Acclaimed visionary and intellectual, Bell Hooks began her exploration of the meaning of love in American culture with the bestselling All About Love: New Visions. Here she continues her love song to the nation with the groundbreaking and soul-stirring Salvation: Black People and Love. Intimate and revolutionary, Salvation is a gift as provocative as it is healing.
Written from a historical and cultural perspective, Salvation takes an incisive look at the transformative power of love in the lives of African-Americans. Whether talking about the legacy of slavery, relationships, and marriage in black life, the prose and poetry of Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou, the liberation movements of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, sexual pain or pleasure, hip-hop and gangsta rap culture, addiction, greed, or the failure of black leadership, Hooks lets us know what love's got to do with it.
Combining the passionate politics of W E. B. DuBois with fresh, contemporary insights, hooks brilliantly offers new visions that will heal our nation's wounds from a culture of lovelessness.
Her writings on love and its inextricable links to race, class, family, history, and popular culture raise one pivotal question: How can we create beloved American communities? Salvation is Bell Hooks's journey to answer this question-an offering for everyone who cares about the souls of black folk.
About the Author
Bell Hooks is a cultural critic, feminist theorist, and writer. Celebrated as one of our nation's leading public intellectual by The Atlantic Monthly, as well as one of Utne Reader's "100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life," she is a charismatic speaker who divides her time among teaching, writing, and lecturing around the world. Previously a professor in the English departments at Yale University and Oberlin College, hooks is the author of more than 17 books, including All About Love: New Visions; RememberedRapture: The Writer at Work; Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life; Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood; Killing Rage: Ending Racism; Art on My Mind: Visual Politics; and Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Every Now And then I return to poor black communities I lived in or visited during my childhood. These neighborhoods that were once vibrant, full of life, with flowers planted outside the walls of run-down shacks, folks on the porch, are now barren landscapes. Many of them look like war zones. Returning, I bear witness to desolation. Surrounded by an aura of emptiness, these places, once shrouded in hope, now stand like barren arms, lonely and empty. No one moves into their embrace to touch, to be held and to hold, to comfort. Poverty has not created this desolation; the generations of folks who inhabited these landscapes have always been poor. What I witness are ravages of the spirit, the debris left after emotional assault and explosion. What I witness is heart-wrenching loss, despair, and a lovelessness so profound it alters the nature of environments both inside and out.
The desolation of these places where love was and is now gone is just one among many signs of the ongoing crisis of spirit that ravages black people and black communities everywhere. More often than not this crisis of spirit is talked about by political leaders and community organizers as engendered by life-threatening poverty, violence, or the ravages of addiction. While it is utterly true that all these forces undermine our capacity to be well, underlying these issues is a profound spiritual crisis. As a people we are losing heart. Our collective crisis is as much an emotional one as a material one. It cannot be healed simply by money. We know this because so many of the leaders whopreach to us about the necessity of gaining material privilege, who are holders of wealth and status, are as lost, as disenabled emotionally, as those among us who lack material well-being. Leaders who are addicted to alcohol, shopping, violence, or gaining power and fame by any means necessary rarely offer to anyone a vision of emotional well-being that can heal and restore broken lives and broken communities.
To heal our wounded communities, which are diverse and multilayered, we must return to a love ethic, one that is exemplified by the combined forces of care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility. Throughout our history in this nation black leaders have spoken about the importance of love. Indeed, now and then contemporary leaders stress the importance of a love ethic. Referring to the love ethic in his work Race Matters, philosopher Cornel West contends: "A love ethic has nothing to do with sentimental feelings or tribal connections.... Self-love and love of others are both modes toward increasing self-valuation and encouraging political resistance in one's community." While contemporary black leaders and thinkers talk about the need to have a love ethic as the foundation of struggles for black self-determination, in actuality most nonfiction writing about black experience does not address the issue of love in an extensive manner.
Since our leaders and scholars agree that one measure of the crisis black people are experiencing is lovelessness, it should be evident that we need a body of literature, both sociological and psychological work, addressing the issue of love among black people, its relevance to political struggle, its meaning in our private lives. I began thinking about the lack of commentary on love in black life when the debate about separate schools for black boys was taking place. Everywhere I turned, I kept hearing that black boys needed discipline, that they needed to learn the meaning of hard work, that they needed to have strong role models who would set boundaries for them and teach obedience. Again and again a militaristic model of boot camp and basic training was presented as a solution to the behavior problems of young black men. Not once did I hear anyone speak about black boys needing love as a foundation that would ensure the development of sound self-esteem, self-love, and love of others. Even though black mate leaders were among the voices defining lovelessness as a key cause of hopelessness and despair among black youth, none of them talked about the role of love in the education of young black boys.
When huge numbers of black males, young and old, gathered in the nation's capital for the Million Man March, there was no discussion of love. The word "love" was not evoked by any prominent speaker. Again and again when we talk about the contemporary crisis in black life, discussions of love are absent. This has not always been the case. Throughout our history in this country, radical black political leadership has emerged from religious settings, whether they be Christian, Islamic, or less recognized spiritual paths. Within these religions, especially Christianity, love has been central.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet of love preaching to the souls of black folks and our nonwhite allies in struggles everywhere. His collection of sermons Strength to Love was first published in 1963. Later, in 1967, in an address to a group of antiwar clergy, he stated: "When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: 'Let us love one another, for love is God and everyone that loveth is both of God and knoweth God. Much of King's focus on love as the fundamental principle that should guide the freedom struggle was directed toward upholding his belief in nonviolence. While he admonished black people again and again to reconize the improtance of loving our enemies, of not hating white people, he did not give much attention to the issue of self-love and communal love among black people.
Table of Contents
|Introduction: love is our hope||xv|
|1||The heart of the matter||3|
|2||We wear the mask||18|
|3||The issue of self-love||32|
|4||Valuing ourselves rightly||55|
|5||Moving beyond shame||71|
|7||Cherishing single mothers||113|
|8||Loving black masculinity--fathers, lovers, friends||128|
|9||Heterosexual love--union and reunion||154|
|10||Embracing gayness--unbroken circles||188|