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Partner Spotlight: Black History Wisdom from Bruny Kenou

This Black History Month, Hopelab is excited to celebrate moments, people, and wisdom that continue to shape our culture and communities. Bruny Kenou, mental health activist, medical student at the George Washington School of Medicine, and Health Sciences and Community-based Tech Fellow at Hopelab, challenges us to live with more joy and fulfillment in our lives by embracing the wisdom of author and activist bell hooks.

The following was written by Bruny Kenou and shared with the Hopelab staff. It has been edited for length and clarity.

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bell hooks, African-American author, feminist, and social activist

As we head into the first few days of Black History Month, I want to introduce a concept by one of my favorite African American writers, bell hooks, known as “love ethic.” What is love ethic, you ask? A love ethic focuses on prioritizing human life and well-being over wealth. It stands in opposition to capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. In bell hook’s All About Love: New Visions, she writes, “Living by a love ethic, we learn to value loyalty and commitment to sustain bonds over material advancement. While careers and making money remain important agendas, they never take precedence over valuing human life and well-being.”

Living by a love ethic, we learn to value loyalty and commitment to sustain bonds over material advancement. While careers and making money remain important agendas, they never take precedence over valuing human life and well-being.
bell hooks
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Excerpt from “All About Love”

I want to take a second and imagine what the world would be like if we embraced a love ethic in the things we did. Would we create social programs that worked instead of kicking the problem down the road? Would we be able to see the unhoused people as they are: people with dreams and hopes, people who deserve a chance at safety as much as those of us who can afford housing? How would we approach “punishment” for those found guilty of breaking the law? With an approach rooted in the love ethic, would we focus more on retribution or rehabilitation for those in the carceral system?

One of the greatest movements that transformed society was fueled by the love ethic: the Civil Rights Movement. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Maya Angelou, and Sojourner Truth — just to name a few — harnessed the love ethic and used it to dream of a place better than they would ever experience. They dared to work on this dream to make it a reality.

This month, I challenge you to learn about the love ethic and find small ways to embrace it in your life. As hooks writes, “I know no one who has embraced a love ethic whose life has not become joyous and more fulfilling.”

I believe you deserve a little bit more joy and fulfillment in your life. Don’t you?


Craving even more bell hooks wisdom? Hopelab Creative Lead, Joshua Lavra suggests this conversation from The New School, where bell hooks was a scholar-in-residence at Eugene Lang College for liberal arts. The clip is timestamped for her definition of queerness.


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