The recent focus in my Literature by Women class has been plays. In the past two weeks among many plays, I have read two excellent plays that particularly caught my attention; each author depicting a different color in the struggles of African American women in the 1960s. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is about an African American family struggling to achieve a greater life than their two bedroom apartment in the city of Chicago. Then for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange (technically a choreopoem) is a montage of women in the 1970s who relate their traumatic pasts in verse form in the hopes of giving a voice to women who have felt forced to remain in silence.
Now ask any of my friends and they would tell you that I hate each and every one of my classes this semester, which is true for the most part. And it is here that I would like to add a side note: no matter how tempting it seems to schedule all your classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and then use Tuesday and Thursday to get your work done – DON’T DO IT! It’s a trap and I fell into it. Trust the kid at the bottom of the rabbit hole: you’re better off not taking this adventure. Back on topic – for a play to catch my attention this semester makes the play pretty good. It is, in fact, these plays that have restored my faith in my educational pursuit of a major in English.
A Raisin in the Sun presents a strong female character in Mama who has become the head of the family due to her husband’s death. She controls the finances as her husband’s insurance check is coming to her now that she has retired, and a conflict ensues as she decides how to divide up the cash. My class had a movie night on the first floor of Hill Hall to watch the play performed. We were allowed to show up in PJs and bring popcorn and just relax and enjoy a film with our classmates, and not only did we learn a lot about the play as well as the struggle of an African American woman in the mid-twentieth century; but we had a great time doing it.
This experience was good, but nothing could beat the second movie night we had to watch for colored girls…. Though the opinion of the class was that the movie did not do justice to the choreopoem, I loved it. At present I’m having trouble remembering the last time I was so moved by any piece of work. Though there is no protagonist, the character I empathized with the most was the Woman in Red whose ex-boyfriend gave her two bastard children and then killed them when she would not marry him. Of course guys don’t cry, but I did feel tears roll down my face as I watched this woman lament so deeply the cruelty that was her life. These experiences are important in education and I was pleased to be able to reflect on them with my fellow classmates today in class.
Education at McDaniel comes in many forms, but perhaps the most valuable part of this education is the learning that comes from getting together with peers and experiencing first hand what you discuss in class. We could have read these plays over and over in class, but without movie nights on the first floor of Hill Hall, these would just be two more books that I read that one time in that class that I think was called Lit by Women but I don’t remember.