In a sure to be inspiring evening, the critically-acclaimed playwright, author, and poet Ntozake Shange will be featured in the Leslie Campbell Legacy Speaker Series presented by UC Davis Campus Unions and African Continuum in honor of February’s Black History Month. The presentation will take place this Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Freeborn Hall.
“Shange manages to bring together African American studies and African studies in a very creative way,” said Halifu Osumare, associate professor in African American and African studies and friend of Shange. “She discusses the hidden pain and issues of the community during a time when it was forbidden to bare your soul.”
Shange, a self-proclaimed black feminist is the recipient of numerous awards for her plays, poetry, novels and essays that rely heavily on issues relating to race and feminism. Her most acclaimed play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf was published in 1975 and adapted to film in 2009 by Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Films productions. The film opened to mixed reviews.
“For Colored Girls really moved me when I saw it,” said Tina Jones, a first-year African American studies major. “The performances in it were exceptional.”
Although Shange plans on doing a few readings from For Colored Girls, her main focus of the night will be on her latest novel Some Sing, Some Cry which she co-wrote with her sister Ifa Bayeza. The novel utilizes strong female characters and features an African American saga spanning 200 years of history through the voices of seven generations of the Mayfield family.
“Students will have the opportunity to share in the richness of black history by having the opportunity to learn more about Ntozake Shange and her experiences as a playwright, educator and author.” said Lori Fuller, media contact for Campus Unions. “This is a great opportunity for students to share in a living part of Black History.”
Ntozake Shange has been a fearless crusader in her quest to give the world a glimpse into the realities of women of color. Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, N.J. and raised in St. Louis, Mo., the author had always been surrounded by art, literature and history. After a tumultuous college career at Barnard College, where she struggled with feelings of isolation and attempted suicide several times, she realized that even the progressive literature around her marginalized women. She soon realized that if she wanted to hear the voices of women, she would have to become the one to speak up.
“Her development of the choreopoem was a really unique way explore words and movement at the same time,” Osumare said. “It lets the author and the reader connect to the poem; you can almost see the words dancing on the page.”
The evening will include a conversation with the author moderated by Osumare. Although there are no definite plans for how this will be conducted, it will most likely entail Osumare preparing questions with an addition of audience participation.
In the 1970s, after graduating from the University of Southern California, Shange joined Osumare’s dance company and also performed music, dance and poetry at local venues. The two collaborated on many projects.
“You can really tell that she is an intellectual. To have a meaningful conversation with her you have to have a mastery of history, politics and literature,” Osumare said. “If you miss one part, you aren’t going to be able to follow her.”
Shange’s talk is part of the annual Leslie Campbell Legacy Speaker Series. The series was established to honor Campbell who worked at UC Davis for over 30 years in Undergraduate Admissions. She lost her battle to breast cancer in 2005. The sponsors of the program include the African Continuum, African American and African Studies, Office of Campus Community Relations, the African American Faculty and Staff Association, Undergraduate Admissions and Student Affairs.
Advance tickets for this event are $12 for students, $20 for non-students and $15 and $25, respectively, on the day of the event.
ANASTASIA ZHURAVLEVA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.