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"Humor," said bell hooks to the crowd of 500 gathered in Houston Hall last night, "is very important when dealing with difference."

hooks, a distinguished professor in residence at Berea College and the author of more than 40 books, encouraged students to scrutinize the boundaries of intellect through honest examinations of their own voices.

"We are at Penn to shout for joy!" she said. "Let us dare to make this an occasion to celebrate and a time to raise consciousness."

Students in attendance said the event was a valuable experience.

"You come to the university to have moments like this," said Tanya Maloney, a first-year doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education. "We constantly refer to her works. To get to see the living, breathing person is special. I am here . to be inspired."

hooks called on students to engage in meaningful dialogue on race by "creating numerous ways to think and be." She advocated fearless conversations on injustice, citing silence as the deadliest killer of significant change.

"Part of our difficulty in our society is that . we've lost the art of talking together. Everyone in this room is capable of giving something that will ensure that their voices will be heard," hooks said.

Known for her multi-layered perspectives on race, feminism and class, hooks presented her trademark candidness in her review of anti-intellectualism and the forgotten voices of black women.

"Our struggle is also a struggle of memory," she said.

During the presentation, hooks shared an anecdote about her experience as a black female writer.

"Some old, old white woman came up to me last Friday at an art show, and she said, 'I'm reading [author] Zora Neale Hurston." hooks said, "Now, I could be annoyed . or I could celebrate the fact that at 70-something she's reading her first black woman writer. Change is a process."

Brought to Penn by the Pollack Family in memory of their mother, Jane S. Pollack, hooks challenged the notion of the intellectual as simply radical.

She called love the starting point of revolution.

Love "is the intervention . it is love that allows us to survive whole," she said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Africana studies, the Women's Studies program and the Alice Paul Center.

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