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 i am certain classic blues women were a big influence on zora. moreover, i think zora

would have also been familiar with the writings of frances ellen harper 



Books by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God / Mules and Men  / Jonah’s Gourd Vine / Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica

Zora Neale Hurston : Novels and Stories / Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography

Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston: The Common Bond

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Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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zora smiles--kalamu 

at zora neale hurston festival 

(part 2 of 2)


valerie boyd in particular had a ton of information which she had synthesized into the best single work on the life of zora. valerie's book is "wrapped in rainbows" and it an unabashed, informed and female-focused interpretation of zora's life and not simply a factual biography. valerie was not writing a dissertation that she had to defend before a committee of ignorant experts—at one point dr. walls told of one of her advisors at harvard who was supposed to be on her committee who professed he didn't know who zora was and another who thought it insightful on his part to compare zora to f. scott fitzgerald. when the audience knowingly giggled at the absurdity, dr. walls demurely offered a partial explanation, "understand, that was quite a while ago."

and that's true. for many, many years zora was ignored and overlooked. today, now that their eyes were watching god is required reading for eleven-graders in ap english classes nationwide, we often forget that zora was once totally forgotten. thanks, initially in large part to robert hemingway and alice walker, there has been an immense revival of zora as a seminally important black writer. indeed, zora is better known now than ever before.

valerie reminded the audience that today we have the example of zora to inspire us, but zora did not have any examples to inspire her. i both agree and disagree with this assessment. here i need to remind folk that if we look to the mainstream, it is absolutely the case that there are no recognizable prototypes for zora, but if we look on the black hand side, we can find an unbroken and important path of black-oriented female artists whose focus was the black community and whose aim was self-determination.

for example the twenties (commonly called the harlem renaissance, but much more accurately identified as the garvey era, stretching roughly from the end of world war 1 to the beginning of the great depression) gave us the example of so many important women in music that the era is known as the classic blues era—chief among these musical matriarchs are bessie smith and ma rainey, but there were many, many others. these prototypes were mythologized in alice walker's the color purple and in angela davis' book on blues women [Blues Legacies and Black Feminists], as well as in an essay i did called "do right women: black women, eroticism and classic blues."

here is where we find independent, self-determined black women making a stand. given zora's pedigree and temperament, i am certain classic blues women were a big influence on zora. moreover, i think zora would have also been familiar with the writings of frances ellen harper, who predated paul dunbar, although i am equally certain that harper's christian and temperance themes might not have been quite the brew that zora imbibed. nevertheless, my point is that there were precursors, influences, examples for zora outside of the mainstream, which is, after all, where zora was located for all of her earthly life, i.e. outside american white bread ordinary and deep in the funk of black field folk.

too often those of us in the here and now somehow assume that we are the first negroes to really think and act freely, that before us was all woe-is-me, what-ise-gonna-do-? don't we know that as long as there have been black folk there have been hip folk, somewhere, some of us quite clear about ourselves and our relationship to the world? are we so successfully propagandized by our captors that we really believe that free black thought didn't exist before slave masters?!!! Didn’t exist before us, their educated-bastard offspring? it is significant, but not surprising, that zora was a woman on a mission, a mission to collect and thereby elevate negroes souls.

as valerie boyd broke it down during that talk show panel—zora was making movies of black folk in the twenties. in the twenties. zora neale hurston got hold of a movie camera and recorded us. black folk. valerie found the footage in the library of congress. i remember valerie showing some of it at a session at the national black arts festival. my point is that zora is stellar, a stellar continuance of a timeless tradition of black intellectual/artistic resistance to the status quo. folk upliftment. unapologetic field hollas magnified as academic/artistic achievement.

during one of the numerous breaks in the panel, faye williams of sisterspace in dc came up to the front. i, as is often my want, was sitting on the first row. after greeting the panelists, faye turned to me and we hugged and exchanged good cheer. sisterspace was evicted last year and have been going thru some changes getting themselves re-situated. faye said there were some lights glimmering around the bend—i hope it all works out.

we talked a bit about the fate of bookstores. faye was quick to point out that the bookstore per se was simply a location to do their community building work, a space for womyn, programs for the elderly, literacy. they made their money via contracts with school systems to supply books not from through the door sales. and then we talked a bit about the old days, back in the late seventies when i was invited to speak in tallahassee at the university and faye was on the planning committee and was one half of the welcoming duo that picked me up at the airport.

we have been a long, long time on this road. i thought about walking down u street in dc, coming from sylvia hill's house where i was staying, headed to howard university to hook up with haile gerima, and i passed a sign for sisterspace books, and was curious, but it was closed at that particular hour in the early morning, and i made a mental note to return later, which i did, and there was reunited with faye, and that must have been six or seven years ago, i had not known faye was running that set, had simply been interested and curious, and followed up, but, you know, i really believe, really, really believe, if you get on the path you will meet others on the same path, and all you have to do is get out there and travel the spaceways, like-minded folk will be encountered.

