September 4, 2014
Celebration of Conscientious Objection to War

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Today, September 4, 2014, I celebrate the 45th anniversary of Michael Simmons (Dad) refusal to participate in the murder of Vietnamese women, children, and men. This resulted in him serving 2 ½ years (30-months) in prison, when, according to him, the average (White) draft case only served 1 ½ years. I was barely five months old when he began serving his term on September 4, 1969. 

Coincidentally (or karmically), my mother (Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons), his ex-wife and life long comrade, was a member of the first American NGO (non-governmental organization) delegation, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee[1], to go into Vietnam right after the war ended in 1979 and risk her life to sneak into Cambodia, during the barbaric Pol Pot regime to document the testimonies of men, women and children and share them with the western world.

I invite you to read an interview with Michael about his conscientious objection: “A Black Man Fights the Draft”, Objector Magazine, published by the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, 2003 via this link: http://www.crmvet.org/comm/draft.htm

Excerpt: “[…]because of the Civil Rights Movement, and because of the influences of people like Malcolm X, along with some things that were happening in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, I had made up my mind in high school that I didn’t want to go into the military even if there hadn’t been a war, and clearly I wasn’t going to fight anybody. But my intent was to try to avoid the military and jail, because I didn’t want to go to jail either.
When I got out of high school, I did register for the draft, because I didn’t know any better, and then I started college.

During my days in college there was no problem, but I went to college for two years and then I dropped out and went down south and joined the Civil Rights Movement. That’s when I started being hassled by the government in terms of reporting [to the draft board] to take my physical, and the other stuff that I was supposed to do…”

Happy Anniversary Dad of WALKING the HARDCORE PRINCIPLED TALK of Peace and Justice for ALL.

Photo was taken at Allenwood Federal Prison (prior to his being transferred to Lewisburg Federal Prison)  

August 8, 2014
My Personal Reflection on the Day of Traveling with Black Women’s Blueprint to Geneva, Switzerland

My Personal Reflection on the Day of Traveling with Black Women’s Blueprint to Geneva, Switzerland

I left the country for the first time in 1989 on a study abroad program during my sophomore year in college. That journey and my preceding herstory as an incest survivor marked the trajectory of my life. In 1989, I was raped one night and had consensual sex with another man the following night. I returned home pregnant unsure of who the father was and six weeks later had a safe and legal abortion a few days after my twentieth birthday. Three months later, recognizing that I was functionally depressed, Michael Simmons (Dad) took me to Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain to attend an international nuclear disarmament conference. After the conference, I backpacked throughout Spain alone for five weeks. During my journey I met with members of the Basque Separatist Movement, the Women’s League of the Communist Party of Barcelona and Madrid. It was in Granada, Spain at the Alhambra that I wrote in my journal that rather than go in debt over a degree, I would go in debt over a film… Little did I know 

Five years later in 1994, I was the youngest member of the American Friends Service Committee’s delegation to observe the first elections post the end of “legal” apartheid. There was a cosmic symmetry about my journey because it was almost exactly 30-years after Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons (Mom) went to Laurel, Mississippi in 1964 (through 1966) to fight against/defy U.S. Sanctioned Apartheid by working with Local Mississippians and her SNCC comrades to register disenfranchised African-Americans to vote. I traveled through and stayed in South Africa for five weeks. It was there that I received a poster from Black South African Feminist Activists that said “The most violent social settings in South Africa was in the home, the crime battering.” Prior to that moment, I never ever thought about violence perpetuated against women in Black and Coloured South African Communities. We never ever talked about gender violence against Black and Coloured women, in the anti-apartheid activist work that I participated in as both a high school and college student. The only violence we talked about was state sanctioned racialized violence. From my own molestation and rape to Desiree Washington, there were many seeds that were planted but it was in South Africa where the seed that eventually (12-years later) became my film NO! The Rape Documentary was fertilized. Never ever again, would I only think about violence in a racilaized in the absence of gender and sexuality lens. NEVER! 

Since 1994, I’ve been most fortunate to travel extensively in numerous countries throughout Europe, and journey to Kenya, Malaysia, and India. Almost all of those journeys were directly related to my work to address violence perpetuated against women and LGBTQ people.

Twenty-five years after my very first international journey that forever changed my life, things appear to come full circle. I’m humbled and grateful that I was invited to embark on a journey to Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of Black Women’s Blueprint with my sisters/comrades Farah Tanis, Christina Jaus, Ibo Zié La Lune, Nikki Patin Frances Nielah Bradley to testify at the United Nations about the too often unaddressed state sanctioned and intimate violence perpetuated against women and LGBTQ people in Black communities in the United States. This is very personal work and it’s very political work. 

