introduced to the work of bell hooks for the first time when I was 14 years old, sitting on my Nana’s porch, complaining about the mosquitoes and the heat.
My Nana, who was probably frustrated by my endless complaints about being bored, stuck a copy of “Ain’t I A Woman” in my hand and told me just to “shut up and read.” I remember that summer because after I read that book, all we talked about was bell hooks and who she was and who I wanted to be. I said then that I wanted to be a writer, like bell hooks, and change the world with my words.
I took her words with me when I went off to college, and by then, I had my own dog-eared copies of some of her books. I went to her work whenever I needed to be reminded of my strength. The world felt much safer when bell hooks and Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou were on the front line, carving out a path to freedom and modelling what a Black woman’s resistance to a system hellbent on trying to make them small looked like. bell hooks’ words went with me everywhere, even while they kept taking me back to myself.
I, like countless others over the past 40 years, was inspired by bell hooks, who died on Dec. 15, 2021, at 69. As a leading Black intellectual, hooks pushed the feminist movement beyond the preserve of the white and middle-class, encouraging Black and working class perspectives on gender inequality. She taught us about white supremacist capitalist patriarchal values – giving both the words to define it and the methods to dismantle it. And unlike previous generations, she prompted Black women like myself to see ourselves, claim ourselves and love ourselves with an unapologetic fierceness.
“No Black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much,’” bell hooks once wrote, “Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’… No woman has ever written enough.”