What Rollins Students Learned from Zora! Fest

Rollins students celebrate the history and culture of Eatonville and reflect on topics of race and social class.

Images of Zora Neale Hurston at Rollins College Archives & Special Collections. Images of Zora Neale Hurston at Rollins College Archives & Special Collections.

Following Rollins College’s weeklong celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., students had the opportunity to participate in Zora! Fest, an annual festival that commemorates the history and culture of the oldest incorporated African-American municipality in the United States—Eatonville, Florida. In addition, the festival also addresses issues of race and social class.

This year, events took place January 21–29 at various locations on the Rollins College campus and in nearby Eatonville. The festival is named for the town's most notable resident, author Zora Neale Hurston, who is considered the dominant female voice of the Harlem Renaissance era.

Students from in the English course Image/Texts, taught by Visiting Associate Professor Amy Parziale, submitted writing assignments based on the various Zora! Fest events they attended.

Check out what the students had to say about the Communities Conference portion of the festival:

On the Grassroots breakout session on city preservation with the Yards & Gardens Club of Eatonville:
“It is more than a garden with fresh produce to them—it has become something that they take pride in and dedicate a lot of time to. It comes full circle when you see their hard work create valuable resources needed to ensure the health of their community. It was clear why these women were discussing the garden that is an authentic Eatonville. It is a place where love is put in and spread throughout the community. – Morgan Colley ’17

“The experience altogether was incredibly informative and inspiring” – Maria Morales ’17

On the “What’s Going On in College Campuses” breakout session:
“I was truly enlightened to aspects of diversity—particularly racial diversity—and the ways that can affect students and faculty alike. We should embrace diversity rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, otherwise, the identities of marginalized students are erased. The UCF student on the panel perhaps said it best: ‘People who say they don’t see color are ignoring a vital and beautiful part of who someone is.’" – Chloe Sybert ’17

On Navajo water rights at the Quality of Life Environmental Justice panel:
“Getting goosebumps listening to the nation’s new reality: environmental destruction.” – Jennifer Estrada ’17 via Twitter

On Rollins College’s partnership with the Zora! Festival:
“It is very important to interact with our community and not discriminate against anyone. That’s what I love about Rollins; it is all about giving back to the community and accepting others. The more we have a mutual, beneficial relationship with the people around us, the better.” – Raven Olson

“So thankful I go to a school where they offer so much. This week was the Zora! Fest and I attended a breakout session about living beyond your paycheck. It helped me understand that money is not something I should just blow through.” – Raven Olson via Twitter