Remembering bell hooks

An article by Sameer Nizamuddin, a member of the GSA Gender and Sexuality Alliance Subcommittee

Photo Credit: bell hooks Institute

December 15, 2021 marks the day when the world lost the trailblazing and prolific author, poet, feminist, and educator, bell hooks. hooks, who goes by not capitalizing her name, spent her life standing up against White imperialist hegemonic patriarchy by pushing the boundaries of feminism beyond the White, upper-class worldview. Her wide-ranging work on gender, race, and feminism gave voice to Black and working-class women, revitalizing the vision of intersectional feminism.

I discovered hooks when I was 19 during one of my first undergraduate research projects on student learning and well-being. She was one of the few authors who made my understanding of feminism, race, gender, and love more accessible. She rejected the conventional academic style of keeping the knowledge restricted to academia, emphasizing education as the practice of freedom, and challenged teachers to embrace self-actualization. She redefined education as a tool of empowerment and healing.

hooks wrote her first book Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism in 1981, highlighting the challenges and unique experiences of working-class Black women into the mainstream discourse of feminism. This was followed by a series of writings, including Feminist Theory: From Margins to Center; All About Love: New Visions; The Will to Change: Men Masculinity, and Love; And There We Wept: Poems; Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics; Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood; Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Where We Stand: Class Matters, Communion: The Female Search for Love, among others.

hooks’ fierce and unapologetic critique on patriarchy and capitalism speaks in a vital way to celebrate the history and culture of racial and gender minorities, by decolonizing the institutionalization of race and sex. “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance”, she said.

hooks also reframes ‘queerness’ as more than just sexuality, but rather a movement that reclaims and embraces the world. In a panel on “Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body” at The New School, she explains queerness as “not about who you’re having sex with, that can be a dimension of it, but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live”.

For many of us, hooks was one of the first to help us understand the world on a more profound level. Through her transformative words, we learned that we needed to resist for a change, but also love and never lose hope in humanity. Love became an act of resistance and freedom. hooks left her footprints. She planted seeds for our generations that will blossom in humanity, guiding us to continue fighting against the system, with love, not hatred. hooks left this world too soon. Rest in power!