Berea College hosting Inaugural bell hooks day

In remembrance of the late bell hooks, iconic feminist scholar and former Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies, Berea College will host the inaugural bell hooks day on Wednesday, Sept. 21 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

bell hooks presenting papers to Berea College in 2015

bell hooks speaking during the formal presentation of her papers to Berea College on April 10, 2017.
(Photo: Bethany Posey ’18)

In honor of hooks’ 70th birthday, which would have been this year, the bell hooks center will celebrate her life, love and legacy. Several events will be held on campus as part of the celebration.

bell hooks day will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on bell hooks way on Berea’s campus at 10:30 a.m. Previously named Campus Drive, bell hooks way is located off Main Street and runs between the Berea College Farm Store and the Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health building.

The ceremony will also include remarks from the Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou, director of the bell hooks center; Associate Provost Dr. Eileen McKiernan-Gonzalez and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Dwayne Mack.

“bell hooks day is an opportunity to honor and further her dissident feminist interventions, both in the material we choose to teach and in the activities in which we choose to participate,” said Dr. Malaklou. “For our teaching to be transgressive, as hooks insisted that it must, we must translate what we have learned at institutions of higher education into jargon-free language that students can at once grasp and apply to their daily lives. The personal is politics, as feminists implore.”

Born Gloria Jean Watkins on Sept. 25, 1952, hooks grew up in the segregated town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Her upbringing urged her to challenge topics such as racism and patriarchal norms. She adopted the name bell hooks to honor her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, but she used all lowercase letters to focus on the importance of her writings, not her name.

As a 19-year-old undergraduate at Stanford University, hooks wrote her first book, “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism.” Upon graduation, she continued authoring several books and began gaining a reputation as a public intellectual. She taught at institutions such as Stanford, Yale and The City College of New York before becoming a professor in residence at Berea College in 2004. Upon her arrival, she drew particularly close to our fifth, sixth, and eighth Great Commitments about interracial education, gender equality, and service to Appalachia, respectively. The bell hooks institute was established at Berea College in 2014, and in honor of hooks’ legacy, the bell hooks center opened in fall 2021.

In her lifetime, hooks wrote more than 30 books and articles articulating the need for feminism and societal change. She often invited prominent scholars and activists to Berea’s campus like Cornel West and Gloria Marie Steinem. She has been celebrated for her work in countless outlets, including Time magazine, which named her one of its “100 Women of the Year” in 2020. In the last few years before her death in December 2021, hooks bemoaned the absence of feminism in today’s society.

Beginning at 11:30 a.m., the bell hooks center will host hooks’ colleague and friend Monica Casper for a Gender Talk discussing hooks’ ideas about reproductive freedom. The Gender Talk will be held in the Alumni Building’s Activities Room.

From 1-3 p.m., Berea College students and community members are invited to the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Educational and the Black Cultural Center for activities including flower crown-making and graffiti-making. Student Life will sponsor a DJ, kettle corn, caricaturist and more. The day will conclude with a faculty workshop on public scholarship: “How to talk to ‘the public’ when ‘the public’ talks back?” The hour-long workshop will take place at 4 p.m. in the bell hooks center located in Room 106 of Draper Building.

All events are open to the public, and masks are required.

For more information on the bell hooks center, visit https://www.berea.edu/bhc/.