Day 14 - 28 Love Letters to Black Women
This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
On Day 14 and Valentine’s Day, I can think of no greater person to celebrate than author, activist, and educator bell hooks, who wrote extensively about justice, dismantling systems of oppression, and the role of love in our pursuit of freedom and collective liberation.
bell hooks was born in 1952 in Kentucky, and wrote over 40 books. bell hooks is her chosen pen name, which was bell’s great-grandmother’s name. She chose that name because she admired her great-grandmother’s “snappy and bold tongue.” bell hooks wrote her pen name in lower case to both honor her great-grandmother and encourage the reader to focus on her work and not the writer.
One of the topics hooks is most famous for is her extensive writing on the importance of having a love ethic as a principle for achieving social justice. In her essay, "Love as a Practice of Freedom," hooks explains why love is a central part of the work:
"Often, then, the longing is not for a collective transformation of society, an end to politics of dominations, but rather simply for an end to what we feel is hurting us. This is why we desperately need an ethic of love to intervene in our self centered longing for change. Fundamentally, if we are only committed to an improvement in that politic of domination that we feel leads directly to our individual exploitation or oppression, we not only remain attached to the status quo but act in complicity with it, nurturing and maintaining those very systems of domination. Until we are all able to accept the interlocking, interdependent nature of systems of domination and recognize specific ways each system is maintained, we will continue to act in ways that undermine our individual quest for freedom and collective liberation struggle." (https://longreads.com/2021/12/15/love-as-the-practice-of-freedom/)
To address this challenge bell hooks calls for a love ethic, meaning we must be committed to our collective liberation. As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” A love ethic allows us to be invested in dismantling oppression for all. In the Love as a Practice of Freedom essay, hooks says, “Choosing love we also choose to live in community, and that means that we do not have to change by ourselves. We can count on critical affirmation and dialogue with comrades walking a similar path.” If we can find our way to love and struggling together, we can find our way to collective liberation.
Photo credit: Cmongirl, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Image Description: bell hooks is standing and speaking into a microphone. She is wearing a long sleeved orange shirt, colorful scarf, and gold earrings and bracelets.