I recently had the chance to be a part of the OUTcast: On Being Queer and a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor panel in DCRead More
Aishah will kick off April's Sexual Assault Awareness month in Tuscon, Arizona with a fundraiser screening of NO! The Rape Documentary on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at 7:30pm.
All proceeds will go towards the planning of Tucson Take Back the Night 2018, the annual march and event raising awareness around sexual assault and empowering survivors.
Aishah was also featured on a local news segment.
On International Women's Day, Aishah Shahidah Simmons released the Essex Hemphill segment featured in NO! The Rape Documentary as a separate stand-alone video.
Cassius Life Magazine's news and culture editor Stephanie Long interviewed Aishah and published their conversation on March 14, 2018.
When NO! The Rape Documentary first debuted at the Pan African Film Festival in 2006, it was received with critical acclaim. Among the 50 documentaries and short films invited to be a part of the Open Frame Film Festival in 2009, NO! took home the Audience Choice Award and a Juried Award at the 2006 Sandiego Women Film Festival. It also won the award for Best Documentary at the 2008 India International Women’s Film Festival.
Now, for the first time, the film’s Essex Hemphill segment has been made into a stand-alone video. “I decided to make it a stand-alone short video this year because I believe it’s very important that we hear from Black men who are unwavering about the imperative need to address and end sexual and domestic violence in our communities,”Aishah Shahidah Simmons, director of NO!, told CASSIUS. “I worked with my friend and colleague Dr. Kai Green, who helped me create the stand alone video in his office at Williams College.”
C.: What went into making the decision to release this segment this year? Was it meant to be released sooner?
A.S.: The decision to release the Essex Hemphill segment as a standalone video separate from and still related to NO! The Rape Documentary was based on my desire to celebrate Black women in Women’s Herstory Month, and to lift up Hemphill’s radical vision of a world that respects and cherishes Black women long before it was trending. Hemphill’s poem, “To Some Supposed Brothers,” is a powerful acknowledgement of the wounds that so many Black women have to live with. Written almost three decades ago, his words and delivery have a compelling way of drawing you into a painful reality, while simultaneously calling the viewer into action to co-create a world without violence. Hemphill’s work was so piercing. He didn’t feel the necessity to sugar coat his words or images in order to make the audience feel good. His intention was to make you uncomfortable in order to affect radical social change.
C.: Can you tell us a little about raising funds to have the segment edited back in 1997 and why that was important?
A.S.: Fundraising for the making of the film was a hardcore Black feminist and LGBTQ grassroots effort. In the early days of the 12-year journey, I relied heavily upon the communities from which I come to support this vision. Award-winning poet and activist Sonia Sanchez and longterm activists Inelle Cox Bagwell and Pat Clark were the first people who gave major donations in support of the making of NO! The Rape Documentary. The Astraa Lesbian Foundation for Justice was the very first foundation who said, “YES! to NO!” Their collective funding enabled me to create two trailers, which featured the Essex Hemphill segment and testimonies from Black women rape survivors. I screened these trailers extensively across the United States and in several European countries including England, The Netherlands, France, and Italy at numerous educational fundraising screenings. The money raised at those screenings went directly into the making of the feature length documentary film.
Click here to read in its entirety here.
[AUDIO] “How do you move beyond sharing about your trauma to healing it?” asks child sexual abuse survivor, adult rape survivor, NO! The Rape Documentary producer/director and #LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons on Episode 2 of Feral Visions: a decolonial feminist podcast with producer/host Anjali Nath. Feral Visions is also available as an iTunes podcast. Resources listed below.
***The interview was conducted on August 14, 2017 and released on October 19, 2017. Aishah and her father were finally able to have a seismic, transformative conversation on October 16, 2017.***
Links to resources referenced in the interview.
THREE WOMEN RISING, the journey to ending childhood sexual abuse on Episode 19 of Rythea Lee's 'Advice from a Loving Bitch' series. Rythea invited expert artists, activists, and cultural workers author Donna Jenson and #LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons to join her to help her tackle this child sexual abuse with passion, grace, and maturity. Rythea, Donna, and Aishah each answer "How do we heal? How do we fight back? How do we break the cycle? How do we find joy?"
This project took several months, tons of patience, lots of trust, deep compassion and much love.
