On Speed & Movement

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I call upon the wisdom of Toni Cade Bambara, who was one of teachers about speed and movement.

I'm grateful to live long enough to experience and witness parental accountability both last year and this week. This work plays a seismic role in my continued healing around child sexual abuse that first began in 1979. There are layers upon layers upon layers upon layers of this excruciatingly painful and radical self care work. It is consistently ongoing, often at a snail's pace. And yet, there's movement.

Love IS a Verb

LOVE shout out to my beloved partner Sheila who, without my asking, took a 2 ½ hour drive to hand deliver flowers, supported my getting out of the literal and metaphorical bed of depression to attend my 30th High School Reunion, and lovingly bared witness to part of my slow climb back up from the child sexual abuse legacy downward spiral.

I would not be able to do my public NO! The Rape Documentary and #LoveWITHAccountability anti-sexual violence work if I weren't doing my private anti-sexual violence work. All of this work is possible because of 25-years of therapy with a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist, 15-year practice of vipassana meditation, AND the cultivated/chosen village.

Love IS A Verb.

Cosby & #BetterOffDead

I once heard that while child and adult rape, molestation and other forms of sexual violence, are horrible acts, they are not as bad as murder because a rape victim can get up from a rape.

I wonder if that's one of the many reasons why the righteous ire about rapists and molesters getting away with rape and molestation is often silenced in the name of the greater issues at hand - white supremacist violence. It's hardly ever both/and and almost always either/or.

Can we IMAGINE if Cosby was accused of murdering one fraction of the women who came forward?


Why are most victim/survivors of all forms of child and adult sexual violence #BetterOffDead in order to receive communal outrage and empathy?

Off the Grid to Journey Deep Within (January 10-February 12, 2017)

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People frequently ask me how I do the trauma specific work that I do in the world.  There are two specific unwavering and non-negotiable supports that literally enable me to do this work: therapy and vipassana meditation

Since 1992, one of my continuous core sources of support has been Dr. Clara Whaley-Perkins who is a licensed clinical Black feminist psychologist, author, and the founding executive director of the Life After Trauma Organization. Over the past two decades I've been able to journey far and deep within the sacred confines of Dr. Whaley-Perkins' office. 

Additionally, I've been a student of and practitioner of the teachings of Buddha through Vipassana Meditation, as taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagi U Ba Khin since I completed my first ten-day vipassana mediation course in January 2003.  My first ten-day course was a transformational experience. I experienced this universal, non-sectarian technique/practice to be one (not the only) way to lead to one's own personal liberation.

Since my first vipassana meditation course course, I’ve had the opportunity to sit and/or serve courses every single year.  I've also worked diligently to establish a practice of sitting everyday, twice a day, for an hour at each sitting. This was not, and at times, it is still not an easy feat for me at all. However through lived experiences over the fourteen years since my first ten-day course, I’m learning that my daily practice of sitting must be non-negotiable. As one cleanses their body daily, I experientially learn that one must work diligently and consistently to purify the mind. A daily two-hour practice sometimes barely cleans the surface, let alone the depths.

#LoveWITHAccountability is a deeper continuation of the work that I began with my film NO! The Rape Documentary. It is also a product of the tools that I learned through my work with Dr. Whaley-Perkins and my practice of vipassana meditation. I talk about this in my interview on The Spin with my mother Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and producer/host Esther Armah. I do not believe the concept for #LoveWITHAccountability would exist were it not for the consistently hardcore work that I've been doing since both 1992 when I first entered Dr. Whaley-Perkins' office and 2002 when I sat my first vipassana course. 

Therapy and vipassana meditation are integral components of my work. They are not separate from the work and should not be viewed as extra-curricular activities. My work would not exist without either one of them. 

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From January 10, 2017 through February 12, 2017, I will be off of the grid completely to sit a 30-day vipassana meditation course. This will be my second 30-day course. I took my first 30-day course in 2013. I am unwavering in my belief that my work during my first 30-day course gave me the final push that I needed to tackle my own child sexual abuse work with my family. 

To be clear, vipassana courses are not vacations, not by a long shot. They offer an in-depth period of time to do a compassionately rigorous self-examination that begins at 4:30am and ends at 9:00pm every single day. This work (including during rest periods and when one retires for the evening) is done without any contact with the outside world including: no reading, no talking, no music, no writing, no chanting, and/or no food after noon – unless you’re pregnant, diabetic, hypoglycemic or other special reasons. It is through this deep meditative work that I work diligently to emerge with more compassion and insight about myself and by extension my work in the world.

Ever since the early morning of November 9, 2016, I have vacillated about whether or not to cancel my participation in this 30-day course so that I could bear witness to this painful inauguration and participate in protests in response to it. I decided to move forward with my plans that were confirmed in August 2016. These struggles will continue and my affirmation is that I will be able to engage in them with more insight, compassion, and mettā.  

May All Beings Be Happy.

