With the news about the recent arrest of four Morehouse College students on sexual assault charges, it is explicitly and undeniable clear that now is the time to continue the very difficult dialogue about eradicating rape and rape culture. Make no mistake, rape and other forms of sexual violence are happening on all college campuses across the country. Tragically, there aren’t many “rape free” spaces. In a culturally specific context, however, the horrible combination of racism and misogyny often results in a deafening silence when Black men rape Black women. This is evident on too many HBCU campuses.
Ramesh Kathandhi and Aishah Shahidah Simmons (photo: Lani Jones)
On the evening of April 25, 2013, we were small in number in Spelman College’s Cosby Auditorium. And yet, we had a powerful post-NO! The Rape Documentary discussion about breaking the silence about sexual violence and ending rape culture on our college campuses, in our families, our communities, and society at large. I was very fortunate to co-facilitate the dialogue with Ramesh Kathandhi, who is the internship coordinator at Men Stopping Violence. Drs. Beverly Daniel Tatum (President of Spelman College), Darnita Killian (Vice President of Student Affairs), and Kimberly Ferguson (Dean of Students) were also in attendance and expressed a commitment to tackle this issue head on with the students.
Aishah Shahidah Simmons (middle) with Drs. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Cynthia Neal Spence, Lani Jones, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Darnita Killian
We will continue and broaden this dialogue at Spelman College in the fall 2013 and in the spring 2014.Stay tuned for details when they become available.
Infinite gratitude to Drs. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Cynthia Neal Spence (Associate Professor of Sociology and Trustee of the Board), and Spelman College’s Women’s Research and Resource Center (WRRC) for their tireless and relentless work to not allow (the too often silent) rape epidemic go unnoticed, unchecked, and/or unaddressed. Founded in 1981 by Dr. Guy-Sheftall, the WRRC has been long-term supporter of NO! The Rape Documentary from conception (1994) to completion (2006) and distribution (present day).
On May 1, 2013, Brooke Elise Axtell with Monica J. Casper, Heather Laine Talley, and Aishah Shahidah Simmons concluded The Feminist Wire’s (TFW) 10-day Forum on Race, Racism, and Anti Racism Within Feminism with their Radical Love, Race, and Feminism article.
…We are called to be fiercely honest, compassionate, and gracious in our discourse. Radical love can hold our rage, our sadness, and our grief over the ways we have failed each other, and may continue to fail each other. Without love, we remain fractured beyond measure.
In closing, we want to offer an opening; that is, our Forum has been as much about forging dialogue as it has been about trying to locate lived experiences. Over the past ten days, this collection of essays, visual art, poetry, creative nonfiction, and love notes has functioned as an invitation to think critically and to act ethically, to recognize our structural locations, and to innovate new ways of living as allies and practicing community.
As part of our commitment to continuing this dialogue about race, racism, and anti-racism within feminisms, we will continue to publish works that engage our deepest concerns as a collective. We invite you to share your insights with us as we explore more of this fertile and volatile terrain…
Painting by Mequitta Ahuja
Radical Love, Race, and Feminist Futures includes links to every single article, love note, poem, interview, and visual artwork that was featured in the Forum. If you missed some of the featured pieces or would like to refer to them in the future, you may do so by clicking here.
TFW’s co-founder and managing editor Tamura A. Lomax said, “[the Forum] was the most diverse critical discourse on this subject/life matter to date.” She continues, “And yes, I’m quite thrilled that it happened at TFW. The issue(s) re: race within (and without) feminism is not black and white, nor is it simply gray. In actuality it’s quite colorful. And if we’ve learned nothing else this past week and a half, we know there’s still lots of work ahead. And, we ALL have work to do.”
The Forum’s lead editor Heidi Renée Lewis, in concert with the team of co-editors (Aimee Meredith Cox, Heather Laine Talley, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Hakima Abbas, Tamura A. Lomax, Monica Casper, Omar Ricks, Shubra Sharma, and Aishah Shahidah Simmons), compassionately and lovingly worked together virtually across multiple time zones in the United States and internationally in Africa and South Asia often while simultaneously on the road, teaching, lecturing, mothering, partnering, conferencing, and dealing with unexpected life altering personal, familial, and professional life crises. Just when many wanted to throw in the towel and forgo the conclusion other than say, “That’s all folks! Take care,” Brooke Elise Axtell, picked up the ball and helped everyone carry it across the finish line.
