BY HANNAH KESTLY
The Cassandra Voss Center’s inaugural “year of bell hooks” came to a long awaited conclusion with social justice scholar bell hooks herself visiting St. Norbert College on Tuesday, April 15. She presented her lecture entitled “Ending Domination” to a full house in Walter Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
Dr. Karlyn Crowley, Director of the Cassandra Voss Center, started the evening by welcoming everyone to the event and talked about Cassandra Voss, the CVC and the significance of bell hooks.
“When we started the center, bell hooks was the first and only person that came to mind to launch this inaugural year,” said Crowley.
Anna Cznarik-Neimeyer, Assistant Direct of the Cassandra Voss Center, spoke next about the goals and mission of the CVC and introduced President Thomas Kunkel.
President Kunkel started his introduction and said “Here’s bell hooks,” as hooks walked out onto the stage and was greeted by a standing ovation.
“St. Norbert College is honored and delighted to have on campus the immanent writer and scholar and new friend, Dr. bell hooks,” said Kunkel.
A retiring but canonical American author who has been described as “sitting on feminism’s ‘Mount Rushmore,’” Hooks has been honored as a leading public intellectual by The Atlantic Monthly and has authored more than 35 books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles.
Her writing has addressed race, class and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism. She is a member of the faculty at Berea College in Kentucky, her home state.
“It’s not often I get a standing ovation before I’ve said anything,” said hooks before she began her lecture.
“Recently I was asked how our nation could bring an end to white supremacy, and I responded that we would all need to learn to love justice more than our race, class, sexuality or any aspect of our identity. There is no greater moral and ethical crisis our nation faces than the loss of a collective awareness of the essential need for an ethic of justice as a fundamental pillar of democracy,” said hooks.
Hooks spoke about the different views of justice and the work and impact of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Especially highlighting the work of King throughout her lecture, hooks quoted King, saying, “Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
She talked about how racial segregation still remains the social norm in today’s society and said even the election of the first black president proved to be a triumph of white supremacist domination, instead of counteracting racial injustice.
“Obama’s election signaled a shift of racism,” said hooks. “Racial injustice continues to chip away at the foundation of democracy.”
However, she also said that Obama’s presidency also gives hope that racial equality can be achieved, because “young folks can look at him and see possibilities for their futures.”
Hooks talked about the impact of slavery, blame and public shaming, especially in the case of black males.
“Black folks must be willing to examine the ways white supremacy undermines our well-being and causes a damaged self-esteem,” said hooks.
“I consider all the writing that I’ve done to be challenging and changing domination in all of its forms,” she continued. “My effort is to create a society with a commitment to democracy, peace and justice in everyday life.”
Hooks ended her lecture with one final statement: “The knowledge for a culture of justice to be the norm is already available to us, justice with the work of love. Anytime we do the work of ending domination, we are doing the work of love.”
At the end of her lecture hooks answered questions from audience members. Her visit to the college ended on Wednesday, April 16; she presented her “Go Where the Love Is” talk during Sacred Hour and read her children’s books in the afternoon in the CVC.