Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an award-winning Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, activist, cultural worker, writer, and international lecturer whose work examines the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and sexual violence. An incest and adult rape survivor, she produced, wrote, and directed the Ford Foundation-funded, internationally acclaimed film, NO! The Rape Documentary. Over a decade in the making, NO!, which is subtitled in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, broke taboos that hid heterosexual rape and sexual assault in African-American communities. The film brought together leading and emerging, African-American scholars, theologians, artists, activists, men, women, and survivors to break silences and commit themselves to reshape patriarchal cultures of violence against women and queer communities. The film's supplemental materials – Breaking Silences, a two-hour video, and Unveiling the Silence, an interactive 100-page study guide – are used internationally in educational institutions, rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters, community centers, and correctional facilities and at conferences and government-sponsored events. Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of The Color Purple says, “If the Black community in the Americas and in the world would save itself it must complete the work this film [NO!] begins.”
Simmons is a 2016-2019 Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC) fellow. Funded by the NoVoFoundation, the JBC fellowship initiates strategies to end child sexual abuse. Simmons’ JBC-funded #LoveWITHAccountability Project focuses on the power of transformative storytelling to tackle the global epidemic of child sexual abuse through the experiences, insights, and perspectives of diasporic Black child sexual abuse survivors and advocates. She is the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Love With Accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse (AK Press, Fall 2019). The collection will feature writings that explore how we can address child sexual abuse without solely relying on the very systems that brutalize Black and other marginalized communities in the United States.
Simmons is a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication and an Affiliate Scholar at the Ortner Center on Violence and Abuse in Relationships, both at the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Simmons is member of the Advisory Board of the University of Arizona’s Consortium on Gender-Based Violence. Previously, she was a Visiting Scholar at the School for Social Policy and Practice at Penn. She’s also been an Artist-in-Residence, Lecturer, Contingent and Distinguished Visiting Faculty at Williams College, Temple University, Scripps College, the University of Chicago and Spelman College.
A recipient of numerous awards for her work and activism, Simmons most recently received the 2018 American Studies Association’s Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars, Contingent or Community College Faculty.
She is an associate editor of the online publication, The Feminist Wire, and a member of the editorial board of The Feminist Wires Books at the University of Arizona Press. Her writings are published widely, and her cultural work and activism are documented extensively. Simmons has presented her work across the North American continent, and in numerous countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.