because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Zora Neale Hurston

One night in 1925, at a literary awards dinner, Zora Neale Hurston (who had herself won four of the awards that night) entered the ballroom, threw a long, brightly colored scarf over her shoulder and around her neck with a flourish and bellowed, "Coloooor Struuuuck!" (the name of one of her plays).  And that's just the way this in-your-face woman rolled.

As a child, Hurston's mother had told her "Jump at the sun.  You might not land on the sun, but at least you'll get off the ground."  And that's what Hurston did.  As an anthropologist who spent time in Haiti and Honduras.  As one of the shining lights of the Harlem Renaissance.  And as a writer of novels, short stories, essays, articles, plays, folklore collections, and even an autobiography.  As one of her circle once said, "When Zora was there, she was the party."

Some were put off by her rejection of the idea of racial integration in schools, but Hurston had grown up in a wonderful all-Black community and she was convinced that White Supremacy would do more damage to African-American children in a White-controlled school system than it could in a system run by Blacks for Blacks -- as long as the funding was equal.  "Deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it," she wrote, "even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways."

Cast out into the world at thirteen when she beat her brand new stepmother almost to death with her fists, Hurston's underlying principle seemed to be, as she later wrote: "Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear."  Good advice for other in-your-face women, don't you think?

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