— Michael Simmons is an international human rights activist.
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
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.
— 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
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…”
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….
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.
(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
tiona.m. and Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Grace 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)
Christina Jaus, Farah Tanis, Mayowa Osebeju, Kalima DeSuze presenting the Honorees with their awards
The powerful award ceremony…
Aishah 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)
Acceptance 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.
If someone calls you a lesbian and you’re not one, don’t act as if you’ve been called a German Shepard….
“It 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…”
The acceptance speech continues…
Fadzai Mapurutsa’s, Coalition of African Lesbians, acceptance speech
tiona.m., Fadzai Mapuratusa, Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Cara Page and Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Orleana Clark, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Inelle Cox Bagwell, Pat Clark
Thadious Davis and Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Darnelle L. Moore
“Daddy’s Girl" Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Michael Simmons
R. Erica Doyle and Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Aishah Shahdiah Simmons and Traci C. West
Deepa Soul and Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Yvette Assem
Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture
Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Farah Tanis, Julia Roxanne Wallace, Christina Jaus
Farah Tanis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Aishah Shaidah Simmons and Michael Simmons
Beverly Guy Sheftall and Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Kalima DeSuze, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Farah Tanis, Christina Jaus
Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Kalima DeSuze
Back 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
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.
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?
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).
FREE SCREENING & DISCUSSION of NO! The Rape Documentary http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org/
Monday, November 26, 2012 7:30-9:30
Fennario Coffee (111 N. Church Street, West Chester, PA, 610.436.8104)
For additional information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please be aware that NO! and the discussion my be triggering for survivors and our allies. The organizers of this event are dedicated to providing a safe and supportive space for survivors of sexual assault and our allies.
Black Power Babies
An intergenerational discussion exploring
living the legacy of a movement
Black Power Babies, the children of men and women active in the black power movement of the 60s – 70s are now leaders in all aspects of society – business, arts, politics, academia, and beyond. This panel will explore with personal accounts of Black Power Babies and parents, how revolutionary thinking, activity and legacy has impacted a generation.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation – Skylight Gallery
1368 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11216
Moderator – Muhammida El Muhajir (Brand Strategist & Filmmaker)
- Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II – King of Oyotunji African Village
- Amina Baraka – Poet/Activist (Black Arts Movement) & Sons
- Francisco Mora Catlett – Musician (son of activist/artists Elizabeth Catlett and Poncho Mora)
- Carl Dix – Revolutionary Communist Party
- Aaliyah Maydun – Media Professional (daughter of Gail Kenard, Black Panthers and artist/author Julian Madyun)
- Nisa Ra – Entrepreneur, Filmmaker (Black Arts Movement)
- Bunmi Samuel – Educator (son of Tunde Samuel, National Black Theater of Harlem)
- Aishah Shahidah Simmons – Filmmaker, Cultural Worker
- Michael Simmons – Human Rights Activist (SNCC)
- Marvin X – Author, Poet. (Black Arts Movement, Nation of Islam)