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Monday Reflection: Yes I'm a Colored Girl ...

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

November 8, 2010

Growing up being violated by the men who were supposed to protect me, I learned to be both sensual and sexual and how to use it to will that power over men. I was so wounded I didn't even know that I was hurt. The blood had dried over the wound and the sore was growing and infecting the very core of me.

I know what it's like to draw all your self worth from between your legs and for the longest time I thought that I was special. That it made me special, that men wanted me. That I could have who ever I wanted, when ever I wanted. I was one bad ass woman and I willed my badness with all my might. Then one day I realized that I was no different than other Colored Girls. A wounded girl growing up to be a wounded woman. These words resonated with me and pierced my very being.

She waz hot
a deliberate coquette
who never did without what she wanted and;
she wanted to be unforgettable
she wanted to be a memory
a wound to every man arrogant enough to want her.

This was me, but how did she know? How did this author Ntozake Shange know my story. She had never met me, but yet it seemed that she knew me. I didn't get to see the original play when I was a freshman with my theater company in high school. Mama wouldn't let me go. But a few years later, my girlfriend Veronica Slater had a brilliant idea to perform For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. I was to be Lady in Yellow. I liked her character, but honestly I'm sad to say at 17 I could see a little of myself in every character in the play. Veronica and I rehearsed and rehearsed. It was easy to learn, because their story was my story.

People ask me often where I draw my strength and I say honestly that it didn't start with HIV. It started as a child vulnerable and unprotected. But along the way God made small deposits that seemed so insignificant, but looking back they were the catalyst to get me through. For Colored Girls was one of those small deposits and in many ways so was Veronica and her mother. The time spent at Veronica's rehearsing was time away from the abuse my mother willed with all her might.

Colored Girls meant so much to me. It was my story. Yes I had come to realize through this poem that I was a Colored Girl. I purchased the album and I would lay in bed at night and play it over and over and over again and it gave me life. Not only did it validate my story, but it gave me hope that there was light at the end of my dark tunnel. That I was more than I thought. I was in fact a valuable child of God. That no man would love me or could love me like me. I started to understand that I had to go within and find her to save her. Doing so put me on a course that ultimately saved my life. I found God within, but it took me years to love her fiercely. Because of that, I got HIV along the way. But homeless my senior year of high school, in love with a man ten years older than me, I could have ended up in a gutter that I couldn't crawl out of. Yes, Colored Girls even gave me the courage to walk away from that man, my first love. I remember telling him one day, like in Colored Girls, "You were always inconsistent doing something and then being sorry." Then I added, "I'm sorry. But I'm sick of you being sorry," and then I showed him the door.

The original work of Colored Girls, spoke to my very core so I was skeptical about Tyler Perry's adaptation of this incredible piece of work. But today I was pleasantly surprised. Perry didn't change the story, he literally just gave us a modern visualization thirty years later to the written words of Ntozake Shange. I was both overjoyed and saddened. Overjoyed that he didn't cheapen this masterpiece, but saddened that this was still a relevant black woman's story thirty years later. Not just for other women, but even for me.

Yes, it took me down memory lane, raped, violated and used. But it also spoke to my right now and my current struggle with men. I was reminded today that I must continue to accept my culpability in the messes that pierce my heart. How quickly we blame men for our broken heart when we had a choice. Even Janet's character ignored the signs in exchange to have companionship; what a price to pay. Thank God she eventually found herself. Better late than never, huh? The modern day Lady in Red demonstrates that power and wealth means nothing in the face of HIV. Women, we must love ourselves over the need to have or want a man in our lives.

Yes, I am renewed today by Perry's adaptation of Colored Girls. And I am reminded that I must continue to go within, because there lays the best part of me. And most important, I must love her fiercely and when that is done, no one will ever walk away with, "alla my stuff."

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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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