Honoring Shange at the National Black Writers Conference

For the first time, the National Black Writers Conference biennial symposium will focus this year on playwrights and screenwriters, and will offer a special tribute to the playwright Ntozake Shange, who wrote the highly acclaimed play “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf,” which opened on Broadway in 1976. Shange passed away in October at age 70. Her sister Ifa Bayeza, who is herself a playwright, producer, and novelist, will serve as the keynote speaker at the conference, which is being held this year on Saturday March 23 at Medgar Evers College, reports Keishel Williams in Bklyner. It was organized by the Center for Black Literature at the college.

“When you look at what [Shange] did as a writer and as a performance artist and a poet, she represents a foundation upon which some of our current and emerging and leading playwrights and screenwriters are building,” said Dr. Brenda Greene, executive director of the Center for Black Literature and the National Black Writers Conference (NBWC).

Shange’s most famous work, which was made into a movie and has been revived numerous times – it is currently showing in Chicago – is “about a black woman who explores seven characteristics of herself as a way to become a better and stronger woman,” writes Williams. Greene went on to say that:

“She [Shange] is very respectful of the oral history of people of African descent,” … “And she has always written about topics that are personal yet political, so I think honoring her is a way to pay tribute.”

The inclusion of playwrights and screenwriters not only gives the conference organizers an opportunity to honor Shange, but also a chance to showcase writers who are making their mark in theater and film.

“People aren’t reading as much, or if they are reading they’re reading more in snippets, so the screen and the stage have become a way to enact those things that people might gloss over,”  says Greene. “More than ever we need more people making visible what is happening in our culture and in our lives.”

Go to Bklyner to read more about the “Playwrights & Screenwriters at the Crossroads” program offered at the biennial National Black Writers Conference.

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