Today we honor and celebrate one of my personal heroes, bell hooks. Our bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. hooks changed her name to honor both her grandmother (whose name she took) and her mother. She earned her B.A. in English from Stanford University, and her doctorate from University of California, Santa Cruz. hooks’ career has centered around the intersections of oppression, with a focus on race, gender, power, and privilege–a woman after my own heart!
Every diversity training or mediation my company, EqualityWorks,NW, does starts off with this bell hooks’ quote:
For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?
I think all of us that are doing any type of social work have to believe we are all capable of a transformative experience; that we can experience each other and ourselves in new ways that benefit the greater good. I do admit that on my worst misanthropic days, I have difficulty believing this, but I do strive to have hooks’ strength of character.
It is not a small wonder that hooks was strongly influenced and inspired by another hero of mine, Paulo Freire. hooks talked about how Preire allowed her the, “right as a subject in resistance to define reality.” We see this philosophy of hooks in her book, Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism. We also see this philosophy in how hooks addresses the power and influence of pop culture:
Whether we’re talking about race or gender or class, popular culture is where the pedagogy is, it’s where the learning is. So I think that partially people like me who started off doing feminist theory or more traditional literary criticism or what have you begin to write about popular culture, largely because of the impact it was having as the primary pedagogical medium for masses of people globally who want to, in some way, understand the politics of difference.