The Frisky has an awesome series of images and stories about black women writers and artists, that are not as often heard of, including Ntozake Shange, Judith Jamison, and my very favorite Zora Neale Hurston.
I recently re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God, for the book I am writing, because I was reminded of Hurston’s ability to write a story about finding love in a time when it was very difficult for a black woman to do so and have her story be heard on her own terms. Rereading it as an adult gave it a new political resonance and importance that I had not felt as a teenager, when I had first read it. Reading it again also made think about how difficult it still is for women of color to defy cultural norms when it comes to finding love.
There Eyes Were Watching God was more than just a love story, it also carved out a space for those who were female and black and their unique struggles between race and gender. Through reading about notable author Richard Wright’s squabbles with Hurston, I was given an early language for how to negotiate sexual identity politics with nationalist sentiments for the place of my “people” and what is considered the rightful place of women. It is her legacy that I remember when I am fighting with my favorite hip-hop heads about sexism in lyrics and pornographic style videos or fighting in the field of movement building that places gender and race as diametrically opposed.
Hurston carved out a story of intersectionality before there was a term for it, before there was a way to understand someone as complex and outside of their lived experience as black, female, oppressed and poor. And for that I remember her this month and am eternally grateful for her work.