I’ve been getting a lot of texts from friends recently, many of them saying something to this effect: “My wife saw your film and said you were great”…or…”My girl went to see For Colored Girls and was blown away.” “Hmmmmm,” I thought. And then I was asked by a colleague to log onto theGrio and take a look at a headline that was posted on the site. As I entered theGrio, I was greeted with a very provocative title: “Does Tyler Perry Hate Black Men?” Wow. Just the premise of the question is so pejorative that it almost answers itself.
I am one of the male leads of a film that I am very proud to be a part of — For Colored Girls directed by Tyler Perry, based on the award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.
For Colored Girls is about dysfunctional relationships of all kinds. The personal toll that a dysfunctional relationship can levy on any of us can be, without question, one of the most difficult things we have to deal with.
There’s been a great deal of discussion about the portrayal of African-American men in the film, with most of the criticism aimed towards the film’s director, Tyler Perry. Many people point out that my character, Donald, is the only “positive brother” in the film.
For Colored Girls holds many lessons and should be viewed by both women and men. We must not forget that the film is based on source material (an award-winning Broadway show) that was written by a woman in her voice, based on her experiences and the stories she wanted to tell. In the play, there are no “positive brothers” at all because those aren’t the stories Ntozake wanted in the play.
In fact, Tyler Perry created my character Donald so that there would be at least one positive representation of a functioning African-American husband and wife. What we all must take note of is that thirty years later the issues that Ntozake brought up in her original choreopoem are still in many ways relevant today. Why should men see this film? Because we should attempt to understand the lens in which many women view their world.
There’s a particular scene that I was shooting with the wonderful actress Anika Noni Rose, where I —- Hill Harper – not the character Donald, was blown away by the poem that she recited to me. In this monologue, Anika Noni Rose’s character tells my character the police officer how she was raped. And she said — in paraphrase — that women are taught to always be afraid of “the stranger” but perhaps who women should fear the most are the men that they allow into their homes and into their lives. This speaks to the fact that violence against women by men is perpetrated much more by individuals that women know than men that they do not know. The poem holds lessons for both men and women.
A friend told me that the scene made her realize that all her life she had been duped. Having been told not to go here or there or experience this because of the fear of that “stranger.” When in fact the ones who hurt us are often the “familiar.” That was so powerful for me to hear come from a woman’s mouth. Because remember, as men – though we need people next to us, men and women to hold us up, support us, and love us – we don’t walk around with that type of fear at all.
I’m very proud to have been a part of the amazing cast of For Colored Girls. The film is not meant to denigrate black men but rather tell the stories of these specific women. The actresses in the film deserve — and I think will garner — Oscar recognition. The characters and the actresses represent the best of us and our ability to persevere through the worst of times. And hopefully, the stories presented are a call to all women and men to step up and represent the best of ourselves to the rest of the world.
I certainly realize the film’s title is not For The Brothers. Yet, as men, I believe we should approach the film with open ears, hearts and minds, and not just write the film off, choosing not to see it by calling it a “chick flick” or whatever similar term I’ve heard used by men about the film.
It is without question that there are so many more “good brothers” out there than bad. Yet, For Colored Girls isn’t trying to tell all of those stories, nor should it have to. It is simply trying to tell the stories of these particular women in these particular circumstances from the brilliant voice of the playwright Ms. Shange. And as men, we can learn a great deal from these multicolored views of the women presented in For Colored Girls. Rainbows can be beautiful to both women and men. And since our experiences our inextricably linked sometimes sharing the view of the rainbow — is enough.