Bell Hooks: Intuitive light and compassionate intellect

I usually like to open my articles with a quote. I pondered how I might begin a discussion of my interview with Sistah-Dr. Bell Hooks, author of Ain’t I a Woman?: I usually like to open my articles with a quote. I pondered how I might begin a discussion of my interview with Sistah-Dr. Bell Hooks, author of Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism, Bone Black: Memories of a Girlhood, Teaching to Transgress, Yearning, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, Sisters of the Yam, All About Love: New Visions, Salvation: Black People and Love, and Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life (with Cornell West) to name only a few of her works. She is a scholar, a distinguished professor of English, a feminist theorist, and she is passionate about her life’s work around critical consciousness and activism for an antiracist, non-sexist, loving, peaceful and just society. While those might seem like lofty or even impossible to reach goals, hooks is firmly grounded in a spirit of hope and a commitment to the work of continually naming and making connections between the systemic manifestations of the violence of White supremacy, poverty, sexism, militarism and other “isms”.

Hooks was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky September 25, 1952. Her given name was Gloria Watkins. The use of a pseudonym is intended to honor both her grandmother (whose name she took) and her mother. She holds a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She currently teaches English at the City College of New York.

The introduction given on Thursday morning, April 3, 2003 for Hook’s presentation, “Make Love Not War”, at Hamline United Methodist Church, for the Hamline University Seventh Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture, was one of the most beautiful, heart-filled I have every heard. Junauda Petrus, who is an African American, liberal arts student at Hamline majoring in Social Justice provided her introduction. “I am so joyful to introduce bell hooks to you all this morning. Her work, her mind, her heart, is a valuable force of intuitive light and compassionate intellect that I have admired for so long. Yesterday, I met her for the first time over dinner. Ms. Bell is so cool and down to earth. She is just like any of my favorite aunties in her warm smile and unapologetic truth telling that I instantly felt at home with her. She spoke about love and relationships and in fact gave another young woman and I dependable, bona-fide love advice.

That was the introduction given on Thursday morning, but I want to step back one day before when I had an opportunity to sit down and have a long leisurely conversation with hooks. I must admit, I was a bit nervous. I am a real fan of her writing. Her works are crucial informing sources in my doctoral literary search.

I arrived a few minutes early, only to find that she had arrived early also and some of the other reporters were already in the process of conducting their interviews. I set up my tape recorder and started taking pictures as I awaited my opportunity to begin asking questions. My tape recorder fell off of the table where it was sitting, and I picked it up and checked whether it was still running. The tape was still going and the lights were still on. Everything was go. Everyone finished and I was the only reporter there, so I had a whole hour to just sit and chat with Bell Hooks! It was a real special event for me.

I brought her a gift from my job at Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). They were one of the first groups to bring her to the Twin Cities, many years ago. I also brought her a copy of my dissertation proposal which she gracefully read over and gave me some feedback. I was absolutely astonished that she took the time to do that. But she is really just like the description given in her introduction… she’s real; she’s down-to-earth and brilliant.

You would think that I would begin at this point to tell you the details of the interview, but I can’t. When the tape

April 16, 2003
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