all kinds of folk were swirling around the place. a duo of two middle-aged white men who have spent years trying to make a zora neale hurston movie. a sister who is organizing a festival in may in fort pierce (hope i got that right), florida, the burial spot of zora. and that was just on the first two rows where i was.

all three of the women on the panel had books. dr. wall did two volumes collecting zora’s work for the american library series. every black library needs to have one, if not both of those volumes. dr. gatson has speak, so you can speak again: the life of zora neale hurston, a book that includes a cd on which you can hear zora’s voice. i’ve already mentioned valerie’s rainbow book, but i’ll re-mention it because the book is just that important.

at the conclusion, i felt like a pilgrim in mecca or a baptist minister spending easter sunday in jerusalem, i felt fulfilled. one last comment. i can’t resist. the image of this trio of sisters was so negroidal. their visages warmed my heart, made me smile.

dr. wall had beautiful baby braids. valerie had two foot long dreads. dr. gatson had a medium length afro. i know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but i also know the conformity damn near required by the academy, and for these three women to present themselves with unpressed hair is more than simply a stylistic statement. natural hair is defiance. ask condoleezza. i think yall catch my drift.

the next panel was a doozy. dr. richard long was moderating dr. eleanor traylor and amiri baraka. from the giddy-up we knew we were in for a ride when eleanor started off by describing how the city she inhabits, a city known for it’s maples, cherry trees, oaks, and such other wonderful flora was being overrun by bushes. aug man, you should have been there. you know how the old folks can talk bad about you with a mouth full of honey, well, this sugarly sarcastic opening achieved the perfect balance of insult and innocuousness, especially when she described how the citizens had tried to stamp out the bushes but they were proliferating.

it was an absolute scream. and the session ended, at dr. traylor insistence, with baraka reading his poem “in the tradition,” a read which grew in intensity as he progressed through the pages long ode. at first he was settling into a perfunctory reading (and of course amiri’s perfunctory is most poets’ excellent), but before he had thrown the first page to the floor, he kind of hunched forward a little, caught fire and was gone like sun ra on a good night. afterwards john scott told me baraka’s reading reminded him of coltrane. yes, it was that smoking.

there were long exchanges about spirituality and self determination and independence, and zora’s request to dr. dubois that a cemetery be constructed to memorialize our race. eleanor and baraka were trading intellectual volleys, and dr. long sat above the fray like a field judge, occasionally inserting a word or two, just to keep the ball in play. by the time they finished, the civic center was abuzz. all was well. for sure zora was smiling.

that was a wrap. there was a night program scheduled but i had resolved to watch serena play the australian finals at 9pm. by now, most of you know she won, some of you saw the match, and all of us feel somewhat empowered by her example of fortitude and determination. we’ve had so little to cheer about of late, serena’s win was an important cup of cool water as we traverse through the bush of the opening years of the 21st century.

saturday was the closing day of the festival. it was anti-climatic as far as i am concerned. the zora festival is fighting through these tough times. they have decentralized the events in an effort to broaden their support base, and though it is effective as a fundraiser it has created all kinds of logistic nightmares.

for example the magnificent photographer/installation artist carrie mae weems is here, but i have not seen her. don’t know exactly where her exhibit is. and unless she is headed out to the airport 7:30am sunday morning will probably not see her at all. the hotel is one part of the countryside. the civic center is over somewhere else. eatonville is miles away. who knows where the exhibit spot is. the shuttle runs on a combination of cpt and soon come. the staff is over taxed with responsibilities. this year’s event runs more because all the participants do their best to make it run and to be of good cheer as problem after problem pops up. we all are committed to making it happen. committed to confronting and overcoming whatever snafus. all is not well, but every little thing is going to be alright.

general manager n. y. nathiri has successfully handled the never-ending sisyphusian task of rolling the zora festival rock up the never-ending hill of floridian indifference and occasional hostility. 16 years is a long time to battle ghosts and paddy rollers, to outfox government officials who not-so-secretly believe our people ought to be in zoos and penitentiaries. but n.y. and crew have done the do and deserve kudos for holding on and keeping on.

saturday morning some folk elected to go to the “hattitude” event, which was based on the happening of hats, the dizzying array of stylistic choices offered up by black folk with self-designed skypieces, especially those matronly mash-ups which are a combination of crown and spaceships, known to land atop mature heads on sunday mornings. i understand there was a contest and i’m sure it was delightful, however i decide to attend the outdoor event.

the outdoor festival rolled along as outdoor festival do. a quarter block long stretch of food booths (mostly fried fish and chicken wings) and craft booths of all sorts, including a dj selling soul compilation mix-cds, which undoubtedly were bootlegs. i believe he had about 18 different mixes. a lot of african crafts and material. saw some really attractive malian mudcloth. the big attraction was isaac hayes at 3pm.

i looked forward to that. spent most of my time in the new children’s library typing up part one of this report. about 2:30 or so wondered over toward the stage, ran into baraka buying beer, we walked through the crowd to the opposite side of the stage, to get to which we had to loop around through a good-natured, smiling throng of negroes. that felt good as it always feels good to be anywhere bunches of us are with food, music and good vibes. caught up to jerry ward and eleanor traylor who were also waiting for isaac hayes.

