Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an award-winning Black feminist lesbian independent documentary filmmaker, published writer, international lecturer, professor, and activist. For almost twenty-five years, Simmons has been both motivated and engaged as a cultural worker because she believes each one of us has the birth right to live in a world where oppression and exploitation based on race/ethnicity, gender/gender identity, national origin/citizenship, sexuality/sexual orientation, class, and/or religion of anyone is non-existent. Aishah credits both her 24-year work with a Black feminist licensed psychologist and a dedicated 14-year practice of vipassana meditation as two integral tools that support her work, which is located at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and spiritual practice.
An incest and rape survivor who was fortunate to have a safe and legal abortion during her sophomore year in college in 1989, Simmons began cinematically telling stories in the 1990s with her self-defined AfroLez®femcentric camera lens. Presently she is a 2016-2018 Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC) Fellow where she is developing her multimedia project #LoveWITHAccountability, which examines how accountability is a powerful and necessary form of love needed to address child sexual abuse. #LoveWITHAccountability also examines how the silence around child sexual abuse in the familial institution plays a direct role in creating a culture of sexual violence in all other institutions—religious, academic, activist, political and professional. She is also a 2016-2018 Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). While in residence at SP2, she will conduct research, and continue to develop her #LoveWITHAccountability project under the auspices of her two-year JBC Fellowship. Additionally, the interlocutors that she will engage with at SP2 include the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence, the Slought Foundation, and CAMRA, an interdisciplinary collective of researchers and educators committed to participatory and experimental media-making.
An Associate Editor of the online publication The Feminist Wire Simmons’ published articles focus on archiving and documenting Black women’s herstories and contemporary realities because they exemplify intersectional theory and praxis. Her essays and articles have also been published in several journals and anthologies including the recently released Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Violence Movement anthology. Previously, Simmons was the 2015-2016 Sterling Brown Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College, an Adjunct Professor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Temple University, an O’Brien Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Scripps College, an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture and a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, and an Artist-in-Residence at Spelman College’s Digital Moving Image Salon.
Simmons’ internationally acclaimed short videos Silence...Broken ©1993 and In My Father's House ©1996 touch upon issues of race, gender, homophobia, rape, reproductive justice, and misogyny. She is the creator of the 2006-released JustFilms Ford Foundation-funded, internationally acclaimed and award-winning feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary. Subtitled in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, NO! explores the international atrocity of heterosexual rape and other forms of sexual violence through the first person testimonies, scholarship, spirituality, activism and cultural work of African American women and men. NO! also explores how rape is used as a weapon of homophobia. Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, says, “If the Black community in the Americas and in the world would save itself, it must complete the work that [NO!] begins.” Click here for Simmon's full Filmography.
Her cultural work and activism are featured in anthologies, periodicals, and blogs including, but not limited to Ms, Colorlines, TheRoot.com, Forbes, Crisis, Alternet, Racialicious, Left of Black, The Philadelphia Weekly, In These Times, Peace X Peace, The Chronicle of Higher Education, HuffPost Black Voices, and Imagine Otherwise. She has also appeared on local and national radio and television networks including National Public Radio (NPR), Black Entertainment Television (BET), and Pacifica Radio Network.
Aishah has screened her work, guest lectured, and facilitated workshops and dialogues to racially and ethnically diverse audiences at colleges and universities, high schools, conferences, international film festivals, rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, community centers, juvenile correctional facilities, and government sponsored events across the United States and Canada, throughout Italy, in South Africa, France, England, Croatia, Hungary, The Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, India, Switzerland, St. Croix U.S.V.I, Germany, and Cuba.