“Removing the Mask: AfroLez®femcentric Silence Breaker” in Queering Sexual Violence Anthology


In late February 2010 white queer feminist sibling survivor Jennifer Patterson asked me if I would contribute an essay about my child sexual abuse for her anthology in process Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement (QSV) I didn’t know Jennye very well and she definitely didn’t know the details of my incest herstory. She reached out to me both because of [my film] NO!’s impact on her life, but also because of my publicly identifying as an incest survivor. I was both horrified and terrified at the thought and told her as such. I essentially told her that I would consider the invitation but doubted that I would be able to participate. Less than one month after Jennye’s invitation, the life of the beloved family member who molested me over a period of two years in grave danger.

That was a major turning point in my life. I began taking the small steps, which over time became giant strides and leaps in my own rebirthing process. I took an unflinching look at my incest herstory and its last imprint on my life. Through that process, I put pen to paper or key to screen and for the first time in my life I took an unflinching and yet, deeply compassionate look at what happened to me as a child and the subsequent latter years (three decades) of the man who molested me never being held accountable by my parents in his lifetime for what he did. This is not a mommy/daddy dearest narrative but instead an opportunity to reflect upon what #LoveWITHAccountability looks like in the most compassionately humane ways.

My essay “Removing the Mask: AfroLez®femcentric Silence Breaker” is one of over twenty-five essays and poems written by radically diverse LGBTQIA activists, scholars, healers, cultural workers who center queerness while we/they write about sexual violence. This anthology is a paradigm shifter in a society and dare I say frequently pathologizes queer survivors.

There are no words to express the depth of my personal gratitude that Jennye never ever gave up on her vision because there were many reasons along her six-year journey to just throw in the towel.

The anthology is hot off the press and available for purchase TODAY. For more information about the anthology and the upcoming readings (May 10, 2016 in NYC at Bluestockings is the launch), please visit the website.


Incest, Child Sexual Abuse and Silence Enforced by Familial Love and Loyalty

Friend-Survivor Tonda S. Clarke’s COURAGEOUS March 14, 2015 Facebook post informed my reflection.

Incest/Child Sexual Abuse survivors must come to grips with the fact that those who were charged with protecting us believe that they have the right to say and/or do anything when we were children AND even when we are ’good AND grown’ adults without being privately challenged, held accountable, or exposed. When Incest/Child Sexual Abuse privately or publicly break our silences, we are often accused with allowing negative forces to harm ourselves and others, not being mentally stable, not caring about and/or loving those who “love us the most.” It’s quite ironic that in the name of familial love and loyalty, we are overtly or covertly encouraged to remain silent. Yet, familial love and loyalty didn’t keep us safe.

Friend-Survivor-Confidante Amita Swadhin either coined or taught me the term ‪#‎bloodsupremacy‬. Prior to learning it from Amita, I hadn’t heard the term. I agree with her wholeheartedly that blood supremacy is one of, if not the most powerful forms of global oppression. So much emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, mental, psychic, and/or spiritual violence happens all of the time and all over the world in families in the name of blood. 

Phoenix Rising


I Am A Phoenix Rising from the Incest / Child Sexual Abuse Ashes
Image shared by Amita Swadhin of Mirror Memoirs. Amita writes “morning meditation, courtesy of Aishah Shahidah Simmons. I am #grateful to have a phoenix heart. 🔥❤️ #OctaviaButler”

Octavia Butler was a prolific clairvoyant writer whose legacies live. I believe she was a prophet in our midst. She had the gift of sight. If you don’t know work, google and buy immediately. Also check out the hot off the press anthology Octavia's Brood, edited by Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown.

