Organized in 1934 in a humble East Harlem apartment, New York’s Casita Maria was a place to provide Hispanic families with the educational support needed in their new homeland. It was a place where “the young could lead their parents and their community to full participation in the American Dream.” Among the “Casita Kids” alumnus were Tito Puente, Rita Moreno, and Tina Ramirez, the founder of Ballet Hispanico. The little apartment eventually became the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education and moved from Harlem into the South Bronx. This past summer, it moved into a brand new beautiful building, complete with a new theatre.
And that’s where Zora comes into the picture. On November 5, a slew of educators will meet and screen the film and discuss how to use the film and Zora’s books in their classrooms. I know those teachers and their students will take heed of the films message that their native culture is important, that there’s no need to assimilate into the culture du jour. Hopefully, we’re past the point when we all need to talk, look, and act alike – after all, America is a big melting pot, which is what keeps us vital and fresh.
Thanks to Carolyn Butts and African Voices Magazine for including the film in her many important undertakings.
JUMP AT THE SUN has won a position in the Southern Circuit lineup for 2010-11.
The Southern Circuit film festival is an older festival devoted to bringing films to a Southern audience. It is a competition and the winning films make the rounds to some distinctively Southern addresses. My film JUMP AT THE SUN has been picked to be one of the films in the Southern Circuit, and in March it will be traveling to some very choice spots, including the BB King Museum in Indianola, MS, Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, The Arts Council in Gainesville, GA, Madison-Morgan Cultural Center in Madison, GA, and Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN.
The 2010-2011 Southern Circuit is a program of South Arts. Southern Circuit screenings are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and local partner organizations. Special support for Southern Circuit was provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
For a list of all the films, dates, and venues, click here.
Thursday night, August 5, there will be a screening of Jump at the Sun at the Tampa Bay History Museum in downtown Tampa at 7P. Along with Q+A from the filmmaker, Dr. Lois Gaston from the Zora Neale Hurston Trust will be attending.
Now that’s history I can relate to!
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.
When Zora Neale Hurston died, both of her publishers provided money for a gravestone that never materialized.
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.