Memories of Ntozake Shange
By Dr. Brenda M. Greene
The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College mourns the passing of renowned, celebrated and Obie Award-winning renowned poet, playwright and novelist Ntozake Shange, a powerful literary force who carried forth the legacy of the Black Arts Movement in America. The work of Shange touched our lives and those of people in the African diaspora in many ways.
Scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin reflects on this in her essay “A Daughter’s Geography: The Poetics of Diaspora,” The African Presence and Influence on the Cultures of the Americas (Cambridge Scholars, 2010). She states that in her poetry collection, A Daughter’s Geography (1983), her novel, Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1994), and her cookbook, If I Can Cook, You Know God Can (1998), Shange uses her poetry and narrative to articulate a vision and politics of Diaspora. She notes that Shange has always privileged the experiences and voices of women.
A number of years ago, I had an opportunity to interview Ntozake Shange in her Brooklyn home. Ntozake was warm, humble, and regal in a way; she exhibited an inner peace and reflected on the process that she used to write her award-winning play, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (1974) and on the ways in which race, gender, and ethnicity impact her writing. On the subject of race, Shange said the following:
“I encounter various kinds of racism and sexism on a daily basis like any other woman of color. And I have to transfer that into something interesting and delightful for my readers. It is not easy to make racism delightful. So that’s what the hard part of my job is, finally, making people laugh or making them cry, without turning myself into a batting ball. But I’m pushed to do something that happened in the world.”
To read more of the interview, please visit www.centerforblackliterature.org, or go to http://centerforblackliterature.org/ntozake-conversation.
The Center for Black Literature will pay tribute to Ntozake Shange at its 2019 National Black Writers Symposium: “Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads.” The life of Ntozake Shange symbolizes the issues faced by Black playwrights and screenwriters.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones. We will miss you Ntozake Shange. Thank you for your light and may your legacy continue to shine!