A Postcard to bell hooks, My First Academic Love

by Brenda Herbert

16 December 2021
Originally published in Sociology, Goldsmiths.

Oh my heart, my heart, my heart… my first academic love has died. bell hooks, oh how I came to you first with a broken heart. I know not how your book landed in my hands but your words spoke through my darkness. You soothed my broken heart, then taught me how to learn and live. You presented your thoughts in simple terms, never denying the complexities of life. You effortlessly taught me that the ways of the heart was related to the state of society. We were intertwined. You called out aloud the patriarchal capitalist heteronormative white supremacist society that we live within.

You called us to loving radically, whilst acknowledging that it was hard, especially when black and a woman. You knew love is a practice and not only a feeling. You named our pain and those who caused us pain but you also challenged us about the way we hurt others. There was always hope, love and justice in your work.

Decades later, your words guide and shape my PhD thesis. You acknowledged children’s pain, yet never letting go of the pain of the adults too. It’s uncanny that I was writing a whole chapter on love based on your work when you sadly died. I had your words floating through my mind and heart when you left this earth.

Thank you for your words, knowledge, courage and wisdom. Rest well bell hooks, my guide, my first academic love.

Oh my heart, my heart, my heart.

Brenda Herbert is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

︎ Image in Public Domain.