May 5, 2013
Aishah Shahidah Simmons joined Spelman College’s Fight to End Sexual Violence on HBCU campuses

I was honored to receive an invitation from Dr. Beverly Guy Sheftall to return to Spelman College on April 25, 2013 to join their fight to address and end sexual violence on Historically Black College and University campuses (HBCU).

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.

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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.

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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).

April 22, 2013
Across Liberation, Toward Difference

Today is Day 1 of The Feminist Wire’s 10-day Forum on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism.

Across Liberation, Toward Difference: An Introduction to TFW’s Forum on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism" by Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Heather Laine Talley


"…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.”

http://thefeministwire.com/2013/04/across-difference-toward-liberation-an-introduction-to-tfws-forum-on-race-racism-and-anti-racism-within-feminism/

March 30, 2013
"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."

Aishah Shahidah Simmons

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….

November 23, 2012
TRAILBLAZER -> Cathay Williams / William Cathay (1844 - 1892)

"…Cathay Williams (September 1844 - 1892) was an American soldier. She is the first African American female to enlist, and the only documented to serve in the United States Army posing as a man under the pseudonym, William Cathay… Despite the prohibition against women serving in the military, Williams enlisted in the United States Regular Army on 15 November 1866 at St. Louis, Missouri for a three year engagement, passing herself off as a man. Only two others are known to have been privy to the deception, her cousin and a friend, both of whom were fellow soldiers in her regiment.

Shortly after her enlistment, Williams contracted smallpox, was hospitalized and rejoined her unit, which by then was posted in New Mexico. Possibly due to the effects of smallpox, the New Mexico heat, or the cumulative effects of years of marching, her body began to show signs of strain. She was frequently hospitalized. The post surgeon finally discovered she was a woman and informed the post commander. She was discharged from the Army by her commanding officer, Captain Charles E. Clarke on October 14, 1868…" ~ Wikipedia

{Sobering commentary on sexism, which, like racism, was virulent (still is!) in the 19th century. Cathay/William was clearly only discharged because her gender was revealed. I want more information on Cathay/William… There are so many unknown her/histories.}

November 2, 2012
"

"…I was punished. I wrote a critical book review essay that spoke my truth as I saw it, regardless. I knew it would cause tension. However, I never imagined fire. To my mind, I was jumping into a game of intellectual hopscotch, just as I’d seen my male colleagues do many times before. Naively, I thought it was my turn. However, I learned quickly that the game of intellectual criticism is not only gendered, but also has psychological, emotional and reputational (and thus, representational) risks—if you are a black woman.

I was a newly minted black feminist scholar of religion…who critiqued the work of a tenured black male scholar. Among all other sorts of criticisms re: staying in my lane, people asked, “Are they fucking?” Really?!?? I pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at Sigma Chapter at Clark Atlanta University in 1995. I know full well how to let things that people say about or to me, “roll off my back,” and have been known to withstand the harshest of criticisms without even flinching. However, the idea that my work as a black feminist scholar religion and black cultural critic was somehow underpinned by some sort of fantastic and unscrupulous sexual liaison between the author and I sent me into a year long, deep depression and almost two years of silence…”

~ Tamura A. Lomax, “Black Women, Black Criticism, and the Unremovable Veil of Jezebel” (Day 5: The Feminist Wire’s forum on Black (Academic) Women’s Health)

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/11/black-women-black-criticism-and-the-unremovable-veil-of-jezebel/

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October 20, 2012
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"…After O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering Brown Simpson white America wanted his scalp. Nicole was the perfect victim, the beautiful tragic heroine who died too young at the hands of a savage. The so-called trial of the century hinged on redeeming a white woman’s honor and bringing her Negro killer to justice. Brown Simpson was grieved globally, transformed into a symbol of the deadliness of intimate partner violence and martyr of a legal system—signified by the “dumb” biased black female jury that acquitted Simpson—run amok.

The underside of the verdict and the global valorization of Nicole Brown Simpson was the disreputable black female abuse victim. Each year thousands of black women are shot, stabbed, stalked, and brutalized in crimes that never make it on the national radar…” ~ Sikivu Hutchinson, “The Spectator Sport of Bashing Black Women” for The Feminist Wire

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/10/the-spectator-sport-of-bashing-black-women/

"

April 27, 2012
None of Us are Free until All of Us are Free

Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)

From April 23, 2012 through April 26, 2012, The Feminist Wire published Aishah Shahidah Simmons' four part series titled “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls).” Through a comparison of selected cases, Simmons interrogates why Black/African-American/African descendant communities have tremendous difficulty addressing various forms of violence perpetuated against LGTBQ people, straight women, and girls. Following is the introduction to the series.

