The life of Zora Neale Hurston

Picture a small village where children play freely and women wash clothes in the river. It is a village where racism is nonexistent and people of color are not chained in slavery. This town was Eatonville, Florida, and in this town, Zora Neale Hurston was born.

Black collegians and fellow SMC students curled up from the drizzling rain on Tuesday, May 17, in ART 214 for the screening of Kristy Andersen's documentary, "Jump at the Sun," an inspiring movie about the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston.

Andersen portrays Hurston as a strong Afro-American woman that danced to the beat of her own drum. She was a woman that was not afraid to cross boundaries, and refused to let herself be held down in a segregated America, where skin color determined privilege.

Hurston was a forward thinker and full of life. Living in the early 1900s, when racism and slavery were commonplace in America, Hurston refused to see herself as "tragically colored."

Hurston developed an early interest for reading and writing. Reading fairy tales was her favorite thing to do as a child and she soon realized that she could get her voice heard through the use of her words. She later went on to become a journalist, novelist, and anthropologist.

People who knew Hurston described her as a rebel and a feisty woman with spunk. In many ways, she was ahead of her time. Race was not something that she cared about; by doing so she challenged the racial structure of her current time.

"I wanted to enlighten people about [Hurston]. She was a controversial voice and she wasn't accepting the way things were," director Andersen said about Hurston's work in celebrating and embracing black culture.

In her lifetime, Hurston wrote many articles about black celebration and wrote books. Critics praised "Mules and Men," which explored voodoo practices in black communities in Florida and New Orleans. Her autobiography, "Dust Tracks on a Road," was released in 1942 and was also successful among critics.

Anderson documented Hurston's life in an honorable fashion and she was happy to assist with answers for the questions raised by the audience. A returning topic was Hurton's skin color. "Had this woman been white, she would've been amazing. Her being black was phenomenal," said Andersen about Hurston's achievements. "She was the first writer to use the word ‘cool.'"

Zora Neale Hurston never wrote about the racism whites held against blacks. Instead, she believed in human justice, and left the rest up to the individual.

"Hurston teaches us to appreciate our own culture, no matter what the prevailing opinion is of that culture, and to not give in to popular trends that marginalize the unusual or the different," said Andersen. "The things that make us different are interesting."