Aishah Shahidah Simmons (Philadelphia) was one of the participants who reflected upon and participated in an ArtsEverywhere global roundtable assembled by Kholoud Bidak (Cairo) and Coumba Toure (Dakar), The other participants were: Akwaeke Emezi (Brooklyn), Kagure Mugo (Johannesburg), Lucia Victor Jayaseelan, (London), Kutlwano Pearl Magashula (Johannesburg), Pia Love (London), Rokhaya Gueye (Dakar), Sheena Gimase Magenya (Nairobi), and Thato Poelo Semele (Johannesburg). The roundtable asked artist/activists Africa and the Diaspora to weigh in on "What is Wellbeing?"
“[...]Convening this roundtable for ArtsEverywhere presented an opportunity to share the point of view of some people who care about changing ideologies of oppression through their work; we were very keen to share the voices of African/coloured, artists/activists, gender non-conforming individuals, women, lesbians.
The issue of wellbeing is one of our main challenges in the work of activism, either for those who work with NGOs, art, community organizing, or any other channel. It gets more complicated if a person still struggles for essential needs and rights.[...]”
Read in its entirety here.
In September 2016, Aishah Shahidah Simmons had the opportunity to participate in her friend/comrade/sibling survivor Ignacio G Rivera's The HEAL Project's "Outing CSA (Child Sexual Abuse)" campaign, which features the voices of a range of diverse individuals publicly naming their status as CSA survivors. Aishah’s video was posted on March 21, 2017 on The Heal Project’s site. #LoveWITHAccountability is truly grateful for Ignacio's vision and dedicated work to pull up the roots of child sexual abuse in a variety of educationally interactive, media-based ways.
Please visit the video archive here. My video is below.
CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNING: Child sexual abuse, survivor, rape
NO! The Rape Documentary and #LoveWITHAccountability are going off of the grid from January 10, 2017 through February 13, 2017 while Aishah Shahidah Simmons sits a 30-day vipassana meditation course. This practice is one of two unwavering tools/resources that both support and enable Aishah to do the work that she does in the world. We invite you to read her reflections on her process and journey.
We will be back on the grid on February 14, 2017!
Luz Marquez Benbow and Dr. Thema Bryant Davis join producer/host Esther Armah for a moving conversation on Child Sexual Abuse, Family, Faith, Forgiveness and The Script of Silence in Part II of #TheSpin's #LoveWITHAccountability special.
Broken silence, breaking soul, drugs, truancy, poetry, Christianity, African-based Spirituality, finding a way, coming home, losing your way, context and comfort and company in this powerful 3-way diasporic Black --Ghanaian, Puerto Rican, and African-American women's exchange.
The brainchild of producer/host/visionary Esther Armah, #TheSpin is a one hour, weekly radio show recorded via BBC Accra and NPR studios. The Spin is distributed by NPR Distribution and the Public Radio Satellite System. The show airs on the radio in Ghana, Nigeria, and on several NPR affiliates throughout the United States. It is also available on SoundCloud and iTunes podcasts via The Spin1 channel.
LISTEN, SHARE, AND TAKE CARE.
Esther Armah, Producer/Director of THE SPIN: all women media panel syndicated talk show launched a two-part #LoveWITHAccountability (LWA) special featuring LWA creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons and her mother Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, and Luz Marquez-Benbow and Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis.
In part 1 of The Spin’s LoveWITHAccountability special Aishah and Dr. Simmons delved deep and broke silence about familial #incest violence committed against Aishah when she was a child. They reflected, cried, held space, spoke openly, and read excerpts of their joint article in the #LoveWITHAccountability Forum on The Feminist Wire
The brainchild of producer/host/visionary Esther Armah, THE SPIN: all women media panel syndicated talk show is a one hour, weekly radio show recorded via BBC Accra and NPR studios. The Spin is distributed by NPR Distribution and the Public Radio Satellite System. The show airs on the radio in Ghana, Nigeria, and on several NPR affiliates throughout the United States. It is also available on SoundCloud and iTunes podcasts via The Spin1 channel.
The Spin. One Hour. Once a Week. Smart=Sexy. Listen below!
For many Black/People of Color, the harm doers are ALSO in our families of origin and our chosen communities. They, too, have been harmed and are often unable or unwilling to examine the ways that they harm. However if this excruciatingly painful and relentless work doesn't happen, our communities will never be liberated.
Yes, Ignacio's HEAL Project is a form of #LoveWITHAccountability
"HEAL Project Tackles Child Sexual Abuse Using Survivors' Videos, Theater and Social Media by Miriam Zoila Pérez, Colorlines
"Ignacio Rivera—a child sexual abuse survivor as well as a "transgender, Two-Spirit, Black-Boricua Taíno and queer activist, writer, educator and artist"—has dedicated their life to breaking silences. With their new HEAL (Hidden Encounters Altered Lives) Project, Rivera is using theater, social media campaigns and sex education for parents and guardians to interrupt the cycle of this often buried form of abuse."
