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Sculpture honoring bell hooks is planned at Hopkinsville park

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Berea College
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Bethany Posey
bell hooks speaking during the formal presentation of her papers to Berea College on April 10, 2017.

The Hopkinsville Community College Foundation is raising donations to help pay for the addition to the Round Table Literary Park.

Hopkinsville Community College will commemorate the “life, work and legacy” of Hopkinsville native Gloria Jean Watkins by erecting a sculpture in the college’s Round Table Literary Park.

The college plans to install the feature at its park on Sept. 25, which would have been the 70th birthday of the feminist scholar best known by her pen name, bell hooks.

“We are fortunate to have the only known literary park in the United States, right here in Hopkinsville on this campus,” HCC President Dr. Alissa Young said in a press release. “bell hooks began her life here in Christian County, and broadened her perspectives and knowledge by immersing herself into the universe of literature.”

hooks died on Dec. 15 at her home in Berea. She had written more than 30 books on topics that included Black culture and feminism and was considered one of the country’s preeminent scholars. She also wrote several children’s books.

A 1970 graduate of Hopkinsville High School, she was the daughter of the late Veodis and Rosa Bell Watkins. She adopted the lowercase pen name from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.

The HCC Foundation will coordinate a fundraising effort for the hooks feature in the park. The preliminary goal is $35,000, the college release says.

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Hoptown Chronicle
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Jennifer P. Brown
Round Table Literary Park on the campus of Hopkinsville Community College.

Hopkinsville native Donavan Pinner, a graduate of Morehouse College who is currently pursuing a master of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary, is one of the chairs for the fundraising committee. He is a member of the Foundation’s board.

“bell hooks’ works reflect the values of love and the transcending power of education,” Pinner said in the release.

Pinner noted a favorite quote from hooks: “The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy.”

Tax-deductible gifts to the bell hooks memorial can be mailed to HCC Foundation, P.O. Box 180, Hopkinsville, Kentucky 42241-0180. Anyone wanting to make a credit/debt card donation should contact Yvette Eastham, chief institutional advancement officer, at (270) 707-3731.

Established in 1974, the park has suffered some recent vandalism, including the theft of the Mask of Tragedy from the Melpomene’s sculpture. College officials are currently making repairs.

The family of the late Frances Thomas — one of the college’s early instructors and the founder of the park — are supportive of a bell hooks addition to the park, the release states.

“We intend to add code badging to the features in the park that will enable visitors, with just a touch of their smartphone, to learn more about the legend of King Arthur, Merlin and Excalibur, Melpomene and mythology. Addition of this technology will ensure too that visitors learn more about bell hooks and her impact and influence on literature, social justice, racism, classism, sexism and more,” said Eastham. “This investment benefits our college community of course, but it also is an asset to the community at large and has the potential to be an attraction to visitors. It’s a tranquil, peaceful place for reflection, learning, reading and we look forward to sharing additional plans to expand Round Table Park as a user-friendly asset for our entire community.”

The bell hooks installation will be the first addition to the park in nearly 30 years.

Hopkinsville resident Gwenda Motley, who is hooks’ younger sister, added, “Our sister, Gloria, known to the world as bell hooks, was larger than life in every field of endeavor she touched. The family is deeply honored by HCC’s plan to pay tribute to her work in Round Table Literary Park, and we look forward to this installation inspiring future generations to dare to question, to dream, and to do.”

(Editor’s Note: Gwenda Motley serves on Hoptown Chronicle’s board of directors.)

This article first appeared on HoptownChronicle.org.

Jennifer P. Brown is the founder and editor of Hoptown Chronicle.
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