Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an award-winning Black feminist lesbian cultural worker, whose raison d’etre for over 25 years has been to examine the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and sexual violence. Her cultural work expresses its voice through the art of documentary filmmaking, writing and activism, while being informed by her lived experiences as a child sexual abuse survivor, adult rape survivor, and Buddhist practitioner. She is committed to disrupting and ending the inhumane, humanely.
Simmons’s latest work is the 2020 Lambda Literary Award-winning Love WITH Accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse (AK Press, Fall 2019), an anthology that she organized and edited. The collection features transformative writings by forty adult diasporic Black child sexual abuse survivors and advocates.They explore how we can address child sexual abuse without solely relying on the police and carceral systems that dehumanize and brutalize Black and other marginalized communities in the United States.
Feminist activist Gloria Steinem says of Love WITH Accountability, "With this brave and healing anthology of truth-telling about sexual abuse within Black families, Aishah Shahidah Simmons sets an example for all families. If we could all raise just one generation of children without violence or the threat of violence, who knows what might be possible?"
As a filmmaker, she successfully created two acclaimed short videos, Silence Broken (1993) and In My Father’s House (1996) to address race, gender, homophobia, rape, reproductive justice, and misogyny. However, Simmons is most widely known for her 2006 groundbreaking, internationally acclaimed documentary feature film, NO! The Rape Documentary. Twelve years in the making and funded by the Ford Foundation, along with many other funding partners, NO! exposes the taboos that cover-up rape, sexual assault, and failed accountability in African-American communities. The film brings together leading and emerging Black scholars, theologians, artists, activists, men, women, and survivors to break silences and commit themselves to reshaping patriarchal cultures of violence against women and queer communities; and, to look at healing in those communities. Ahead of its time, the 2006 world premiere of NO! took place nineteen months before Title IX was successfully applied to campus sexual assault cases.”
NO! and Unveiling the Silence the accompanying 100-page study guide are used in high schools, universities, rape crisis centers, battered women's shelters, correctional facilities, churches, and at conferences and government-sponsored events globally.
Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author and human rights activist says, “If the Black community in the Americas and in the world would heal itself, it must complete the work, this film [NO!] begins.”
Simmons’s writings are published widely, including articles for The New York Times, NBC.com, and Essence Magazine. Her cultural work and activism are documented extensively. She has presented her work and lectured throughout North America, and in countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.