Posted by Laurie Russell Pickert

bell hooks died yesterday.

She was a pioneering Black feminist and pushed the conversation on women’s rights to include Black women’s rights.

I can’t think about bell hooks without thinking about Sister Nancy Hynes and the other Sisters in the English Department a the College of St. Benedict. I’ve often said I learned feminism from the sisters. And I first learned about Black feminists from S. Nancy.

Her class on Alice Walker and Toni Morrison showed me how story telling builds understanding and empathy, about the limits of my own lived experience and the need to see more lives. To look at social justice through more lenses. To think critically about systems of power and the way things have always been.

I took that class more than 20 years, ago, but those writers live in me, thanks to S. Nancy. When I slip into thinking people are quaint or don’t recognize their full humanity, I hear Alice Walker’s line from Merdian: “‘I will pay for this,’ she often warned herself. ‘It is probably a sin to think of people as art.’”

I know, you thought you were getting a post about bell hooks, and I made it about S. Nancy. I hope Ms. Hooks will forgive me. I wouldn’t have known of her without S. Nancy. And here’s something amazing: they died on the same day, 13 years apart. So that feels like permission to connect them. I’m grateful for the work bell hooks put into the world, and I’m grateful for teachers like S. Nancy, who put her work into my hands.

How lucky I was to grow up intellectually, in that environment. Of radical Sisters who questioned everything and went to protests and held me to a high standard as I assessed the world.

This is a blog about love. What bell hooks and my college English department and the writers they chose taught me is this: Love asks a lot of questions. Love doesn’t settle for easy comfort. Love looks at the hard stuff and says, “Okay, let’s sit with this and then see where it takes us.” Love calls us to action.

This is a blog about Father Clay, too. But I think he’ll understand when I let bell hooks star in this post. Here’s an excerpt from an interview hooks gave NPR in 2000, about the transformative power of love.

Read more on Katie’s blog @

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