"I find it so fascinating that comfortable middle-class travelers are now experiencing what is a daily way of life and standard operating procedure for far too many people of color, especially black and brown men and boys. Routine frisks are the cost of “walking while black” in inner cities. The New York Times’ investigation of over 52,000 police stops in ONE Brooklyn neighborhood, employing the “Stop, Question, Frisk” technique, reveal the degree to which authorities employ aggressive frisks on those they merely suspect may be guilty of something. After the stop and frisk, each person’s name is logged into a database - even if he is not arrested or detained.In other words, merely being a black man in this particular neighborhood renders you vulnerable to being frisked, without provocation, and having the details of the encounter and your personal information recorded within a database. In the year 2009, the number of these “Stop, Question, Frisk” encounters totaled over 580,000. As you can see from the interactive map included in the NYT article, the overwhelming majority of them occurred in largely African American and Latino communities.
I’m hard pressed to hear people complain about the loss of dignity they experienced at the hands of a T.S.A. agent…unless they are also concerned about the loss of dignity of these young black and brown men in Brooklyn who are suspects by virtue of walking the streets.I’m hard pressed to have sympathy for those whose innocent children are subject to additional security measures at the airport…unless they are also concerned about black and brown children who are viewed and treated as potential criminals from the time they emerge from the womb.I’m hard pressed to take seriously people’s complaints that their civil rights are being violated…unless they are willing to acknowledge that the civil rights of urban youth, which are constantly suspended when it suits the needs of various authorities, are also important to uphold.When the aggressive pat-downs and frisks happen to me, it is a violation of my dignity. When it happens to black men in Oakland, it is necessary for “law and order.” When the aggressive pat-downs and frisks happen to me, my constitutional rights are violated. When it happens to Latino men in the Bronx, it is an matter of “public safety.”When the aggressive pat-downs and frisks happen to me, it is an invasion of my privacy and an act of humiliation. When it happens to black children in Atlanta, it is a necessity in order to “keep the peace.”Where is the call for dignity and the fight against humiliation for those who are constantly forced to endure stops, searches, and frisks - merely for daring to be the color they are, in the place they live?If anything good comes out of these new measures taken by the T.S.A., it may be to remind us that civil rights are not actually civil rights if they only apply to those who can afford the luxury of air travel. Civil rights, if they mean anything, must apply to the “least of these.” And the dignity, respect, and justice to which one is entitled, must be applied to all - not simply at LAX and EWR, but also on the corners, playgrounds, and streets where black and brown people walk.”
“…we assume a collaboration with any blk writer/ who attempts to recreate blk english/ black culture/ cuz that’s ours/ we were there/ we know abt that…what i am trying to get to is the notion that as a people we have so claimed ‘the word’/we dont even pay attention to who is speakin.”—Ntozake Shange, “takin a solo/a poetic possibility/a poetic imperative,” in See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 26-33, 27
“the most frequently overheard comment abt spell #7 when it first opened at the public theatre/ waz that it waz too intense. the cast & i usedta laugh. if this one hour n 45 minutes waz too much/ how in the world did these same people imagine the rest of our lives were/ & wd they ever be able to handle that/ simply being alive & black & feeling in this strange deceitful country.”—Ntozake Shange, “Program Note,” in See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 21-25, 23
“…there is no occupation of territory, on the one hand, and independence of persons on the other. It is the country as a whole, its history, its daily pulsation that are contested, disfigured, in the hope of final destruction. Under this condition, the individual’s breathing is an observed, an occupied breathing. It is a combat breathing.”—Frantz Fanon (A Dying Colonialism) as quoted in Ntozake Shange, “Program Note,” in See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 21-25, 22
“…the man who thought i wrote with intentions of outdoing the white man in the acrobatic distortions of english waz absolutely correct. i cant count the number of times i have viscerally wanted to attack deform n maim the language that i waz taught to hate myself in…”—Ntozake Shange, “Program Note,” in See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 21-25, 21
“The show at DeMonte’s [New York City] waz prophetic. By this time, December of 1975, we had weaned the piece of extraneous theatricality, enlisted Trazana Beverley, Laurie Carlos, Laurie Hayes, Aku Kadogo, & of course, Paula [Moss] & I were right there. The most prescient change in the concept of the work waz that I gave up directorial powers to Oz Scott. By doing this, I acknowledged that the poems & the dance worked on their own to do & be what they were. As opposed to viewing the pieces as poems, I came to understand these twenty-odd poems as a single statement, a chorepoem.”—Ntozake Shange, “A History: for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” in See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 13-17, 16.
