Solange Commemorates Zora Neale Hurston’s Role In Her Identity As A Black Woman

It’s hard to not be an angry black woman in today’s society. But when has it actually been easy to fight that temptation? On Tuesday (April 18), Solange Knowles joined BBC Radio 4 with “Seriously…” for a documentary segment to attest to just how much literary giant Zora Neale Hurston contributed to her own growth, blossoming beyond the narrative of the “angry black woman.”

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The Grammy-winning artist discusses her early 20-something encounter with Hurston’s work, saying that she started “where most people started,” indulging in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Standing firm in the influence the accredited Harlem Renaissance author had on her, Knowles verifies “so many things in that book were relevant in my life at the time and I applied that to my life at the time as a sense of strength and grace.”

The songwriter continues to praise Hurston’s short story Sweat, and how much color the tale of a washerwoman and her husband was able to paint for her.

The most captivating aspect of Zora Neale Hurston’s work, if you let the “Cranes In The Sky” artist tell it, is her ability to dissemble the angry black woman and present a rare alternative narrative. Even though Solange clarifies that when she was first exposed to Hurston’s work, she wasn’t in the same place in her life, she believes Hurston’s collection defined the groundwork for “joy, grace, and power in [her] stride, [her] walk, [her] artistry, and in her craft.” She continues her praises by pointing out one of the most powerful things Hurston’s body of work exudes: “Yes, I feel discriminated, but it doesn’t make me angry. It astonished me because you are missing out on my glory, and my spirit and my energy and all that I have to give to this world. It’s such an incredible perspective and powerful way to exist in the world.”

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The remainder of the broadcast titled “A Woman Half In Shadow,” featured a slew of other artists and purveyors who discussed Hurston’s almost-neglected influence. Another of the interviewees and author, Alice Walker, traveled to Zora Neale Hurston’s unmarked grave site to decorate it with a “gravestone declaring Zora ‘A Genius Of The South’.” Walker once said: “A people do not throw their geniuses away. And if they are thrown away, it is our duty as artists and as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children, and, if necessary, bone by bone.”

Jackie Kay hosts the broadcast, while Caitlin Smith produced it, 80 years the senior of Their Eyes Were Watching God. The rest of those interviewed included world-renowned poet Sonia Sanchez, The Guardian’s Editor-at-Large Gary Younge and Hurston’s biographer Valerie Boyd.

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