Learn more about Ignacio's project here.
Appreciating this powerful writing from Molly Boeder Harris of The Breathe Network
Appreciating this powerful writing from Molly Boeder Harris of The Breathe Network:
“Surviving? Resilience? Sometimes I think it’s just a matter of luck. Or a matter of timing. Or a matter of being understood and symptoms being seen for what they are - natural responses to overwhelming and ongoing mind, body and soul terror. We somehow hang on for an extra hour, and someone comes through like a miracle reminding us to stay. Or we are just met with the best resources possible in the beginning and that gives us a foundation to start from - so that when things get shitty, five years later or 15 years later, we have something inside we can draw from to sustain us through the worst - again and again. Or we are encircled by people who believe and support and buffer us against all the external bullshit that may come our way of we speak out. But damn it is exhausting to still feel so much and there is so much shame in not being "over it” in a culture that wants a happy ending. And then there is this culture, and all of the intricacies of the dynamics surrounding our abuse, our disclosure, our perpetrator, our family and community, all the ways people do and don’t show up for us over the years. And then the ways that the work of the movement keeps the wounds open, or the ways that for others, denying survivorhood may keep the wound open…and everything in between. It seems to me that resilience is like a constellation that comes together around us, like we are a new burning star at the center of something really huge and yet we become part of a web of stars - interconnected to something larger that gives us stability and structure and freedom to move, no timelines that can be measured, just ongoing showing up and presence - versus the isolation, the black hole, the clock ticking on how long you get to be sad and angry and triggered and afraid that comes with being raped in this culture. The clock that ticks so loud and the timeline that feels so impossible that it just doesn’t seem worth it. It’s so hard and I don’t think we’ve gotten really real about it still. I think the resilience comes and grows with practice, but also, really effing hard practice, like water we have to drink daily survive…and when we stop practicing we notice pretty quickly. And the practice requires our people are also onboard with our need to practice and will hang around when shit gets rocky - which it always does and will as we face more of life. I think of all the privileges I have had in my life and my healing - all the kinds of care, past and present, that I have accessed and yet I still have phases of intense struggle and how isolating and shaming it can feel. I am cautiously optimistic that our country/globe is starting to understand what trauma does to our nervous systems, to our brains, to our organs, to our muscles and our breath and the way we digest food - and that with that knowledge - combined with all the non-cognitive ways we heal the parts of the brain and psyche and soul, and then all of it articulated through the lens of sexual assault survivors - that this weight will lighten for others in time…that maybe trauma healing won’t be a life battle but rather, resilience practices will be accessible and normalized from the beginning allowing someone to be free from their past physically, mentally, energetically and spiritually, sooner rather than later, but damn, we have our work to do.“
Imagine Otherwise podcast episode 014 features an interview with #LoveWITHAccountability creator Aishah Shahidah Simmons. During the 45-minute interview, which can be heard online or on iTunes, Aishah shares about her journey to make the internationally acclaimed, award-winning film NO! The Rape Documentary during the height of Mike Tyson trail, Clarence Thomas hearings, and OJ Simpson trial, feminist filmmaking, receiving a Just Beginnings Collaborative funded two year fellowship to focus her full time on ending child sexual abuse, Queering Sexual Violence, and more.
As part of a collaborative piece on The Establishment in conjunction with the Queering Sexual Violence anthology release, four contributors to Queering Sexual Violence share their personal healing paths, envision what healing could look like, and shift the narratives of what surviving and thriving actually can be.
The late Black feminist author, cultural worker, organizer, and one of my teachers, Toni Cade Bambara, asked the timeless question, “Are you sure, sweetheart, you want be well?” in The Salt Eaters, her award-winning 1980 novel. I consistently ask myself this question, because being an unapologetically out Black feminist lesbian who is both an incest/child sexual abuse survivor and an adult rape survivor is extremely difficult. One of many things that I have experientially learned is that healing and being well—emotionally, psychologically, mentally, psychically, and physically—are ongoing journeys and processes, not permanent destinations.
In my essay for Queering Sexual Violence, I wrote about three non-negotiable tools that are an integral part of my healing work. These tools helped me move from victim to survivor and engaged participant in movements to end violence committed against women and queer people, most especially those who are Black/People of Color. These tools are: 24 years of work with a licensed clinical Black feminist psychologist, Dr. Clara Whaley-Perkins; a 14-year practice of vipassana meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka; and 25 years of consistent involvement as an activist/cultural worker/filmmaker in global anti-gender-based violence and LGBTQIA movements.