While we read multiple texts by Zora Neale Hurston, her foray into the world of film would also be interesting. I think it would also serve as a great segue to Daughters of the Dust because some of the film is concerned with the religious practice of the Gullah people of South Carolina. Her film is of real Southerners working in the fields in the `1920s and its nature as a documentary film would contribute a lot to the reality of life in the South during the Jim Crow era. As well as potentially contributing significantly to the class, it is easily found on Youtube.
It is very hard to find films of this time by Black directors and Hurston, through her documentary footage, fills this gap. Instead of having to consider the exploitation of Black actors and a Black audience, instead the viewer can focus on the true to life nature of the video. It is also drastically different to the films of the era in that it is obviously not a Hollywood production with lavish sets and carefully thought out blocking. Instead, it is just what Hurston saw in her travels and shows, directly, the Black experience of the time.
The first prompt about the differences in kinds of love explored within the novel is really interesting. It seems as though Eros flows through the boys easily and naturally. This is also true of Gabriel. John and Elisha wrestle and feel something, something that is a sin in their eyes. Elisha’s first reaction is that they can use this to prevent themselves from sinning in the eyes of God. Eros also comes easy for Gabriel. In his night spent with the sex-worker, he succumbs easily to the natural sensation of lust. But unlike his child, he is not able to find Agape with the Lord. John asks God for his love and feels as though he has found it. However, Gabriel struggles to find the will to ask for it. Agape seems to be harder to come by and often arises from a place of sadness as evidenced by the somber song sung. Often, it is not offered but asked for.
Prompt seven forced me to google the word threshing. Threshing, specifically when done with a floor is the act of having donkeys or bulls walking in a circle grinding grain until it flakes away and is left on the threshing floor. From there, a fan or fork is used to move the lighter, useless pieces of the grain from the floor. Next the farmer waits for the wind to reveal the meat of the crop. When Elisha falls to the floor, he is becoming the grain. A heavy, valuable piece that the Lord has chosen as useful. The song and words function as the wind and act of threshing. It has taken him down to only the essential aspect of him as a person, his faith and love.
Learning of the interpretations of the story of Ruth and Naomi in the bible the song written by the choir director takes a different meaning. Initially when reading the story, I thought that maybe the comment made by John was a reference to a potential relationship but the story from the bible makes it much clearer. The idea of cleaving oneself from society and norms for love appears to be a very real aspect to this story. Lyrically, it makes a lot of sense, the song mentions leaving and following a person. Perhaps this is a reference to the choir director following Delly to Paris and them being able to live a much freer life there. Ruth and Naomi left and were able to live full lives without the norms of the time just as Delly and the director should.
John seems to not approve of this. Despite the fact that Delly is the best singer many of the parishioners have ever heard, John does not enjoy the fact his son is no longer interested in sports or the things that he wishes him to be. His comment of “one down, one to go,” makes a lot of sense because he sees the director and his son in some sort of unholy bond and he wishes his son would faint to stop his embarrassment.
American Football was very interesting to me. The line “I wanted to be a trophy before I wanted to be a man” hits at a point seldom made in American sports. Especially at the professional level, the vast majority of team owners are white and the vast majority of players are black. The men that play for these owners are often sought after like trophies and seen as simply a means to an end.
The other aspect of this poem that I found very interesting was the usage of violence. Football is an extremely violent sport that encourages a lack of humanity. Many players struggle with having an on field persona of violence and having an off field persona of something different. I think Coleman is dead on in that many players cannot turn off their violent tendencies and open their heart to anything. The exploitation and corruption of these men is not spoken about very often but this poem does it extremley well.
I understand why the little boy in The Sky is Grey gives the preacher so much grief. The white slave owners were not benevolent in introducing Christianity to their slaves. They taught them a very specific kind of Christianity that encouraged docility in the face of violent oppression. In that way, the little boy is on to something. Something that his elder cannot understand. There has always been a divide between young and old but I imagine that it must have been something entirely different than what it is now.
It is fairly easy to see why Nothing But a Man was Malcolm X’s favorite movie. It feels very rebellious and has much of the same tone as the child in The Sky is Grey. I really like how the main character is able to introduce the idea of being unable to trust what white people have given them without the other party resorting to physical violence. Through these two films, it becomes easy to see what must have been a real debate within the community and probably one that persists today. It makes sense that any religion given by white people would certainly be a conflict of interest.
There are multiple schools of thought on the race relations between whites and African Americans. One of these is the White Backlash theory. This theory proposes that after the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, white Americans began to take action against the progressive policies that had been enacted. However, it is very evident, to me at least, that this backlash existed in many other forms besides the political racist dogwhistles of the 70s. Melba discusses this at length throughout her Memoir. There are scenes of pure hatred towards her and the other members of the Little Rock Nine. Despite the fact that schools were supposed to be integrated, whites were hostile and violent towards these children. The only white person who actually appeared to care was Link.
Choosing Little Rock was a conscious decision by the NAACP. Little Rock’s white community had responded to previous integration efforts in other areas with relative docility. Schools were instantly a different story. The backlash was instant. Danger abounded for these children due to the vile hatred and hostility at the time. Link however, portrayed as a hero in the book, was decent to Melba. I suspect there were ulterior motives. It appears pretty evident that Link was not just interested in her as a friend and when he found out that she chose another white guy over him, he cut off contact. Because of this, his image is soiled to me and the White Backlash theory prevails.
Jessica H. Howard’s Article, Hallelujah! Transformation in film, really demonstrates how significant the style of filmmaking and incorporation of music in Hallelujah! was to the creation of its genre. Prior to this movie, music had served as a backing track that sought to provide ambience and was often added as a contributing factor to the film. In this movie, that idea was flipped on its head and music played an integral role in shaping the story and moving the plot. Not only was the idea of music adding to a movie in this matter revolutionary, so too was the nature in which it was administered. King Vidor painstakingly added the soundtrack to the movie to line up with the scenes after recording it in a studio. This strategy changed folk-music films forever.
This article also brought to light, what King Vidor thought, was an extremely important aspect of the black experience at this time. He felt that music was integral to all aspects of black life. This is made evident through the emergence of music anytime an important event occurred in the plot or Zeke had to make a decision. When this happened, the scene began to shift and Zeke or whichever character the scene was centered around migrated their inflection to singing. Often placing other characters in a trancelike state where they were moved to choose between the lord or their own sexual desires. This dichotomy really changed how I saw the film. Without seeing Chick and Zeke as two ends of a dichotomy the film feels aimless with a simple plot and lesson. However, after understanding this the films feels more like a story of someone caught between two sides of themself that are in total opposition.