Our individual and collective work (along with the work of so many known and unknown sisters) is often underfunded and under paid, if paid at all. And yet, it is an absolute privilege. I believe those of us who are able have a responsibility and an obligation to do this work, which is part of a continuum of various forms of resistance practiced from Enslavement of African people in the Americas and Caribbean through present day — Free Marissa Now!!!!!

I AM … WE ARE metaphorically standing in the blood and upon the shoulders of straight and queer people who willingly AND unwillingly gave their lives for racial, gender and/or Black queer liberation.

Quoting Co-Founder and Executive Director of Black Women’s Blueprint, Sister Farah Tanis, “It is by telling our own life stories and by writing new narratives toward justice that we practice liberation, heal ourselves and shift the current paradigm—lifting the foot of oppression off of our necks so we can be free.”

I invoke my beloved Sister-Comrade-RADICAL-Pan African-Feminist-Anti Rape Activist-Scholar Dr. Aaronette M. White whose second ancestral anniversary is quickly approaching. She used her activism and scholarship to consistently and tirelessly address all forms of gender violence in various parts of the world – the U.S., Africa, Caribbean, Asia, and Europe. If Aaronette were here in the physical form, I know she would most definitely support our efforts (http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/764463/92351ffc87/ARCHIVE) if not also figure out a way to get on the plane and join us. She is with us in Spirit.

July 7, 2014
"All we can see is what we can see; but there is much more to be seen. ~Michael Simmons"

— Michael Simmons is an international human rights activist.

10:50am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZrRgJy1Ko_Tm5
  
Filed under: Michael Simmons 
May 20, 2014
Uncle Dr. Vincent Harding — African-American Historian, Author, Theologian, Civil and Human Rights Activist, Father, Uncle, Husband, Comrade, Friend— became a beloved cherished ancestor this May 19, 2014 evening. He and his first wife/partner/co-conspirator/comrade/friend, the late Rosemarie Freeney Harding were two of my mother’s (Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons) oldest continuous friends/comrades/co-conspirators dating back to September 1962; and my father’s (Michael Simmons) friends/comrades/co-conspirators dating back to Fall 1966.
I am grateful and humbled that I was with his daughter and my dear beloved SistaCousin Rachel Elizabeth Harding, his wife Aljosie Aldridge Harding, and another niece Angela Billingsley when he crossed over into the spirit realm. Ase’.
July 25, 1931 – May 19, 2014
May He Be Peaceful. May He Be Fully Liberated.
Anicca vata sankhara Upada vaya dhammino Upakituva nirujihanti Tesang vupasamo sukho All conditioned things are impermanent Their nature is to arise and pass away. To live in harmony with this truth Brings the highest happiness.
Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.

Uncle Dr. Vincent Harding — African-American Historian, Author, Theologian, Civil and Human Rights Activist, Father, Uncle, Husband, Comrade, Friend— became a beloved cherished ancestor this May 19, 2014 evening. He and his first wife/partner/co-conspirator/comrade/friend, the late Rosemarie Freeney Harding were two of my mother’s (Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons) oldest continuous friends/comrades/co-conspirators dating back to September 1962; and my father’s (Michael Simmons) friends/comrades/co-conspirators dating back to Fall 1966.

I am grateful and humbled that I was with his daughter and my dear beloved SistaCousin Rachel Elizabeth Harding, his wife Aljosie Aldridge Harding, and another niece Angela Billingsley when he crossed over into the spirit realm. Ase’.

July 25, 1931 – May 19, 2014

May He Be Peaceful. May He Be Fully Liberated.

Anicca vata sankhara
Upada vaya dhammino
Upakituva nirujihanti
Tesang vupasamo sukho

All conditioned things are impermanent
Their nature is to arise and pass away.
To live in harmony with this truth
Brings the highest happiness.

Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.

May 4, 2014
"Michael Simmons: “If a female student got drunk and had her car stolen the university would call the police. If she got drunk and had her computer stolen, they would call the police. If she got drunk and had her phone stolen, they would call the police. The fact that she was drunk would not even be factored in when assessing if a crime had been committed. But if she gets drunk and has her body invaded and her humanity stolen, school administrations are perplexed about what to do.”"

