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.
There’s another tourist-discovers-Zora article, this one in the Washington Post. The reporter focuses on Zora’s work for the WPA Florida Guide and visits Eatonville, the first incorporated all-black town in the country, and one of the places mentioned in the Guide. The Guide does not have any writer attributions but Zora assuredly wrote the article about her hometown (her personally typed articles are archived at the University of South Florida in Tampa). The reporter also visits the town of Cassadaga, a tiny place where future-seers hang signs on their mailboxes advertising their prophetic services, mostly based on palm-readings (available at a price). In a quandry as to whether Zora was the WPA worker who wrote the article about Cassadaga, the reporter needs to transplant herself into the past. If Zora had showed up in Cassadaga in 1938 snooping around, knocking at the doors of the town mediums, her future would have been a swift kick out of town. Segregation was still the law and blacks were not welcome. Zora’s work for the WPA Guide was relegated to “black” topics, which included conjure men and root doctors but not white spiritualists and mediums. But today, things are different in Cassadaga, where the spirit of brotherly love embraces money no matter the race of its owner.
It’s that time of the year when thoughts turn to escape! Getting out of the cold. Getting away from the reality of harsher places. Time to head south from north, or across the country to palm trees and beaches.
A how-to article on following Zora’s Florida roust-abouts just found some space in the New York Times.
And if that doesn’t satisfy your wanderlust, buy a copy of my film Jump at the Sun for the real story.
Bay Bottom News produced Jump at the Sun, a documentary on the life of anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston, in conjunction with PBS’ American Masters series.
Bay Bottom News, has created many highly-acclaimed films for local, state, and national distribution. A long time resident of Tampa-St. Pete , Producer-Writer Kristy Andersen takes special interest in productions that concern Florida’s environment, history, and culture.
Please visit our Credits page for a list of other people whose work and talent infused the documentary, and for a list of the funders and co-producers for the film.