Federal Roundtable on Ending Child Sexual Abuse

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On December 19, 2016, the Office of Violence Against Women, US Department of Justice in Partnership with the Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC) hosted a Roundtable on Ending Child Sexual Abuse, which was held at the Office of Justice Programs in Washington, DC. The brainchild and vision of JBC-grantee Luz Marquez Benbow, the purpose of the meeting was to engage in a critical dialogue with federal agencies about the work to end child sexual abuse, while highlighting the leadership of survivors and community-based culturally specific approaches to ending child sexual abuse.  

#LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons presented on Panel II: Survivors Organizing for Justice and Accountability. She shared the panel with JBC grantees: (L-R)  Strong Oak Lefebvre  (Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition),  Aqeela Sherrills  (The Reverence Project),  Erin Esposito  (IGNITE),  Sonya Shah  (Project Ahimsa), and  Sujatha Baliga  (Impact Justice)

#LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons presented on Panel II: Survivors Organizing for Justice and Accountability. She shared the panel with JBC grantees: (L-R) Strong Oak Lefebvre (Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition), Aqeela Sherrills (The Reverence Project), Erin Esposito (IGNITE), Sonya Shah (Project Ahimsa), and Sujatha Baliga (Impact Justice)

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Here's a brief excerpt from the statement that I read at the roundtable:

"My name is Aishah Shahidah Simmons and my JBC-funded project is called #LoveWITHAccountability.  It was conceived and born out of my own personal child sexual abuse healing work... What I have learned so far through this work, and through my own personal journey, is that love with accountability is hard—perhaps nothing is harder—but it is worth the struggle.  Child sexual abuse, by its nature, is complex and together we must demand accountability systems that honor that complexity.  Until we do, we will not end this epidemic. "

***

I had a lot of initial and also subsequent reticence about attending/participating at the Office of Violence Against Women (US Department of Justice) in partnership with the Just Beginnings Collaborative's Roundtable on Ending Child Sexual Abuse because I have always, always worked outside of government structures. I decided to take an intentional leap because I trusted JBC-fellow, sister-survivor Luz Marquez-Benbow's vision that was FULLY supported by JBC's executive director Monique Hoeflinger.

I was emotionally full after one and a half days of meeting, connecting, deep listening, deep authentic sharing, and co-envisioning a world without violence with sibling survivor comrades in the inaugural JBC cohort. It was also a powerful experience to share and engage with appointed and career staff who work on violence against children in U.S. Government Agencies. A huge part of that power was sharing the space with incredibly courageous child sexual abuse survivors and advocates whose lived experiences are different from my own, but who share a demonstrated commitment to addressing this inhumane epidemic humanely. We were a compassionate truth telling collective of individuals.

For many of us in the JBC cohort, it was the first time that we met each other in person. For all* of us who were able to attend, it was the first time that we gathered. I am exhausted and simultaneously invigorated, challenged, and inspired.

*Kimber J Nicoletti, Joanne N. Smith, Mia Mingus weren't able to attend.

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#LoveWITHAccountability Goes Global

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In 1994, when I first envisioned what is now known as NO! The Rape Documentary, I was solely focused on rape and other forms of sexual assault in Black communities. Never in my wildest imaginations did I ever think that the documentary as a work-in-progress, rough cut and completed film would resonate with and educate many individuals in. Canada, and multiple countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, South American and the Caribbean.

Similarly and despite the fact that (like adult rape) child sexual abuse is a global pandemic, I didn't know if Love With Accountability would have a global reach. It was not a part of the original vision.

Thanks to Ghanaian-based producer/host/visionary Esther Armah, #LoveWITHAccountability has gone global through her weekly podcast The SPIN: all women media panel syndicated radio show.

Part one of The Spin's two-part #LoveWITHAccountability series featuring my mom Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and me aired last night at 9pm in Ghana on Starr103.5FM

The show will aired in Nigeria and it is airing on several NPR affiliates in the United States. It is also available on sound cloud and iTunes via TheSpin1 channel.

If you missed it, you can also listen to part 1 of #TheSpin's #LoveWITHAccountability special series podcast in its entirety via this soundcloud link.

“Blooming from the wound where I once bled.”

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I first saw this image on December 9, 2016, which for me is Toni Cade Bambara ascension day on Sis Tisa Bryant's Instagram page.

"I am blooming from the wound where I once bled."

That sentence is one of my truths.

I experientially know this truth from my adult rape and multiple romantic heartaches over the past two decades. However I never ever in my best dreams thought that I would be able to know this truth in response to my child sexual abuse. I have been a #phoenixRISING since January 2015 when I drew a non-negotiable line in the sand with both of my divorced parents. But, I didn't fully believe there would be full accountability from either one of my parents...just when I truly believed I essentially gave up attachment to their loving me accountably, my mother came to grips with and named how she nor my dad protected me as a child and forced me to engage with my harm doer without his ever being held accountable for over three decades. Her revelation happened less than four months ago, 37 years after I was first molested for a period of two years.

While I firmly believe that my healing cannot be contingent upon other peoples words and actions, I experientially know that the work that my mother and I are doing privately and also publicly is fertile ground from which new seeds are blooming.

I may bleed again and I am clear that it will not be a setback.

Healing is a multi-layered journey and not a destination.