“Such joy & excitement I knew in Sonoma, then I would commute back the sixty miles to San Francisco to study dance with Raymond Sawyer, Ed Mock, & Halifu [Osumare]. Knowing a woman’s mind & spirit had been allowed me, with dance I discovered my body more intimately than I had imagined possible. With the acceptance of the ethnicity of my thighs & backside, came a clearer understanding of my voice as a woman & as a poet.”—Ntozake Shange, “A History: for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” in See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 13-17, (for @divafeminist)
worlds like words for a woman who is a poet and
a mother are confusing/overlapping contradictory
fatigue & exciting. between diapers, the park, the
telephone conversations with e.t. and the dollhouse
which had to be a plantation house where little black babies
rest and play between my poems. my incomplete thoughts.
thoughts i never find the ends of: lose threads on dresses, in
my soul there lies a quiet that sleeps out in the night
after the last bottle and the last dried dish. somewhere
between the unfinished books i am dying to read.
among the letters to friends i cant finish. there
is a quiet that booms and presses me out of my bed. out of my tiredness
and sense of complete isolation from all the rest of
you. they are here in this book. i see no evil. i am
fighting demons in the dark and the energies of a free spirit
who must know
this world will do its best to take from her all she is unless she is
willing to struggle as she struggles with me for the right to see.
“Sexual experimentation characterized the coming of age of postmodern black women. The term “lover” is always a code for the unconventional liaison and is markedly sexual. Whoever the lover is, “lady in red” rejects “debasin my self for the love of another” and realizes that a person who cannot water her own plant can’t be trusted to maintain a relationship…”—Cheryl Clarke, “After Mecca:” Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 104
“Shange’s for colored girls cleared space for more “colored girls” to tell their stories, as was and remains its (abiding) intent. However, the Broadway production of for colored girls sacriices the cultural ethics that undergird the California development of this work. The Collier-Macmillan edition shows Shange in moments extending its lessons beyond the specificity of black women…the “sacrifice” is also an accommodation of the Black Aesthetic, which was embedded in New York Black Theatre—on and off Broadway….”—Cheryl Clarke, “After Mecca:” Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 100
“In its deployment of theatre and music (R&B, jazz, salsa) ensemble techniques, its revision of Afro-American call and response, Afro-American folk rituals, and the pastiche of signifiers from other diaspora cultures in for colored girls, black women function synecdochally for women of color and indeed all women—in community—recovering their voices and stories and doing their work. As both a feminist communal project and a representation of nascent (black) feminist community, for colored girls changed perceptions of black women’s feminist agency”—Cheryl Clarke, “After Mecca:” Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 98
“Watching a performance [of for colored girls] one sees a collective appetite for black male blood.”—Robert Staples, “The Myth of the Black Macho: A Response to Angry Black Feminists,” The Black Scholar, 1979
“Signifying poetry holds a special fascination for me. Probably because I could not/can not signify and have always admired those who can. From a literary point of view, it is a significant, exciting aspect of today’s poetry. I know, and you know, that we have always signified. On the corners, in the poolrooms, the playgrounds, anywhere and everywhere we have had the opportunity. “We sig” with somebody, about somebody, and if we can’t be open about it, we “sig” on the sly!…In the main, it is being used, for constructive destruction.”—Carolyn M. Rodgers, “Black Poetry—Where It’s At,” Negro Digest, 1969
“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”— —Elie Wiesel (from Nobel prize acceptance speech)
“And I was but a child, and you took me in your arms, gave me a home and your kiss of eternity. Who am I to forget you? Who am I to not thank you? Who am I to ignore your seed, your fruit and your prosperity? Who am I to ignore the soul you carry in your swaying hips, with the tick-tack of your…
“I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they’re looting. See a white family, it says they’re looking for food. And you know that it’s been five days, because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV, because it’s too hard to watch. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way, and they have given them permission to go down and shoot us…George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”—