When bell hooks passed away last month, the tributes and remembrances were immediate. No one expected the fierce and brilliant hooks to go rest with the ancestors so soon. She was powerful in so many ways. bell hooks showed us transformational ideas could be easy to understand. She gave language to ways of thinking about the world that are felt in our bodies, but not named.
“But many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone. 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.”– from “All About Love: New Visions”
bell hooks wore her genius with no apology and no equivocation. Her radical self existed unbothered by the constraints that didn’t serve her anyway. Countless Black women in America have been denied their genius by a society unwilling to see the complexity of who they are. hooks’ undaunted presence was a vision of love and an act of resistance. Thinking of bell hooks’ passing reminded me of the concept of “the three deaths” developed by neuroscientist David Eagleman. It is the idea that every person experiences three deaths. The first is when your body dies. The second is the day you are buried, never to be seen on the face of the Earth again. The third and final death is the last time your name is spoken. The third death may happen on the day you are buried or 500 years after you have been in the ground.
No one can control if they will be remembered. All one has power over is what they choose to put into the world. bell hooks wrote in “Talking Back,” “I was a young girl buying bubble gum at the corner store when I first really heard the full name bell hooks. I had just ‘talked back’ to a grown person. Even now I can recall the surprised look, the mocking tones that informed me I must be kin to bell hooks — a sharp-tongued woman, a woman who spoke her mind, a woman who was not afraid to talk back. I claimed this legacy of defiance, of will, of courage, affirming my link to female ancestors who were bold and daring in their speech.” bell hooks made the choice to be bold. She chose to build a world of ideas that sharpen our capacity for reflection, expand our understanding of love, and ignite our imaginations.
The world will continue to speak her name.