I don't know who I would be without bell hooks' influence. I don't even want to know.
I first came across her work in high school, when one of my best friends was reading Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. That book had a huge influence on the way we thought about and approached writing at the time.
Less than 5 years later, in 2003, I'm in Philadelphia at my family Walidah Imarisha's house. I'm processing a breakup at the time, and Walidah says "I think you should read this" and she hands me a copy of bell hooks' All About Love.
Have you ever read a book that felt like drinking water when you're dying of thirst? Well, I was parched, and hooks' entire series on love was everything I needed. It reshaped the way I thought about love, friendship, masculinity, the way I was raised, and even what was possible. I read through as many of her books as I could, for years, and she was my gateway to so many other Black feminist writers.
Later on, as an educator, her book Teaching To Transgress became the most important book I read on how to approach the classroom. How to create space for learning where everyone is an active participant, and if you're doing it right, the educator constantly learns as well.
It's hard to think of any other writer who's impacted so many areas of my life in such profound ways. To think that she's had this level of personal impact on entire generations of people is mind-blowing.
One of my goals in life, in everything I do, is to redefine Black masculinity in ways that are anti-patriarchal. This is directly because of bell hooks' influence. It's the work of a lifetime that you don't get any breaks from, and you don't deserve any cookies for. It's realizing you were born and raised, socialized in a world where masculinity is tied up with power, and that false idea of power is a form of self-harm that hinders your ability to connect with other people, even with your own sensuality. It's the lifelong work of getting your humanity back, and hopefully leaving this world better than the way we inherited it.
Humanity must be in a better place because bell hooks existed.
Her work and all the seeds she planted are gonna live forever.
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