Widely influential feminist thinker and writer bell hooks, given name Gloria Jean Watkins, died today at her home in Berea, Kentucky surrounded by family and friends. She was 69.
“The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors, and international fame for her works as poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic, and social activist,” read a statement from her family released by Ebony Motley, her niece. “We are proud to just call her sister, friend, confidant, and influencer.”
hooks’s first published work of theory, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, was published when she was 29 but written when she was an undergraduate, launching a four-decade-long career of writing and teaching, with a focus on classroom accessibility. hooks’s extensive body of scholarship and poetry—that remains and will continue to remain relevant—was consistent in its generosity, emphasizing the importance of loving communities to challenging systemic inequalities. Hooks believed a “militant commitment to feminism” was not at all at odds with joy and humor; in fact, that love “is the necessary foundation enabling us to survive the wars, the hardships, the sickness, and the dying with our spirits intact.” As she told The New York Times in 2015,
We cannot have a meaningful revolution without humor. Every time we see the left or any group trying to move forward politically in a radical way, when they’re humorless, they fail. Humor is essential to the integrative balance that we need to deal with diversity and difference and the building of community. For example, I love to be in conversation with Cornel West. We always go high and we go low, and we always bring the joyful humor in. The last talk he and I gave together, many people were upset because we were silly together. But I consider it a high holy calling that we can be humorous together. How many times do we see an African-American man and an African-American woman talking together, critiquing one another, and yet having delicious, humorous delight? It’s a miracle.
hooks’s family said contributions and memorials can be made to the Christian County Literacy Council, which promotes reading for children, or the Museums of Historic Hopkinsville Christian County, where a biographical exhibit is on display.