Famous Black Feminist Returns to Give Lecture
Although here at Oberlin those silly tee shirts proclaiming “(insert famous person of choice) was here,” are not exactly in vogue, maybe they should be. Then we might realize that nationally renowned writer, poet, educator and theoretician, bell hooks was here.
hooks, professor of women’s studies at Oberlin from 1988 through 1994 returns to campus Friday, to discuss her latest book Salvation: Black People and Love. Following her split with Oberlin, hooks went on to pursue teaching at City College of New York.
Caroline Jackson–Smith, Oberlin African American studies professor and colleague of hooks from both Yale’s faculty and at Oberlin, said hooks left the school amicably, “It was the configurement of her career. She needed another place that would fit to it better at the time.”
Since her departure, hooks has given several talks to the student body. While she did not speak last year, hooks remains a prominent figure on campus in both student and faculty circles. “I see bell hooks as one of the most influential theoreticians of this time,” Womens’ Studies Professor Wendy Kozol said. Next week Kozol’s seminar class will read one of hooks’ pieces.
A black feminist scholar, hooks’ work overlaps many of the issues discussed both in and out of Oberlin’s classrooms. “hooks is one of the major thinkers on issues such as the formation of race, class feminism and sexuality, and like she argues, at Oberlin we need to look at their intersection,” junior Camille Newman said. An African American studies major, Newman considers the department’s funding of hooks’ speech indicative of its strong role in providing forums for discussion of difficult but essential,\ issues. Her visit comes as one of many events celebrating African American History Month.
Addressing the topic of her latest work — whether institutionalized and historic racisms have made it difficult for black people to give and receive love — the lecture will be followed by a discussion. “hooks provides a fresh and discerning critique to the types of conflict on this campus. I hope the issues are raised to her. I think this student body, in particular, gets a lot out of hooks,” Jackson-Smith said.
Sponsored by the African American studies department, the office of the president and the Multi-Cultural Resource Center, hooks’ lecture does not come in response to any specific campus events. “Opening conversation concerning race relations on Oberlin’s campus is not the goal. We brought her here to talk about her book. If her talk does bring together different points of view and start dialogue though we welcome it,” Kwame Willingham, the MRC’s African Community Coordinator said.
An author of over 20 books, hooks is in large demand as both a public figure and a teacher. These earlier publications had also brought hooks to campus, the old Co-op Bookstore orchestrating the visits. “Since she left here we, the College, have not brought her back in the larger, more serious way that her career deserves. Now we are working to bring her back for a major lecture, such as a convocation,” Jackson-Smith said.
hooks’s Friday engagement will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Afrikan Heritage House lounge.
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