International Human Rights Activist Michael Simmons offered these words (via Facebook) in response to the May 3, 2014 New York Times’ “Fight Against Sex Assaults Holds Colleges to Account” article. He is featured in the internationally acclaimed, award-winning film NO! The Rape Documentary

February 18, 2014
The Lorde Works in Mysterious and Magical Ways: An Introduction to TFW’s Audre Lorde Forum

If you haven’t heard already, today is Audre Lorde’s 80th birthday anniversary. When I completed writing the introduction to the forum at 3:02am (after editing almost continuously with Lex Kennedy and simultaneously copy editing with Brooke Elise Axtell, Heather Talley, Heidi Renée Lewis over the past two days) I realized that this has been (and will continue to be) a hardcore labor of love. This is the case for ALL of the work that we do at The Feminist Wire. It is a radical feminist act of love.

The Audre Lorde forum has over 40 submissions from people who are based in the US, Germany, and the Caribbean. I believe this is a TFW first (I could be wrong). While I honestly don’t know what on earth I was thinking when I envisioned a forum of this magnitude, I can’t think of a more appropriate cherished ancestor in whose name we are breaking this ground.

Please join TFW in the Lordean Ocean over these next two weeks. If you feel moved to write about it, please use the #TFWPraisesTheLorde hashtag.

The Lorde Works in Mysterious and Magical Ways: An Introduction to TFW’s Audre Lorde Forum

“…It was almost exactly 24-years ago when her words first anointed me. I have been walking with Sister Lorde since April 1990 when a friend and former colleague Hollie Van Ness first introduced me to Sister Outsider, Lorde’s classically timeless book of essays. I was a very frightened, young 21-year old who was struggling with coming out as a lesbian. I don’t believe I had ever heard of Audre Lorde and if I had, I definitely didn’t know anything about her trailblazing life and work. Reading Sister Outsider, most especially her essay “Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action,” forever changed the trajectory of my life. My father and confidante, Michael Simmons, and my teacher, mentor, and big sister friend, Toni Cade Bambara, both gave me invaluable tools to continuously use what evolved into my Black feminist lesbian journey. Sight unseen, Audre Lorde’s words gave me the roadmap from which I would chart my own path as an unapologetically out, undeniably race conscious Black woman, and non-negotiable feminist lesbian…”


March 26, 2013
The Personal IS Political

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?

I have more questions than answers….

March 25, 2013
Toni Cade Bambara on the task of the Artist/Cultural Worker

PRESENTE Toni Cade Bambara March 25, 1939 - December 9, 1995.

Remembering and Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Black Feminist Writer, Teacher, Organizer, Mother, Filmmaker, Cultural Worker Extraordinaire on the 74th Anniversary of her birth.

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(Toni and Aishah Shahidah Simmons in October 1994 at the Hatch-Billops Collection in New York, photo ~ Michael Simmons)

“The task of the artist is determined always by the status and process and agenda of the community that it already serves. If you’re an artist who identifies with, who springs from, who is serviced by or drafted by a bourgeois capitalist class then that’s the kind of writing you do. Then your job is to maintain status quo, to celebrate exploitation or to guise it in some lovely, romantic way. That’s your job. If you’re a writer in Cuba, postrevolutionary Cuba, your job is to celebrate the triumph of the national will. If you’re a writer coming out of Kenya, the postindependent era in Kenya, your job is relaly to critique the failure of class struggle in Kenya and to tell the truth and to try and share a vision of what that society should be like if they’re gonna really liberate themselves.

As a cultural worker who belongs to an oppressed people my job is to make revolution irresistible. One of the ways I attempt to do that is by celebrating those victories within the [B]lack community. And I think the mere fact that we’re still breathing is a cuase for celebration. Also, my job is to critique the reactionary behavior within the community and to keep certain kinds of calls out there: the children, our responsibility of children, our responsibility to maintain some kind of continuity from the past. But I think for any artist your job is determined by the community you’re identifying with.

But in this country (US) we’re not encourage and equipped at any particular time to view things that way. And so the artwork or the art practice that sells a capitalist ideology is considered art and anything that deviates from that is considered political propagandist, polemical or didactic, strange, weird, subversive, or ugly.” ~ Toni Cade Bambara interviewed by Kay Bonetti, 1982

February 18, 2013
Celebrating Black Women’s Resilience, Brilliance, Power, & Beauty

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imagetiona.m. and Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Julia Roxanne Wallace

imageAlexis Pauline Gumbs, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Darnell L. Moore (VIVA The Feminist Wire Editorial Collective!)

