What "For Colored Girls" meant to us

American playwright and poet Ntozake Shange.

(CNN)As a beautiful writer once said, and it seems all the more worth repeating now: "I'm a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people's lives."

In the midst of a wrenching week, when there has been so much to mourn, we also feel the loss of the poet, novelist, and pioneering voice who wrote those words about the power of language. Ntozake Shange died Saturday in Maryland at the age of 70, according to the Star Tribune. News of her death was also provided by her family on Twitter.
Shange presented her groundbreaking choreopoem, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf," in 1975; it became an off-Broadway play in 1976 and Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed a film adaptation in 2010. Shange coined "choreopoem" to describe her work in "For Colored Girls," a dramatic expression blending poetry, dance, music and song.
    Perhaps her most famous lines were these:
    i found god in myself
    and i loved her
    i loved her fiercely
    To say that her words were revolutionary is insufficient. To say that "For Colored Girls," with its searing portrayals of life, death, rape, abortion and struggle, changed people's lives is undeniably true. Whether they encountered Shange's words on stage, on screen, in the classroom or by other means, generations of women of color -- and others who felt marginalized, traumatized, or held locked in place by an unforgiving world -- found themselves in Shange's choreopoem, including these lines taken from the poem "dark phrases," told in multiple voices:
    sing a black girl's song
    bring her out
    to know herself
    to know you
    but sing her rhythms
    carin/struggle/hard times
    sing her song of life
    she's been dead so long
    closed in silence so long
    she doesn't know the sound
    of her own voice
    her infinite beauty
    she's half-notes scattered
    without rhythm/no tune
    sing her sighs
    sing the song of her possibilities
    sing a righteous gospel
    let her be born
    let her be born
    & handled warmly.
    lady in brown
    i'm outside chicago
    lady in yellow
    i'm outside detroit
    lady in purple
    i'm outside houston
    lady in red
    i'm outside baltimore
    lady in green
    i'm outside san francisco
    lady in blue
    i'm outside manhattan
    lady in orange
    i'm outside st. louis
    lady in brown
    & this is for colored girls who have considered suicide
      but moved to the ends of their own rainbows.
      Among those who remembered Shange on Twitter Saturday are women and men whose own voices and work have changed the lives of others.
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