mothers. We think about our men. We think about our rainbows. We know about suicide.
Cue Nina Simone and credits. We all sit for a second, amazed by what we’ve just watched. We critique it on the way back to the car. In the car we talk. “You’re a perfectionist.” “I’ve come to the conclusion that no one has it all together. We are moving towards the end of our rainbows, which means it never ends.” “You have to have a circle of friends to share things with to release some of that.”
Being colored and being a woman is a metaphysical dilemma I [we] haven’t conquered yet.
Moving towards the end of my rainbow,