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imageGrace Drums opened Mother Tongue: Monologues (Background photograph: Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Lisa Diane White, with Aaronette Michelle White in the photograph within the photograph)

imageGrace Drums (Background photograph: Aishah Shahidah Simmons filming the first 10-day vipassana meditation course held in Mumbai, India, for people of African heritage world wide)

imageGrace Drums

imageChristina Jaus, Farah Tanis, Mayowa Osebeju, Kalima DeSuze presenting the Honorees with their awards

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons, Christina Jaus, co-founder of Black Women’s Blueprint, Farah Tanis, co-founder and executive director of Black Women’s Blueprint

imageThe powerful award ceremony…

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons’ extemporaneous (in spite of prepared comments) acceptance speech “It’s the community from which you come that you want to name you, claim you and honor you.” ~ Toni Cade Bambara (Teacher and Big Sister Friend)

imageAcceptance speech, which included my paying tribute to my Dad (Michael Simmons) who was the first person who supported my emerging Black lesbian identity when I was a teenager and my Mom (Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons) who was the first Black feminist I ever met.

imageIf someone calls you a lesbian and you’re not one, don’t act as if you’ve been called a German Shepard….

imageIt is important that those of us who are able, because many are not, break our silences about our sexual assaults. (When I was 19 years-old) I was raped one night and less than 24-hours had consensual sex with another man and became pregnant. I am fortunate that I was able to have a safe and legal abortion…

imageThe acceptance speech continues…

imageFadzai Mapurutsa’s, Coalition of African Lesbians, acceptance speech

imagetiona.m., Fadzai Mapuratusa, Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageCara Page and Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageOrleana Clark, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Inelle Cox Bagwell, Pat Clark

imageThadious Davis and Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons and Darnelle L. Moore

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons, Michael Simmons, Linda Carrranza

imageDaddy’s Girl" Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Michael Simmons

imageR. Erica Doyle and Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons

imageAishah Shahdiah Simmons and Traci C. West

imageDeepa Soul and Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons and Yvette Assem

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons and Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons, Farah Tanis, Julia Roxanne Wallace, Christina Jaus

imageFarah Tanis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageAishah Shaidah Simmons and Michael Simmons

imageBeverly Guy Sheftall and Aishah Shahidah Simmons

imageKalima DeSuze, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Farah Tanis, Christina Jaus

imageAishah Shahidah Simmons and Kalima DeSuze

imageBack row: Kwesi Ferebee, Ayanna Serwaa, Jasmine Burnett, Mayowa Osabuju, Farah Tanis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, tiona.m.,
Front row: Christina Jaus, Kalima DeSuze, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Porter Ferebee - BLACK WOMENS BLUEPRINT

image Museum of Women’s Resistance at Black Women’s Blueprint

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February 11, 2013
Reflecting Upon Scandal: should entertainment trump the search for the truth in our lives?

SpiritHouse and Jonathan Daniels and Samuel Younge Fellow Dean Steed’s “The Scandal Behind Scandal" touches upon some of the very serious concerns that I have while I religiously watch and record Shonda Rhimes newest television series Scandal *EVERY* single week that it airs.

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And yet, Judy Smith is a *very* problematic (for my politics) person… Bush I, Clarence Thomas, Contras, BP Oil Spill, on and on and on. She was/is not on the (radical) Left side of justice but the (rabid, my words) Right (wing) side of (IN)justice.

She nor Olivia Pope (the *Scandal* lead character loosely based upon her life who is portrayed by the incredible actress and activist Kerry Washington) represent what I believe in politically as a radical Black Queer Feminist.

Michael Simmons always says, “Equality is the right to be mediocre… Equality is the right to be a right wing conservative…” Olivia Pope (nor Judy Smith for that matter) don’t have to be radical lefties and perhaps that is progress for some (not for me).

As much as I thoroughly enjoy Scandal and look forward to it every week that it airs, I’m alarmed with how moderate to liberal politics are presented as a Republican agenda. These blatant lies told in Black woman’s face/body. In my mind’s eye, it’s *very* dangerous and yet, *very* entertaining territory.

Is this Orwell’s Animal Farm 21st Century Style?


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For people who believe “it’s just entertainment,” I call upon the words of nationally-recognized human-rights activist and social critic Ruby Sales, "I am so sorry that realities of the world do not permit us to live in a mindless state where entertainment trumps the search for the truth of our lives…."

Independent of race, gender, class, and sexuality (if that’s possible), why is it entertaining to watch people tortured, cheat on their partners, contemplate murdering their partners, steal presidential elections, murder  “collateral damage,” violate the human and civil rights of human beings, and/or steal evidence to name a few tantalizing themes?

I don’t have the answers but I am consistently interrogating myself every time that I watch this and other television shows (and films).

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