Notable African Americans died in 2021. Each one left an indelible mark on American society. One who touched me personally was bell hooks.

bell hooks died in Kentucky on December 15, 2021, at 69. As an Affrilachian (Black Appalachian), bell hooks was inarguably one of the nation's prominent feminist scholars and authors. Time's 100 Women of the Year for 2020 called our sister-friend a "rare rock star of a public intellectual." hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins and later took the pen name "bell hooks" from her great grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.

bell hooks had legions of followers, especially women and the LGBTQ+ community, because her body of works profoundly changed the lives of so many of us. Laverne Cox is one. Laverne Cox and hooks had a deep sister-friendship and admiration for each other. hooks called Cox a "goddess for justice." A tribute to bell hooks, Cox wrote on Instagram the following:

"bell hooks has always been the truth. Now perhaps more than ever, it's paramount that we lean into her work. On this day of her passing, let us celebrate the rich published legacy she leaves behind."

bell hooks was a huge inspiration to me, too. bell hooks identified as "queer-pas-gay" and paved the way for "Intersectional Feminism," inspiring generations of women and LGBTQ+ people. Because of bell hooks, my life's work is grounded in an intersectional anti-oppression activism and praxis.

I met bell in 1994 while I was a doctoral student at Harvard Divinity School when she came to Cambridge promoting her book "Outlaw Culture." She was engaging, relatable, and was an instant sister-friend you could lollygag with for hours. We kept in touch through the years because she thought it was bold of me to be an openly black lesbian in the church and at HDS. I shared with her that I wanted to do a public theology, meeting the unchurched LGBTQ+ community on the pages of gay weeklies. Before the internet, I would send her a few of my columns.

Few have changed and challenged feminism like bell hooks. In "Teaching to Transgress," bell hooks challenged the feminist movement to incorporate women beyond the educated and the academy. As an African lesbian minister, theologian, and multimedia journalist, I take theology to the streets. bell hooks' body of work has assisted me in shaping both a local and national affirming public dialogue on religion and social justice issues about women and LGBTQ+ people.

In "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center," bell hooks states that she begins her analysis at the margin because it is a space of radical openness, and it gives you an oppositional gaze from which to see the world, unknown to the oppressor. It is at the margin where you can see injustice being done. It is not only a site where you can honestly critique the oppressive structures in society that keep us wounded as a people, but it is also a site that can heal us as a people - both the oppressed and the oppressor.

I've learned from bell hooks in "All About Love: New Visions" that love is a verb, not a noun, requiring action, responsibility, and accountability to others. Love is about radical inclusion, and it must not be intellectualized but rather connected deeply with our need for personal healing; thus, challenging us to heal our "isms." We must address deep-seated biases that impede authentic, respectful, and enriching relationships. And radical inclusion can only begin to work when those relegated to the fringes of society can begin to sample what those in society take for granted as their inalienable right.

bell was a controversial person. Among her peers in the academy, she was charming and challenging, admired and envied. Among students, friends, and fans, bell was simply loved. However, bell was equally as profound as she was provocative. For example, bell didn't use footnotes in her writings, attributing her ideas to no one. She called Beyonce a "terrorist" because of Bey's depiction of feminism and black women in her 2016 studio album "Lemonade." And bell penned some pieces many feminists still are scratching their heads about-"Penis Passion" and "Selling Hot Pussy." All in all, however, bell's body of work is impressive.

bell hooks taught at several colleges and universities across the country. However, when hooks decided to return home to Kentucky, she opted to teach at Berea College. This liberal arts college offers free tuition and is the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. At Berea, hooks was the Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies and the founder of the bell hooks Institute that will continue her life's work and mission.

My favorite poem by hooks is "Appalachian Elegy."

hear them cry

the long dead

the long gone

speak to us

from beyond the grave

guide us

that we may learn

all the ways

to hold tender this land

hard clay direct

rock upon rock

charred earth

in time

strong green growth

will rise here

trees back to life

native flowers

pushing the fragrance of hope

the promise of resurrection

Like so many, I'll miss bell hooks. I loved bell hooks' unquiet intellectual energy, her revolutionizing spirit, and her radical love for change. Heartbroken doesn't aptly depict the enormity of bell hooks' passing.

May our sister-friend rest in peace and power!

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.

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