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Remembering SF State Ethnic Studies Hunger Striker, Hassani Bell

Remembering SF State Ethnic Studies Hunger Striker, Hassani Bell

Tori Bell

Losing Hassani meant that our community lost a rising leader. He was innovative and willing to step up for any cause that brought great change to the environments we live in. He flourished from growth when the reality he questioned transitioned into a peaceful state instead of a reality in which our communities deteriorated. He showed promise with not only his words but also his actions. He stood by his promise and took the bonds he created to never be broken, seriously. At 18 he was willing to put everything on the line with his education if it meant giving back to other people by providing more jobs, more places for students to go ethnically, in order to study a subject that many of us aren’t willing to face. His soul is the will of fire, the will of change. He was the beacon of young light for the city of Oakland and he will truly be missed. Always will be loved. Will never be forgotten. His legacy…. We are his legacy… the will of fire lives on through me, through us. Through all of you.

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Sincerely,

His sister,

Tori Bell

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Sofía Cardenas

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Malcolm X

It’s the Spring Semester of 2016 at SFSU. We had just committed to staging the most public demonstration and explicit demands for change on our campus in nearly 50 years- we were going to Hunger Strike for Ethnic Studies. 

Our Hunger Strikers would be Jules, Sachiel and Ahkeel, but somehow, their combined dedication and bravery still felt lacking. Though we couldn’t vocalize it then, I believe now that the universe knew we were missing Hassani. 

Through our conversations with mentors, student leaders and between hunger strikers themselves, we had approached a few people to join on. However, everyone we pitched the idea to had a great reason for not being able to participate. The team felt incomplete and time was not on our side. 

Larry texted me and he said “We found the fourth hunger striker!” I agreed to meet them in his office. The only expectation I had was that whoever was waiting for us would be ready to throw down. 

When I get there, Larry is sitting across from a young wide eyed boy. I don’t know what happened next or what the conversation was, but I do remember feeling both hesitant to loop in a first year Afrikana Studies student to an action that could not go wrong, and also, that Hassani Bell had an infectious passion and enthusiasm for the work.

SF State Hunger Striker, Hassani Bell, poses for a portrait on May 11, 2016. Bell was shot in Oakland on Aug. 28, 2021, and died two days later. He was 23. Photo Natasha Dangond

The Hassani I knew was sweet, jovial, child-like and sincere. He was also mature, diplomatic, intuitive and passionate. He immediately made me feel like a close friend and he showed me genuine trust and respect. He took his role as a hunger striker and a leader so seriously, I often looked to him for strength to do my role as best I could. 

Hassani Bell did not go on Hunger Strike for himself, or just for funding. Hassani went on Hunger Strike because his view of the world connected our present to our past and our future. Hassani went on Hunger Strike to honor the legacy of Black liberation fighters before him, in solidarity with his peers fighting beside him, and as a gift to the youth who deserved Ethnic Studies in the future. 

As of writing this, I am angry, heart broken and disgusted. I doubt that whoever took Hassani’s life is able to comprehend the treasure they robbed us and themselves of.

It will be Hassani’s tenation, his values, his ability to love both deeply and freely, that I hope to honor in my work from now on. Hassani left this world better than he found it and it is our duty as the organizers, activists and communities left behind on earth to forge a world that Hassani deserved. 

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Jules Retzlaff

I didn’t get to spend much time with Hassani, but the time we shared were some of the most important days of our lives. The hunger strike was often grueling and intense, and in the hard moments, Hassani’s energy and vibrance helped us carry through. Hassani’s brightness, bravery, and love will be things I forever carry with me and hope to share with my community for the rest of life.

Sachiel Rosen

Hassani was so ready to be a light in this world. He decided to join the SF State Hunger Strike after knowing it existed for maybe 10 minutes. He knew that he had the power to be a source of inspiration, knowledge, and peace for his community. His smile was so memorable, and the sound of his laugh will ring through our ears forever. The way he held himself in this world was an example for everyone. He chose to be happy, to hold a smile, to yell “yall go crazy!” . It is important to note that he chose to be happy. It is too easy to be hopeless, and numb in this world. He decided to find and offer happiness. He knew what we lived in, what he struggled with, what his community faced, and did not take this lightly, but he also knew the power of a smile. The power of love. Sani always had love with him. His energy was weighted with a deep love for this world and for the people of this world. For his people. Sani, in his life, created pockets, pathways, and memories of real love. Real moments of freedom. He had no fear when he smiled, and laughed. He shared that with us. Long Live Sani. 

Shannon Deloso 

Big smile and loving personality with at least one piece of Raiders gear on him. You would know it’s Hassani if you’ve seen him, and this memory of him will forever be ingrained in my mind when I think of him. We met during a pivotal moment in each other’s lives and we created a bond through our mutual love for our community and the self determination Ethnic Studies ingrained in us. Working with Hassani during the hunger strike, it was clear that he knew his greater purpose in the world. He had the wonderful ability to find the balance between fearless leader and a light hearted human being. During the darkest times of the hunger strike where hope felt far out of sight, Hassani never missed a moment to bring smiles and purpose into our lives. He continuously reminded us to trust the process and we wouldn’t have gone through this pivotal moment in our college’s hxstory without him, which makes it so difficult to accept that he has transitioned. Hassani’s impact on our community and Ethnic Studies goes beyond the hunger strike. He continued to become an organizer, a leader, a mentor, and a beacon of hope to all; despite any obstacles that may have existed. We love you  so much Hassani, and know we will do whatever possible to carry on your light and commitment to our communities.  

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