Jamila Woods • "ZORA"
“You will never know everything, everything, and you don't know me, couldn't possibly. . .”
Jamila Woods is back. But then, she never really left. Since 2016’s HEAVN, the Pushcart Prize-winning poet, associate artistic director for Young Chicago Authors, and CPS curriculum designer has been busy leaving a bright mark on the city.
On Tuesday, she heralded her sophomore album, Legacy! Legacy! with the release of a new single, “ZORA,” inspired by legendary writer, anthropologist, and activist, Zora Neale Hurston. The single follows 2018’s “Giovanni” —after poet Nikki Giovanni—which will also be on Legacy! Legacy!
We now know that Woods’ next album will be a collection of 13 songs inspired by prominent, socially conscious, Black creatives. The announcement was accompanied by a live session recording of Woods and her band performing “ZORA” in the stacks at the Rebuild Foundation's Johnson Publishing Media Library, located at the Stony Island Arts Bank.
On “ZORA,” Woods commits to verse that unique othering that is being the only Black face in a seemingly endless procession of white spaces, “I’ve always been the only, every classroom, every home.” It’s an experience the artist shares with Hurston herself. The writer, though born in historically Black Eatonville, Florida, was formally educated in white schools. Like Hurston, Woods refused to be defined, discouraged, or drained by often hostile surroundings, “your words don’t leave scars, believe me, I’ve heard them all.”
By contextualizing Woods’ struggle with Hurston’s, “ZORA” sounds backward through time to tap into a well of power and pride that has survived diaspora. Defiantly, Woods declares, “I may be small, I may speak soft, but you can see the change in the water . . .”
Legacy! Legacy! drops May 10th.