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February is All About Love: A Look Back at the Great bell hooks

"Everywhere I go, people want to feel more connected. They want to feel more connected to their neighbors. They want to feel more connected to the world. And when we learn that through love we can have that connection, we can see the stranger as ourselves.”

Here in the United States, we celebrate two things in the month of February - Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. What better time is there to reflect upon the words of one of our greatest philosophers, bell hooks, not only on Black feminism but also on the topic of love?

bell hooks (she did not capitalize her name because she felt that it would draw focus away from her work) was born Gloria Jean Watkins in a segregated small town in Kentucky in 1952. She did not attend her first integrated school until the late 1960s. Forever enthralled by the written word, she obtained a BA in English from Stanford and a MA in English from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. hooks was a precocious writer and theorist from the beginning. She began drafting her first major work, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism at the age of just 19, successfully publishing it in 1981. This book, as well as her next, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, was one of the very first books to discuss ideas that we now often refer to as “intersectionality.” Essentially, hooks insisted that the feminist movement could not truly succeed in its quest for empowerment without also considering factors such as race and socioeconomic status - an observation which holds great relevance even today.

hooks passed away on December 15, 2021. To try to single out just one work of hers that stands above all others in brilliance or impact is impossible. Given that it’s the month of February, however, I’d like to argue that we could all benefit from meditating on the words from one of her books in particular, All About Love. While it’s best if I don’t give away the gist, and therefore give you the chance to go ahead and read the whole thing, here are a few excerpts to take with you as we transition out of this month and into the next:

“The word love is most often defined as a noun, yet … we would all love better if we used it as a verb.”

"I'm so moved often when I think of the civil rights movement, because I see it as a great movement for social justice that was rooted in love and that politicized the notion of love, that said: Real love will change you."

“To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.”

“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”

"I'm talking about a love that is transformative, that challenges us in both our private and our civic lives."

Bell Hooks

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