Bill Hawkes, the author, educator and pioneering activist whose explorations of how race, gender, economics and politics have helped shape academic and popular debates over the past 40 years, died Wednesday, December 15, 2021.
She was 69 years old.
In a statement issued by William Morrow Publishing, Dr. Hawks’ family announced that she has passed away in Berea, Kentucky, home of the Bell Hawks Center at Berea College. Her close friend, Dr. Linda Strong Lake, said she had been ill for a long time.
“She was a giant, irrational, lived by her own rules, and spoke her truth at a time when blacks, especially women, did not feel empowered to do so,” Dr. Strong Lake, former dean of Berea College, wrote in an email to the agency. Associated Press. “It was an honor to know her, and the world is a lesser place today because she is gone. There will be no other hook bell.”
Beginning in the 1970s, Dr. Hawkes had a deep presence in the classroom and on the page. Drawing on professional scholarship and personal history, she completed dozens of books that have influenced countless peers and helped provide a framework for current discussions of race, class, and feminism. Her notable works included “Am I Not a Woman? Black Women and Feminism”, “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” and “All About Love: New Insights”. She has also written poetry and children’s stories and has appeared in documentaries such as “Black Is…Black Ain’t” and “Hillbilly”.
Refusing to isolate feminism, civil rights, and economics into separate spheres, she was a believer in society, communication, and how racism, sexism, and economic inequality reinforce each other. One of her most famous expressions is her definition of feminism, which she describes as “a movement to end sexism, exploitation, and oppression based on gender.” Abrams X Kennedy, Roxanne Gay, Tracy McMillan Cottum, and others mourn Dr. Hooks. Author Saeed Jones noted that her death came just a week after the loss of the famous black author and critic Greg Tate. “Everything seems so clear,” he wrote on Twitter. Hawkes’s honor included the American Book Award by the Columbus Foundation, which champions diversity in literature. She taught at many schools, including Yale University, Oberlin College and City College of New York. She joined the faculty at Berea College in 2004 and a decade later founded the center named after her, where “Many and Diverse Forms of Difference Can Thrive.” A former Yale student, author Min Jin Lee, wrote in The New York Times in 2019 that in Dr. Hawkes’ classroom, “everything felt so sharp and crackling as the feeling of heavy air before a long-awaited rain.”
Born Dr. Hawkes Gloria Jane Watkins in 1952 in the secluded town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, she gave herself the nickname bell hook in honor of her maternal great-grandmother, while spelling the words in lowercase. To establish its own identity and way
thinking. She loved reading from an early age, and remembered how books gave her “visions of new worlds” that forced her out of her “comfort zones”.
Its early influences ranged from James Baldwin and fellow Kentucky writer Wendell Berry to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..
Martin Luther King was my teacher for understanding the importance of a beloved community. He had a deep awareness that people involved in oppressive institutions would not change the logic and practices of hegemony without engaging with those seeking a better path,” she said in an interview conducted at the Appalachian Heritage in 2012.
She majored in English at Stanford University and received her MA in English from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
In the 1970s, at the height of second-wave feminism, Dr. Hawkes—”this bold young black woman from rural Kentucky”—felt disconnected from the movement and her “white and female comrades.” She was still in college when she began writing “Not Me a Woman,” named after Sojourner’s Truth letter
And now look at how “the devaluation of black femininity as a result of the sexual exploitation of black women during slavery”.
Over the following decades, Dr. Hawkes studied how stereotypes affected everything from music and movies (the “opposing view”) to love, writing in All About Love that “much of what we’ve learned about the nature of love is meaningless when applied to everyday life.” “. She also documented at length the collective identity and past of blacks in rural Kentucky, a part of the state often portrayed as white and largely homogeneous.
“We paint our lives with everything we remember from the ordinary to the majestic. We define ourselves through the art of remembering,” she wrote in “Belonging: The Culture of Place,” published in 2009.
“I pay tribute to the past as a resource that can serve as a basis for us to review and renew our commitment to the present, to building a world in which all people can live fully and in good health, and where everyone can belong.”