‘Being Well Ain’t No Triflin Matter’: On Romantic Relationships

Three years ago today, I made a conscious decision to get off of the (extremely unhealthy for me) romantic relationship track to solely focus on digging deep to get to know the “me” that I know as Aishah Shahidah Simmons in this lifetime. This conscious and intentional digging and digging and digging through therapy and vipassana meditation along with the love, encouragement, and support of many–most especially my Dad– led me to unearth the profound imprint of the impact of child sexual abuse on my life. I had absolutely positively no idea that this is where the journey to take me. To be honest, had I known, I may not have taken it. I’m not solely talking about what happened repeatedly to me over a period of two years from the ages of ten to twelve. I’m also talking about my being taught to love and care for my beloved perpetrator *without* him ever being held accountable by the two people whose responsibility it was to protect me. What messages did I learn and completely embody from the mental and emotional acrobats I did to wear a mask for decades to both protect him and my beloved parents for over three decades? While this is about the past, it’s also grounded in the present. This isn’t about demonization of my grandfather or my parents. We can’t continue to “equate criticism with assault” (Toni Cade Bambara). It’s about speaking/writing the complicated truths to acknowledge, explore and be accountable to the painful contradictions. No one, no one is all good or all bad. To be human is to be fallible.

I am not anti romantic relationships – not by a long shot. I am ALL about romantic love. I experientially know that one can do incredible work on themselves and with their partners while in relationship. I also know that I couldn’t have done (or begun) this specific work partnered. Yes, during my relationship sabbatical I crushed hard. I am grateful for that magical experience, which taught me love with accountability and without strings attached. It also led and fully supported my own eWOMANcipation from the shackles holding down my mask, which was slowly suffocating me. No, I haven’t committed my life to being single, but I also am not pressed if that’s what ultimately happens.

Today – the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S. – I will embark on a fairly intense travel schedule across the country to screen NO! and to also talk about rape and other forms of sexual assault. For the first time ever I will be very intentional with sharing my experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse to underscore my evolving understanding that the deafening silence around child sexual abuse in the familial institution plays a pivotal role in co-creating rape culture in all other institutions – religious, academic, activist, political, and professional. These institutions are not separate and as long as we move as if they are separate and not interconnected, I do not believe we will ever get to the root of eradicating the violence. I am grateful to be in an incredible national and international community of survivors who are engaged in healing justice through activism, all forms of cultural work, scholarship, and theology. They teach, challenge, and inspire me every single day.

On Incest, Migraines, Vipassana Meditation, Therapy, Healing & Cleansing

The onset of my living with severe migraine headaches began when I was ten years old. I firmly believe that my headaches were a physical reaction to my being repeatedly molested by my grandfather and never removed from the environment. My body was screaming because I could not. After twenty years of being completely dependent on over the counter and prescribed medication for my headaches, I went cold turkey because of deep concern about the impact of the side effects on my body. I was fortunate enough to have a lifestyle that enabled me to ride the headaches out through shutting everything down for the day or two when they would emerge. Two years later, I took my first ten-day vipassana meditation course in 2002. My work with a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in sexual trauma and my dedicated meditation practice have served as anchors through the headache and other storms.

Last autumn, thanks to the generosity of my dear friend Enid Lee, I was introduced to a doctor (Dr. James Cartwright) who drastically changed my hardcore essentially vegan diet. Since that time, my headaches have almost disappeared.

I spent a significant part of yesterday afternoon and evening revising an essay that I’ve struggled to write for five-years. It’s the first essay that I’ve ever written that interrogates What it means to both learn and be encouraged to interact with, deeply love, and care for someone who terrorized me as a child for two years?

I tried to get out of writing this “peace” for years and my sister-survivor, comrade and friend Jennifer Patterson gently supported and encouraged me to “go there” in print in her forthcoming edited anthology Queering Sexual Violence.

This morning I awakened with a headache that’s not quite a migraine but it is intense. I haven’t had one in a quite a while. I sat on the mediation cushion and observed the sensations. Usually, I struggle with feeling defeated when headaches occur. This morning, I actually feel liberated. I understand that this is part of my process. I went to a very deep space and buried place to unearth what I revised and sent at 12:31a.m. This headache this Thursday morning is part of the cleansing.