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Poet and Playwright Ntozake Shange Dies at 70

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Ntozake Shange, an award-winning poet, playwright, performer, novelist and educator, died on Saturday at the age of 70. Most well-known for her play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” much of her work centered around feminism and Blackness.

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On her official Twitter account, Shange’s family announced she had died peacefully in her sleep. In 2011, after experiencing two strokes, she was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) — “a neurological disorder characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms.”

After years of physical therapy, she was able to publish her last book of poetry in 2017, entitled “Wild Beauty.”

Shange lived with bipolar disorder and survived multiple suicide attempts. In a speech she gave about mental health in 2010, she said she first noticed something was “wrong” when, between the ages of 10 and 13, she started staying up for days at a time. She didn’t get help from a mental health professional until college.

She called living with a mental illness “a lifetime commitment to oneself.”

People took to Twitter to share their appreciation of Shange’s work, including “Selma” director Ava DuVernay.

Thank you for your work, Shange. Our thoughts are with your friends, family and fans.

Lead image via Ntozake Shange’s Facebook page.

Originally published: October 30, 2018
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