Obituary: On bell hooks, a Black Girl Who Liked Us


Bell Hooks, pioneering feminist scholar, author, professor and critic, died December 15 at the age of 69 because of kidney failurecorresponding The New York Times. Her family announced her death via Twitter, stating, “We are proud to simply call her a sister, friend, confidante and influencer.” Death is all we are guaranteed in life, but we believed bell hooks would do us all survive. Hooks gave us the freedom to think freely; we needed their insight in times like these.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Bell Hooks believed from an early age that she would become a writer. Her father, Veodis Watkins, worked for the Postal Service as an overseer. Her mother, Rosa Bell Watkins, was a domestic worker. hooks received a scholarship to attend Stanford University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1973; her dissertation was running Tony Morrison. For Hooks, Morrison was a writer, which helped her visualize herself more clearly as a writer. During her sophomore year, after being angered by the liberal sensibilities on the Stanford campus and the mistreatment of black women in feminist spaces, she began writing her first book. Am I Not a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. She continued to work on it while pursuing her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Cruz. am i not a woman was published by South End Press in 1981 and established Hooks not only as a feminist theorist but also as a critic of the feminist movement.

Stuart Hall’s “politics of articulation” – the idea that culture does not stagnate, that it can always change, negotiate and challenge – comes to mind when I think of Bell Hooks’ work. She wrote extensively about class, race, gender and culture. In the preface to Feminist Theory: From the Edge to the Center, she wrote: “Being on the fringes means being part of the whole, but outside the main body.” She later continued, “Living like this – on the edge – we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked both outside-in and inside-out. We focused our attention on both the center and the rim.” We understood both.” Hooks understood that the rim was not just a vantage point from which to see the world; she knew it as a place of political urgency, Resistance, affirmation and celebration of our humanity – and as a way to take control of our joys and destinies.

In an interview with Cornel West, bell hooks spoke about her decision not to use footnotes in am i not a woman She shared that she spent a lot of time contemplating whether or not to use them; she spoke to non-academic black people and asked them if they read books with footnotes. hooks was concerned with what kind of “codes”, apart from interest, tell a people that a certain book is not for them. Footnotes meant distance, inaccessibility. Her analysis not only gave us language to say what we naturally believed: it gave us direction. Hook’s analysis was a compass that led young thinkers to new forms of black theory. Her work was basic and easy to understand. In it, she is reminded that her work has never been self-serving. Her work was motivated by the belief that we cannot fundamentally transform a capitalist, patriarchal society unless we understand the specifics and complexities of Black life.

I encountered her work as a teenager, scrolling aimlessly through Tumblr, from grief over the death of my father. all about love helped me process his death. It made me understand that if I was going to be open to love, I had to be open to grief as well. Where we stand: Class matters helped me get through college as a poor, working-class student. She spoke refreshingly about social mobility and how she became involved in her critique of elitism by confronting her own elitism after accumulating new wealth. art in my head contains one of the best essays I have read on Basquiat. I resort to it often because we – those of us on the fringes – cannot allow others to have authority over our culture and art. Hooks rejected any attempt to allow the white gaze to dictate how we see ourselves.

Bell Hooks was a prolific writer, fearless in her commitment to black culture. She wasn’t interested in sharing truisms, but in challenging us to think more carefully about what we see and what we consume. Hooks helped generations of thinkers uncover the truths we wrestle from uncertain realities. Her theory was constantly in search of new ways of being, a more fulfilling life. She reminded us that when we are loving and fearless in our demands for a better world, we are full of imagination because we all share a common present and future.

Her writing about love is her most popular work and its importance cannot be underestimated. Ultimately, however, Bell Hooks’ love revealed itself to us in their desire to be accessible, to look at every facet of black life and make it worthy of in-depth exploration. There wasn’t a subject she didn’t write carefully about. While she didn’t speak explicitly about love, love for her people — especially black women — has always been in her work.

Bell Hooks made me realize that death is not final. Some people will live forever, immortal in their words and their impact on the rest of the world. Bell Hooks is one of those people.

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