about five minutes after 3pm, ike’s procession rolls up to the stage. he is wearing a black leather kofi perched atop his bald dome. once onstage he drops a lengthy introduction taking us back to his childhood and early years in music, turns out most of his band is stuck in atlanta where there was an ice storm. so some quick adjustments are made, and a make-shift band is constructed. they do mostly isaac hayes hits.

i had been looking forward to hearing a set like three years ago when al jarreau was incandescent, but without his band, there was only so much ike could do. so i split, bought a seafood plate and eventually made it back to the hotel. i turned in early around 7pm, deciding to skip the closing gala featuring maya angelou. i’m sure it was a grand and glorious occasion, but not for me.

i’m still all kinds of hyped behind the zora panel. seeing all kinds of possibilities. it’s 4am now. i got up about 11:30pm and will work straight through until it’s time to go back home. another one bites the dust. and that’s my report on the 16th annual zora neale hurston festival of the arts and humanities.

posted 1 February 2005

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Zora Neale Hurston, folklorist and writer, became a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston was born and educated in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black city in the United States. At the age of 16, she left her home to work with a traveling theatrical company. The company ended up in New York City , where Hurston studied anthropology at Columbia University. She then attended Howard University as well as Barnard College.

In 1931, Hurston collaborated with Langston Hughes to write the play Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts. She wrote her most acclaimed work, Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. After writing her autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road) in 1942, she went on to teach at what is now North Carolina Central University. Her work, revived by feminists in the 1970s, has gained her considerable recognition as one of the most important black writers in American history.

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Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography

By Robert E. Hemenway (Author) / Foreword by Alice Walker


Zora Neale Hurston—novelist, folklorist, anthropologist, and child of the rural black South—transformed each hour of her life into something bubbling, exuberant, and brimming with her joy in just being. Robert Hemenway captures the effervescence of this daughter of the Harlem Renaissance in his brilliant and original literary biography. He provides for the first time a full length study of Hurston's life and art, using unpublished letters and manuscripts and personal interviews with many who knew her.

His sensitive reconstruction of Miss Hurston's life  details her two marriages, her relations with her patron, Mrs. R. Osgood Mason, her mentor, Franz Boas, and her friend Langston Hughes; her indictment on a morals charge in 1948; and the sad, final years leading to her death as a penniless occupant of a Florida welfare home. But most important, his interpretation of her art and scholarship, including her extraordinary novels, autobiography, and popular treatment of black folkways, underscores her deep and abiding commitment to the black folk tradition.

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Ida Cox (February 25, 1896 – November 10, 1967) was an African American singer and vaudeville performer, best known for her blues performances and recordings. She was billed as "The Uncrowned Queen of the Blues" Cox was born in February, 1896 as Ida Prather in Toccoa, Habersham County, Georgia (Toccoa was in Habersham County, not yet Stephens County at the time), the daughter of Lamax and Susie (Knight) Prather, and grew up in Cedartown, Georgia, singing in the local African Methodist Church choir.

She left home to tour with travelling minstrel shows, often appearing in blackface into the 1910s; she married fellow minstrel performer Adler Cox. By 1920, she was appearing as a headline act at the 81 Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia; another headliner at that time was Jelly Roll Morton. . . .—Wikipedia


Ida Cox—Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues


Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues

                                            By Ida Cox

I hear these women raving 'bout their monkey men
About their trifling husbands and their no good friends
These poor women sit around all day and moan
Wondering why their wandering papa's don't come home
But wild women don't worry, wild women don't have no blues

Now when you've got a man, don't never be on the square
'Cause if you do he'll have a woman everywhere
I never was known to treat no one man right
I keep 'em working hard both day and night
'Cause wild women don't worry, wild women don't have their blues

I've got a disposition and a way of my own
When my man starts kicking I let him find another home
I get full of good liquor, walk the streets all night
Go home and put my man out if he don't act right
Wild women don't worry, wild women don't have their blues

You never get nothing by being an angel child
You better change your ways and get real wild
I wanna tell you something, I wouldn't tell you a lie
Wild women are the only kind that ever get by
wild women don't worry, wild women don't have their blues.

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Video: "South Side Story" Ta-Nehisi Coates author of The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood discusses Michelle Obama with Paul Coates an outspoken publisher and former Black Panther—his father.

“American Girl" (Ta Nehesi Coates)

When Michelle Obama told a Milwaukee campaign rally last February, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country," critics derided her as another Angry Black Woman. But the only truly radical proposition put forth by Obama, born and raised in Chicago's storied South Side, is the idea of a black community fully vested in the country at large, and proud of the American dream.

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 2 February 2012




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Related files:  Zora Neale Hurston Chronology  The Black Joan of Arc  zora smiles  zora smiles 2  Court Order Can't Make Races Mix  Zora Neale Hurston Choreographer  What White Publishers Won't Print  

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