Bell Hooks

  • Page from Oscar Murillo’s artist’s book Them, 2015–, ink and oil pastel on paper, 11 3/4 × 8 1/4".



    Parable #5

    WHEN AN ELDERLY religious leader—who would later become a key figure in his country’s independence movement—heard that the general of the foreign army, which had just entered his city, was going to give a speech addressing the local inhabitants, he immediately headed to the designated square. The elder stood at the front of the crowd, attentive to the general’s friendly words recited in the city’s local dialect. He appeared to be recording everything he heard in his notebook. His companions watched as his eyes widened and his face contorted while he listened carefully

  • BEST OF THE ’90s: FILM

    CINDY SHERMAN, artist:
    Thomas Vinterberg’s brilliant The Celebration (1998) is especially important because it signals the future of the medium, away from Hollywood’s excesses.

    JOHN WATERS, filmmaker: During the 1994 Cannes Film Festival I was sick in bed with the flu on the night Pulp Fiction premiered. Suddenly, from blocks away I heard the most stupendous roar of approval from the opening-night audience. I was so pissed to have missed the night Quentin Tarantino became an instant cinematic icon. But once I saw the movie I knew he deserved it. I guess you could call me a Quentin-hag.


  • Backlash and Betrayal

    IT USED TO BE THAT feminism was a total woman thang. Outside of the nice white girls who filled women’s-studies classes because they wanted to learn to be bad, everyone was content to think of us as just a bunch of bra-burning pussy-loving antimale morons who were never gonna have any impact on the rest of the world so no one really had to give a damn. In other words, back in the day when feminist politics had a serious radical edge it was not a movement that everyone was dying to join, but neither was it a movement that everyone wanted to trash. At the peak of the contemporary feminist movement,

  • bell hooks

    While all Quentin Tarantino’s work so far plays around with the same themes (in regular Hollywood style), his stuff fascinates precisely because of the way each piece distinguishes itself, signifies on previous work—his or that of others. Cinematically he is a master deconstructivist. No wonder then that everything he produces has such post-Modern flavor and seduces both those who read and those who don’t. When it comes to flavor he is definitely an equal-opportunity employer. Unlike most contemporary border-crossing “eat the other” culture bandits, he is not afraid to publicly pimp his wares.


    WHEN BELL HOOKS, THE DOYENNE OF BLACK CULTURAL STUDIES, writes in the essay that follows of her passionate relationship to writing, I think of my own struggles with the written word, which aren’t passionate at all. Filmmaking is my passion—except that filmmaking involves so much writing.

    I know bell as writer, as speaker, and as friend. Her essay on Looking for Langston in her book Black Looks was by far the best and clearest piece of critical writing about my film, and has endeared her to me ever since. Her critical assessment of my subsequent films has been equally both generous and tough. And

  • Lorna Simpson’s Waterbearer

    LORNA SIMPSON’S PHOTOGRAPH Waterbearer was reproduced in 1987 in one of the early issues of B Culture, a progressive black newspaper of arts and culture that was fresh beyond all belief. For a brief moment in time B Culture was the expressive space for everything radical and black—it was on the edge. Of course, it disappeared. But not before publishing a full-page reproduction of Waterbearer.

    Carefully pressing my newspaper copy with a hot iron, to remove all creases, I taped this page on the wall in my study, awed by the grace and profound simplicity of the image: a black woman with disheveled

  • Spike Lee's Malcom X

    SHORTLY AFTER THE ASSASSINATION at the Audubon Ballroom, Bayard Rustin predicted that “white America, not the Negro people, will determine Malcolm X’s fate in history.” At the time, the statement seemed ludicrous: white America appeared to have no “use” for Malcolm—not even a changed Malcolm, no longer advocating racial separatism. Today, it has found a use for him. In a field of representation that has always remained a plantation culture where black images are concerned, Malcolm X has been turned into a commodity.

    Politically progressive black folks and our allies in struggle recognize that

  • bell hooks

    WATCHING THE CLARENCE THOMAS hearings was both disenabling and disempowering for masses of individuals, many of us female. While viewers admired Anita Hill’s courage in daring to name publicly that she had been sexually harassed by Thomas, it remained distressing to some of us that it was never clear what she intended by her disclosure. Hill never really stated an agenda. Did she feel that Thomas’ willingness to use power coercively meant that he was an unworthy candidate for the Supreme Court? Did she speak out lest female subordinates working “under” Thomas might suffer the same fate were he

  • Cultural Interrogations

    WITHIN BLACK STREET CULTURE, “fresh” is a word used to express esthetic evaluation of the unnamed forces behind a style, a concept, that adds something new to our way of seeing—enhancing the visual experience of the look, the gaze. In Radiance from the Waters, art historian Sylvia Boone writes about the place of nėku, “freshness,” as one of the core concepts within the esthetic culture of the Mende peoples of Sierra Leone and Liberia. A critical cultural tension emerges between this African sense of “freshness” and the African-American esthetic. Different cultural locations evoke links,