Posters of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities line the streets of Eatonville this week, and University of Central Florida students are capturing the celebration for future generations.
The 22nd-annual international festival celebrates the life and legacy of writer, folklorist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, an Alabama native who later called Central Florida home. UCF’s connections to Hurston and the festival also run deep.
The Zora Neale Hurston Institute for Documentary Studies will document the festival and archive its performances, lectures and community events in the UCF Library for people to access and study Eatonville’s history. The institute is interviewing the families of the town’s original 19 founders and will be preserving their stories in the Library.
“Through the eyes of Zora, the institute attempts to preserve the underserved communities so that future generations can know what was accomplished,” said Film Professor Anthony B. Major, the program director of the Zora Neale Hurston Institute for Documentary Studies, which is housed in the College of Arts and Humanities Dean’s Office.
The Zora Festival in partnership with UCF will feature “A Powerful Noise,” which begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the UCF Library. This screening is free and open to the public. UCF’s Film Department will feature the film “Night Catches Us,” scheduled for noon Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Enzian Theater. This screening costs $10 and is open to the public.
A discussion with local psychologist Lauren Josephs and Irina Morozova, a professor at Moscow University, will follow the screening of “A Powerful Noise.”
While at the Library, visitors can tour the exhibit “The Zora Neale Hurston Forum: Womanism, Feminism and Gender Issues.” Some of the art in the exhibit is part of the William L. Bryant West Indies Collection.
UCF graduate students in an English literary issues course worked with Associate Professor Anna Lillios on the exhibit, which seeks to educate the community about women and gender rights as they have evolved through history. The students also researched gender issues in Eatonville, particularly in education and the workforce. The exhibit runs through Monday, Jan. 31.
Lillios also is the author of “Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.” The two writers became friends during the height of their literary careers, and their friendship was dramatic given the racial barriers at the time.
Last year, The Zora Neale Hurston Digital Archive, the only academic website on Hurston, was introduced at the festival by Lillios, Mark L. Kamrath and J.D. Applen. The site serves as a resource for scholars and students to find background information regarding Hurston’s life and work.
“The connection we have with Eatonville is great,” said Lillios. “The people of Eatonville are very welcoming and kind, and this is a way for UCF to give back.”
UCF will host this year’s Zora! Festival Awards Gala “Honoring Women of Achievement”at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management on Saturday, Jan. 29, starting at 7:30 p.m.
For a complete schedule of events, visit 2011 Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.