The power of the compassionate, loving, and selfless TFW Collective can never be denied.
“…This is an attempt to reexamine race and racism from multiple feminist perspectives. To be sure, this is not a Black-white dialogue. This is not a cisgender dialogue. It is not exclusively academic in nature nor entirely activist in spirit. It is multi-voiced, even as it is not representative. It is a conversation that pre-dates all of us, even as it is a dialogue that is no less important now than in previous iterations of feminism, from the suffragettes exclusion of African-American women to the whiteness of the sex wars, to white feminism’s response to and engagement with transnational feminism.
A theme emerges in this Forum–white folks will be called out. And not just because of white silence to recent events, but also because our time is one that is shaped through and through by white supremacy. White privilege may be diluted by class, geography, ability, sexuality, gender identity. And yet, the structural underpinnings of the institutions that inscribe our lives and everyday patterns of seeing and talking are bound together by a legacy of racism, the overvaluation of white bodies at other humans’ expense, and policies intended to promote thriving for white folks.
This Forum is certainly not meant to be the definitive statement on race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism. TFW is committed to cultivating an ongoing dialogue, and so even as we start this Forum, we know that this is only the start of a long-term and potentially difficult conversation, part of which we will continue to publish. We offer these essays and love notes as a beginning and invite you to continue to journey and engage with us.
Racism in feminism exists. This fact is not up for debate, not here not now. But we ask you to consider: what actions and inactions, words and silences make it possible for racism to breed? Morphing in response to logics like colorblindness and thriving through co-optation of words like “diversity” and “multiculturalism.” Enduring because of cowardice and privilege rather than courage seems to be the default mode of operating. For the next ten days this Forum seeks to interrupt this dynamic. We invite you to join us.”
Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA) hosts a series of panels/discussions featuring Aishah Shahidah Simmons participating on panels/roundtables with students who are addressing rape, rape culture, and homophobia in our families, on campuses, and society at large. The day will culminate with a screening and discussion of her film NO! The Rape Documentary.
Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA) presents a day long series of panels and discussions with Aishah Shahidah Simmons addressing rape, rape culture, and homophobia, in our families, on campuses, and society at large. This will culminate with Aishah screening and discussing NO! The Rape Documentary.
The screening and discussion of NO! are free and open to the public. However, the organizers request that you please RSVP.
Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm Occidental College Swan Dumke Commons CONTACT: Dominic Alletto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm Claremont Graduate University Albrecht Auditorium in Stauffer Hall (corner of 10th and Dartmouth) CONTACT: Lisa Maldonado at 909.607.3509 or <email@example.com> (PLEASE RSVP)
A deep heartfelt gratitude shout out to my Sister/Comrade Linda Perkins, who, since her first meeting Aishah at the 2006 world premiere of NO! at the Pan African-Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been an invaluable source of support in a myriad of ways.
"I wish we could be as passionate about ending rape & rape culture as so many of us are about protecting those who rape or those who promote rape. In the specific instances of people of color and anti-racist white people, it’s uncanny how so many us are absolutely clear and razor sharp with our analyses about the horrid impact of racism and white supremacy upon our communities. And yet, when it comes to sexism, misogyny, and gender-based violence perpetrated against cis/trans women and all gender non-conforming people, the response is too often a combination of crickets, a rush to blame the victim/survivors, and/or a rush to protect/contexualize the behavior of perpetrators."
Tyree, Aishah, and our Dad (Michael) circa June 2012 on South Street in Philadelphia.
There is a lot of understandable righteous outrage about Rick Ross’ rape lyric… I realized that before I can respond to Rick Ross or any other sexist/misogynist/homophobic hiphop artist, I must respond to my brother Tyree Cinque Simmons who is known to the world as DJ Drama.
Most people do not even know that we are related. I believe that in our own ways we both work to keep it that way because we have chosen very different paths for our journeys called life.
Make no mistake that while I haven’t spoken to him in months, I love my turtle twin younger brother. However, I can no longer privately discuss my deep pain with the trusted few about both the person he has become and the music he creates…. I’m not on top of Gangsta Grillz and I can only hope and affirm that he hasn’t produced ANY music that encourages and/or celebrates rape or any other form of gender-based violence. In spite of this, I ask where do we draw the line? When is enough ENOUGH?