Introduction

The title of this four part article is a metaphorical nod to the legendary jazz singer, songwriter, actor, and activist Abbey Lincoln (also known as Aminata Moseka) whose essay, “Who Will Revere The Black Woman?” is featured in the ground-breaking anthology The Black Woman. Edited by Black feminist author, screenwriter, and visionary activist Toni Cade Bambara, this all-Black woman anthology focused on the issues most pertinent to Black women and our communities. Originally published in 1970 and reissued in 2005 with a forward by Dr. Eleanor W. Traylor, The Black Woman was the literary wo/manifestation of the impact of the intersection of the Civil Rights/Black Power movements and the second wave of the Women’s Rights movement on Black women’s lives. In short, Ms. Lincoln’s ageless essay is a demand for justice and protection for Black women. In her concluding paragraph she writes,

[…]Who will revere the Black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for Black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protections, and keeping and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?

In her 1983 prophetic and timeless essay, “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression,” self-defined Black feminist lesbian mother warrior poet Audre Lordewrites,

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the front upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.[1]

I am struggling to find the right time to discuss inter and intra-racial gender-based violence in the midst of the justified outrage about the rampant and virulent racialized violence perpetrated against straight Black boys and men. Even with this being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, now doesn’t feel like the best time to write about the gender-based and state-sanctioned violence perpetuated against Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) people both inside of and outside of our racial/cultural communities. I fear that sharing what’s on my heart and mind, might be construed as my taking away from the “real” issue at hand in most Black communities, which seems to be solely white supremacist and/or state-sanctioned racist violence against straight Black men and boys. Audre Lorde’s writings remind me, however, that discussions on oppression within Black communities should never be taken up within an either/or frame. The diverse herstories/histories and contemporary realities of Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people have consistently revealed that the issues that directly impact us often take a back seat, if they even make it into the metaphorical car on the freedom and liberation highway. There is a collective understanding among many in multi-racial, radical progressive movements, that the white supremacist, patriarchal, heterosexist, imperial, and capitalist power structure is the root of all oppressions in the United States. While I believe that to be true, even in the company of other oppressed people, Black straight women and LGBTQ people are still under attack. Too often we are caught at the intersections of race, gender, and if we identify as LGBTQ, sexuality. In spite of our shared his/herstories of oppression, struggle, and perseverance against the odds, not enough Black people view sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, heterosexism and transphobia with the same kind of activist passion that we view racism, white supremacy, and state-sanctioned violence perpetuated against straight Black men and boys. The reality is this: when Black straight men and boys are beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of state-sanctioned and/or white supremacist violence, it becomes (as well it should be) a national issue in the Black community and in a few, definitely not all, instances, the outrage moves beyond the Black community. Yet, when Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people are raped, sexually assaulted, beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of misogynist, patriarchal, state-sanctioned, and/or white supremacist violence, it is too often the victim’s individual issue.

Shepard Fairey illustrator

There are so many egregious, known and unknown, cases of racial and gender-based violence perpetuated against all Black people, regardless of their gender, gender identity, and sexuality, that it is literally impossible to write about all of them. I want to highlight a selected few of the far too many, however, to ask Black/African-American/African descended people to consider our responses when any of us have been railroaded into the prison industrial complex, sexually or otherwise assaulted, or murdered. I want us, Black/African-American/African descended people, to consider our responses to issues that affect many as opposed to those issues affecting someof us based on our gender, gender identity, and/or sexuality.

***

Part 1, which was published on April 23, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. On April 24, 2012, Ebony.com aggregated part one. You can read it here.

Part 2, which was published on April 24, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. Part 3, which was published on April 25, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. Part 4, which was published on April 26, 2012, can be read in its entirety here.

April 24, 2012
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"…Where were the “I Am Nafissatou Diallo” campaigns in the same way that there were “I am Troy Davis” campaigns? Isn’t she as much a part of our non-monolithic communities as Troy Davis was? Why do we continue to act as if racism is something that only impacts Black straight men and boys? Nafissatou Diallo was a victim of both racism and sexism.

I long for the day when all of us, regardless of if we’ve been raped, molested, and/or assaulted or not will begin to publicly identify with rape victim/survivors. I believe it is very important to support those women of color victim/survivors who have the ability and courage to come forward and risk being metaphorically raped again by the court of racist/sexist/misogynist public opinion, the media, and their own racial/cultural communities, not to mention the legal defense team of the (alleged) rapist. What would it look like if we had “I Am…” campaigns for Black women rape survivors in the same way we have had them for straight Black men who’ve been brutalized and murdered by white supremacist and/or state sanctioned violence?” ~ Aishah Shahidah Simmons, “Who Will Revere US? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls) (Part 2)” for The Feminist Wire

"

Read part two of this four-part article in its entirety HERE

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-2/

Read part one of this four-part article in its entirety HERE

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-1/

April 24, 2012
""…There was a time when an African descended woman would accuse a white man of sexually assaulting or raping her and the African-American community would not only be alarmed, but they would mobilize into direct action. That time is long gone. Ms. Nafissatou Diallo, an African immigrant from Guinea who worked as a maid at the Sofitel Hotel in New York accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who, at the time, was managing director of the International Monetary Fund, of sexual assault and attempted rape on May 14, 2011…" Aishah Shahidah Simmons, “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)” (Part 2) for The Feminist Wire."

Read part two of this four-part article in its entirety HERE

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-2/

Read part one of this four-part article in its entirety HERE

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-1/

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