My first meeting of Ntozake Shange was the morning of May 17, 2018 when she arrived at the west 57 street recording studio in New York City. As part of Afrobeat Radio’s media hosting of Halifu Osumare’s Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir book tour, Shange and Osumare were scheduled for an interview with Afrobeat Radio host, Wuyi Jacobs. Shange, a lifelong friend of Osumare, feature prominently in Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir and was determined to contribute her name and presence in whatever way she could to the successful launch of Dancing in Blackness, A Memoir.
While I was aware that in recent years Shange had been ill, battling to recover more fully from a stroke she had a decade earlier, I was nonetheless surprised with her presence: at once vibrant, bubbling and tenacious, and unabashedly delicate, vulnerable, and uncomfortably revealed.
Like many, I fell in love with Shange’s work during my adolescent years, and as a young adult she gave voice to my confusions and questions and outright frustrations and anger about the world around me. In her work, Shange’s work gave me permission, not that I needed permission but it was nice to have it nonetheless, to belong to myself in this world and be fully present in navigating the various paradoxes of the particularly spaces/places which I inhabit and encounter.
On that May 17 morning, I was invited in to a day of paradoxes deliciously laid out on the altar of love for a good friend. On October 27, 2018, less than six-month later, Shange joined the realm of the ancestor. And, her death, made having witnessed May 17th an even greater honor and a deeper reminder of the role love and true friendship in living meaningful lives.
I invite you to take a listen to Afrobeat Radio’s Ntozake Shange, Tribute.