‘Unapologetic within the Prioritization of Black Girls’: bell hooks Remembered by Cherished Ones

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Malaklou, now the inaugural director of the recently opened Berea College bell hook centerspeaks with gratitude of her friendship with Hooks and acknowledges that she had access to her personal and worldly sides while others celebrated her socialite and academic career.

During the last three years of Bell Hooks’ life, she and Malaklou became close friends and confidants. She would sometimes call Malaklou to share McDonald’s cheeseburgers, even in the middle of class. Hooks are also known to have had endless cravings for Juicy Fruit Gum: “She asked me to order it for her in batches from Amazon,” says Malaklou.

The rest of the world probably knows Hooks best through her most popular books.Feminism is for everyone,” “teach transgression” and “All About Love: New Visions‘ which re-emerged as a New York Times bestseller despite its publication in 2000 amid the pandemic.

Since Hook’s death on December 15, social media has been deluged with praise and poignant reflections on nearly three decades of her work in feminism, teaching and theory. Many noted the accessibility of her language as well as her willingness to write from her life experience to talk about spirituality and family.

Before becoming Bell Hooks, however, she was Gloria Watkins, an aspiring scholar who taught at Yale University in the 1980s. At the time, Rachel Chapman, now an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, had the professor as her undergraduate thesis supervisor. Chapman recalls that her classes were highly sought after and that she ran a black women’s support group called “Sisters of the Yam,” who idolized her.

While working with Haken, Chapman realized that much of her mentor’s work dealt with the loss of black life. “She wrote about what it means to be young and black and angry, and she clearly saw the fine line between madness and madness, between radical action and personal self-destruction,” says Chapman.