Nine days of arts, culture, heritage in Eatonville

Highlights of the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival will include a national conference on communities of color in 21st-century America as well as performances by legendary artists.


The 28th Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities convenes this month and a highlight will be a first-ever national conference on communities of color will include prominent race and history professors from around the country.

Located in Central Florida, Eatonville is the oldest incorporated municipality in the United States.

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, a Florida-based historic preservation and cultural arts organization, will present ZORA!  Festival Jan. 20-29 in the historic town of Eatonville and other venues in Orange County.

For a full schedule of events, visit
For additional information on the festival, call 407-647-3307.

The festival is produced in honor of writer, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston every January. ZORA! Festival is a multi-day, multi-disciplinary event that commemorates the life of Hurston; her hometown, Eatonville; and the cultural contributions people of African ancestry have made to the United States and the world.

Top: There’s plenty of dancing at the annual event which draws festival goers from around the country.
Below left: Singer, songwriter and guitarist Jonathan Butler will perform on Jan. 29.
Below right: HBCU Greek and Masonic paraphernalia were available at the 25th annual festival.

“This 28th Annual ZORA! Festival will be recognized as one of the most impressive for outstanding programming across a broad range of offerings. Whether it’s the first-ever national conference on communities of color in 21st century America, or the superior offerings in arts, culture, heritage, and STEM for secondary school students, the festival will be dynamic,” said N.Y. Nathiri, executive director of the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community.

“This year is the inaugural ZORA! Golf Tournament as well as the Benefit Performance on behalf of the ZORA! Festival by the New York-based Woodie King, Jr.’s New Federal Theatre. I believe we can expect our guests to be gushing with delight,’’ she added.

Top: A crowd gathers at the International Food Court in Eatonville during a past Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.
Bottom left: The arts and humanities program engages the next generation of artists. These drawings were created by fourth-graders.
Bottom right: The legendary group, The Whispers, is scheduled to entertain festival goers on Jan. 28.

Professors from Harvard, Howard
The Communities Conference: Civic Conversations Concerning 21st Century American Life in Communities of Color will be presented in partnership with Rollins College in Winter Park. The conference has been organized in recognition of the 130th anniversary of the incorporation of historic Eatonville, popularly known as the oldest incorporated African-American municipality in the United States.

The multi-day conference will explore issues and concerns which occur over and over in communities of color as well as seek to determine ways of improving the quality of life for those persons who reside in them. It will be held at Rollins and St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church in Eatonville.

Featured presenters will include Eleanor Traylor, Ph.D., professor emerita, Howard University; Charles M. Blow, The New York Times; Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Ph.D., professor of History, Race and Public Policy, Harvard University; and Suzanne Young Murray, professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.

‘A Theatrical Biography’
Each year, the festival includes scholars, distinguished elders, fine artists and legendary entertainers. Festival producers have put together an amalgam of educational programming, cultural presentations, artists’ talks, expert workshops, heritage talks and tours, theatrical performances, musical concerts, themed parties and special events.

Another highlight will be a benefit performance by Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre of “Zora Neale Hurston: A Theatrical Biography’’ starring Elizabeth Van Dyke and Joseph Lewis Edwards.

This revival of the 1990s-era, award-winning production, is being funded in part by the Ford Foundation with additional support by Hollywood heavyweights Pauletta and Denzel Washington as well as LaTanya Richardson and Samuel L. Jackson.

Outdoor festival
Always the second weekend of the nine-day event, the Outdoor ZORA! Festival of the Arts will present a strong array of arts, culture, heritage as well as science and technology offerings for secondary school students along with fine arts, the master crafters lane, an authors’ row, and an an international marketplace.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, the iconic R&B group The Whispers will marquee Center Stage and the Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band SFB will perform. On Jan. 28, Grammy Award nominated jazz, R&B and gospel artist Jonathan Butler will perform as well as Henry Turner Jr. and Flavor from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Other key events
Zora’s Cosmos Mobile Tour is Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guests can visit historic sites in Eatonville and Maitland that inspired Hurston. They will be treated to a traditional Southern lunch made from locally-sourced ingredients.

The ZORA! Golf Tournament takes place at 7 a.m. on Jan. 27 with breakfast; shotgun is at 8 a.m. it will be held at MetroWest Golf Club. Participants can register at The tournament provides assistance to education programs that have served the Central Florida community for over 13 years while reaching over 3,500 students.

On Jan. 28, the HATitude Party & Brunch, celebrating Hurston’s love of hats, will take place at the Maitland Civic Center. Participants will model their hats at the event.

A traditional worship service will take place at St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church in Eatonville on Jan. 29 followed by the international marketplace.


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