By Edith Yang & Annie Liebman
UC Santa Cruz alumna bell hooks’ much-anticipated arrival to her alma mater on Nov. 15 did not disappoint.
A long line slithered from the College Nine/Ten Multipurpose room more than an hour before the renowned author and social activist came to speak. Those who could not find a seat shuffled to one of various rooms across campus to watch a live broadcast of her lecture, “What’s love got to do with it?: Ending Domination.”
Hooks, a graduate student in 1983, attended UCSC to work on her doctorate in literature. She has published over 30 books and is known for her ability to connect social activism with the concept of love.
“I have continually searched for paths that will end violence. They always lead me back to love,” hooks said in her lecture last Thursday night. “Love enables us to survive war, sickness, conflict, and dying. It is love that allows us to survive whole.”
Roberta Valdez, director of the Women’s Center, said of hooks’ philosophy that she is not really talking about romantic love. Valdez said, “[hooks] talks a lot about spirituality which is not in the context of religion. But in the context of life … In terms of social change, our daily interaction with people and the environment.”
Eager fans of hooks’ work would have seen her last May, but health problems delayed her long awaited arrival. “She wasn’t able to come in May because of a health issue, and that’s when we scheduled her for November 15,” said Valdez, who was in charge of bringing hooks to UCSC.
Hooks delivered in a lecture that seemed to enlighten and inspire the packed multipurpose room. “I thought that [her lecture] was powerful … I really liked how she talked about finding spaces of recovery and renewal and that it is a practice,” said Renee Maningding, third-year environmental studies student. “We can’t expect things to change by reading a book.”
Kirtana Thangavelu, lecturer in the department of History of Art and Visual Culture, said, “To see that her passion was not dimmed was inspirational and a privilege.”
Hooks’ lecture primarily addressed environmental issues and what it is like to be a woman of color. “Although the environment was mentioned throughout, I think it’s a good metaphor for what we do to bodies, related to other people, cultures … It’s all connected and she did not have to directly say that,” Valdez said. “It’s all connected to the environment and how we treat human beings — they’re very interconnected.”
Hooks charismatic personality also shone through on stage. Valdez said that people were impressed with her down-to-earth persona and realness, which came from practicing in the world she talked about. “She said that she doesn’t call herself an activist,” Valdez said. “She’s a thinker and a social critic.”
At the end of her lecture, hooks paid homage to UCSC. “It was here, as a graduate, that I dared to dream beyond the fate that was designated for me as a black woman,” hooks said.
Valdez also mentioned that hooks was impressed with the students. “When I met with her earlier in the day, [she was impressed] that students are actually using her work,” Valdez said. “They’re studying her work and using it to think about how they’re going to be in the world. I hope that people keep reading and talking about her ideas in a dialogue with each other.”
After the lecture, many of the audience members had plenty to say. Maningding found hooks inspirational. “I saw her words as pertinent to community activists right now,” she said. “Trying to find that space where you can express yourself and reciprocate — that’s difficult!”
Thangavelu said, “I was thinking that students in Santa Cruz are always engaging, and to have hooks as a role model, a predecessor they can relate to, is special.”