Gloria Jean Watson, known by her pen name, bell hooks, passed away on December 15 at her home in Berea, Kentucky, where she was a resident professor of distinction at Berea College. She was 69. According to a statement on Twitter by her niece, Eboney Motley, she died surrounded by family and friends. The Washington Post reports that she died of end-stage renal failure.

Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on September 25, 1952, hooks would become one of the most renowned feminists of her time. Known for her writing on race, gender, class, and systems of oppression, hooks published over forty books, including Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism; Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black; Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life (with Cornel West); Black Looks; and All About Love: New Visions. She took on her maternal great-grandmother’s name as her pen name and used all lowercase letters to focus attention on her message rather than herself, she told interviewers.

She was also a practicing Buddhist for over thirty years. “If I were really asked to define myself, I wouldn’t start with race; I wouldn’t start with blackness; I wouldn’t start with gender; I wouldn’t start with feminism,” she told Tricycle founding editor Helen Tworkov in a 1992 issue of the magazine. “I would start with stripping down to what fundamentally informs my life, which is that I’m a seeker on the path. I think of feminism, and I think of anti-racist struggles as part of it. But where I stand spiritually is, steadfastly, on a path about love.”

“To commit to love is fundamentally to commit to a life beyond dualism. That’s why love is so sacred in a culture of domination, because it simply begins to erode your dualisms: dualisms of black and white, male and female, right and wrong.”

Read an interview with bell hooks and Tricycle founding editor Helen Tworkov from a 1992 issue of Tricycle.

Read “Waking Up to Racism,” an article by bell hooks from a 1994 issue of Tricycle.

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