12.22.2021 – it meant daring to

it meant daring to
disagree it meant to just
have an opinion

Trailblazing cultural theorist and activist, public intellectual, teacher and writer, bell hooks, has died of kidney failure aged 69.

She authored around 40 books in a career spanning more than four decades.

The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.

“In the world of the southern black community I grew up in, ‘back talk’ and ‘talking back’ meant speaking as an equal to an authority figure. It meant daring to disagree and sometimes it meant just having an opinion,” she explained.

For a child, to speak when not spoken to was to invite punishment, so was a courageous act, an act of risk and daring.

It was in that world that the craving was born in her “to have a voice, and not just any voice, but one that could be identified as belonging to me … Certainly for black women, our struggle has not been to emerge from silence into speech but to change the nature and direction of our speech, to make a speech that compels listeners, one that is heard.”

bell hooks once wrote, “Now when I ponder the silences, the voices that are not heard, the voices of those wounded and/or oppressed individuals who do not speak or write, I contemplate the acts of persecution, torture – the terrorism that breaks spirits, that makes creativity impossible. “

The terrorism that breaks spirits.

That makes creativity impossible. 

bell hooks continued, “I write these words to bear witness to the primacy of resistance struggle in any situation of domination (even within family life); to the strength and power that emerges from sustained resistance and the profound conviction that these forces can be healing, can protect us from dehumanisation and despair

The strength and power that emerges from sustained resistance.

The profound conviction that these forces can be healing.

I did not know her writing as a Kid but I tried to live it.

Hard to believe she was just 8 years older than I am.

If I have a grave stone, please carve on it that, “fought against the terrorism that breaks spirits, that makes creativity impossible.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, well.

bell hooks was born under the name, Gloria Jean Watkin, but wrote under the pseudonym bell hooks – a name she adopted in tribute to her maternal great-grandmother, styling it in lowercase so as to keep the focus on her work rather than on her own persona.

Ms. hooks roamed around the academic world and landed of all places in Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, a school that has a long history in our family.

Berea College has it roots back in 1855 when a one room school dedicated to anti-slavery and to advocate of equality and excellence in education for men and women of all races.

1855?

1855!

This school grew into a private liberal arts work college in Berea, Kentucky.

Berea College charges no tuition; every admitted student is provided the equivalent of a four-year scholarship.

It has a full-participation work-study program in which students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in any of over 130 departments.

About 75% of the college’s incoming class is drawn from the Appalachian region of the South and some adjoining areas

Some of the work study programs are in crafts, woodworking and weaving.

Items that they make are for sale in the College store and now, online.

Somewhere along the line my family picked up a skittles games – kind of a 18th century pin ball machine that was the size of a cedar chest, that was made at Berea.

My Dad always talked about it but how he knew about it I do not know.

I know we stopped there at least once or twice

And I have ordered items from their catalog for my kids.

I carry a walking stick those students made.

I use a cherry-wood rolling pin those students made.

If you go, you can tour the work shops and watch the wood workers and weavers.

It seems to me that once my Dad watched a weaver for a bit and noticed something.

He leaned over and whispered in the ear of the young lady who was working the loom.

She stopped.

Looked.

Got up and ran off to get help.

I looked a question at my Dad.

“She wove her cloth measuring tape into the rug”, my Dad said.

From the beginning Berea was different.

Berea College was the first college in the Southern United States to be coeducational.

Berea College was the first college in the Southern United States to be racially integrated.

With a Curriculum Vitae that includes Stanford, Wisconsin and USC, I guess it makes sense that bell hooks, the person who said, “The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible” would end up here.


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