The Florida Humanities Council is in its third year sponsoring a conference on teaching Zora Neale Hurston’s life and works in the classroom. A week long program, the conference operates out of Rollins College in Winter Park and the teachers travel to Eatonville, Zora’s inspiration for her independent head-strong style. They also go to Maitland Art Center and Ft. Pierce, where Zora was buried. I’ll be there screening my film and discussing how teachers can use film terms and techniques to bring writing into their media classes. No more going straight to the camera and the edit suite – writing is an important part of filmmaking!
Jump at the Sun had a private screening at Santa Monica College on May 18 for David Burak’s English class, and was sponsored by the SMC English Dept, Black Collegians Club, SMC Associates, SMC Communication Dept, and Asian-American Pacific Islander Achievement. I was blown away by the students, almost 30,000 total at this fascinating school. A cross-cultural collection in attendance, they embraced Zora’s independence, her Black Nationalism, her love of self and culture. What a beautiful campus in a breathtaking city, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Zora Neale Hurston had visited California in 1940, driving all the way from Florida, and she wrote about her time there, working briefly for Paramount Pictures. She visited her friend, dancer Katherine Mershon, up in the mountains. For someone whose idea of way up high is the Chinaberry tree in her hometown of Eatonville, she was blown away by the constant climbing.
English teacher David Burak has been described as an “activist” and a former “protestor” and I liked his engaging and questioning spirit immensely. He should be crowned Mayor of the College, or at least given an honorary parking pass if they haven’t already. It was very nice of David to throw in a little smog when I took his photo.
And while Jump at the Sun was busy visiting the Left Coast, the Deedle Deedle Dees paid Zora homage in an interesting little ditty at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, a burg of Brooklyn NY.
The words came from Maya Angelou in the film JUMP AT THE SUN as she described the “sweet language” or la langue doux, an Africanism that has found its way into our own language. Angelou heard it in the South.
I found myself wondering why Zora never went to Africa.
PBS viewer David Hardy, a software design engineer from Idaho, wanted to know more about la langue doux (spelling based on Angelou’s spoken words). So he did some research and came up with these interesting comments on his blog.
Sound the alarms! PBS veteran producer Joel Geyer is video blogging from Budapest where PBS stations from around the world are having their annual meeting. Yes, there are Public Broadcasting stations in almost every country, and from what Joel has to say, there are still plenty of staid historical documentaries in the loop. Joel seems to be more tolerant of these than most of us.
Via video, Joel has passed along a few choice tidbits including:
– Viral networking is over-rated, Twitter is useless, Facebook has an older demographic;
– Canon MarkII 5D camera is taking over the industry (and for only $2300 at B&H);
– Programs made by filming bloggers are a new hot product (built-in audience);
– Real people telling real stories is still a cheap new way to produce programming:
– TV as we know it is dead!!! Okay, I know. They keep saying it but this time it really is dead. Surfing for content on computers is the new TV.
The Hurston Trust has intimated that Zora didn’t want a headstone but Zora always loved being acknowledged with all the glory one could heap on her. And in that fashion, the city of Ft. Pierce has commissioned an artist to create a new memorial for her at the grave site. There are panels on it, one depicting roses, stating those were her “favorite flowers”. I’d never heard that. She was always mailing hatboxes full of citrus blooms to her patron Charlotte Mason, which surely sent both the NY and FL post offices into a tizzy of delirium. What a glorious smell that is!
Sadly this new memorial does not appear to correct the erroneous dates of Zora’s lifespan, as attributed incorrectly but nobly by Alice Walker in the 70s on a gravestone placed on Zora’s previously unmarked grave, acknowledging a much under-appreciated life (don’t blame Alice if Zora lied about her age). Perhaps I’ll bring my magic marker with me on my next trip to Ft. Pierce for some well-placed graffiti.