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bell hooks: The Warm-Hearted Storyteller

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

Bell Hooks.
Bell Hooks.
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I still remember her face. I was coming up her aisle on my way to the front of the classroom, when she turned as I approached her desk. A Black girl among a small class of maybe 10-12 Upward Bound juniors and seniors.

"Do you have the book?" She wanted the book. She wanted her own copy of the whole book.

I was in Philadelphia intending to teach at a four-year university during the early years of the Obama era when America wanted to believe racism was in its past. The foundational ideology of white supremacy married to capitalism subordinating people of color. Women. Difference. All of which the colleges and universities refused to hear even in the Bush Jr. era, unless texts and lectures steered clear from challenging a system depended on complaint educators.

"Do you have the book?"

I had wondered into one of those box bookstores in 2004 and found bell hooks' Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope , published the year before. Familiar with hooks' work, I purchased this book. While I waited in the check-out line, I thought about how I tracked her down to New York University, called was told hooks had quit. Walked out.

I, a big-city girl, made my way back to the house I was renting to teach at a small HBC in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That evening, I put everything on hold to open up the book and begin reading.

"When contemporary progressive educators all around the nation challenge the way institutionalized systems of domination (race, sex, nationalist imperialism) have, since the origin of public education, used schooling to reinforce dominator values, a pedagogical revolution began in college classrooms"

"In this space where they offered alternative ways of thinking, a student could engage in the insurrection of subjugated knowledge"

"Progressive professors did not need to indoctrinate students and teach them that they should oppose domination. Students came to these positions via their own capacity to think critically and assess the world they live in"

"That awareness has created the conditions for concrete change, even if those conditions are not yet known to everyone"

"Hence the backlash has been equally awesome"

"The critique of 'otherness' spearheaded by progressive educators was not as powerful as conservative mass media's insistence that otherness must be acknowledged, hunted down, destroyed."

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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