Imagine Otherwise: Aishah Shahidah Simmons on Black Feminist Anti-Violence Activism

Imagine Otherwise: Aishah Shahidah Simmons on Black Feminist Anti-Violence Activism

July 13, 2016

Aisha Shahidah Simmons wearing a purple shirt and silver earrings, resting her chin on her hand


How can artists engage with the academy to share cultural work and activism? How is education a form of activism?

In episode 14 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews filmmaker and cultural producer Aishah Shahidah Simmons about her award-winning film NO!: The Rape Documentary, collaboration as key to feminist work, and how every one of us can play a part in ending violence in our communities.

Guest: Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an award-winning Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, activist, cultural worker, writer and international lecturer.

An incest and rape survivor, she is the creator of the Ford Foundation-funded, internationally acclaimed and award-winning feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary.

Aishah is the 2015-2016 Sterling Brown Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. She is also a 2016-2018 Just Beginnings Collaborative Fellow.

Her essays and articles have been published in several anthologies including the recently released Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence anthology edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers and the forthcoming Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement anthology edited by Jennifer Patterson.

Committed to archiving, documenting and telling Black women’s herstories and contemporary realities, Aishah co-edited The Feminist Wire’s online forum in honor of June Jordan‘s life and legacy, the Global Forum on Audre Lorde, and the Toni Cade Bambara 75th Birthday Anniversary Forum.

An associate editor of TFW, Aishah’s cultural work and activism have been documented extensively in a wide range of media outlets including The Root, Crisis, Forbes, Left of Black, In These Times, Ms. Magazine, Alternet, ColorLines, The Philadelphia Weekly, National Public Radio (NPR), Pacifica Radio Network and Black Entertainment Television (BET).

She has screened her work, guest lectured and facilitated workshops and dialogues throughout the North American continent and in many countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

Aishah credits both her twenty-three years work with a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist and her thirteen-year practice of vipassana meditation with supporting her own healing while simultaneously fueling her to commit a significant portion of her life to address rape, child sexual abuse and other forms of gendered sexual violence.

We chatted about

  • Sexual violence, and resistance against it, in Black communities (02:30)
  • The intersections of racism and misogyny, and how Black women have resisted both (06:40)
  • Advice for those seeking to work at the nexus between collective reparations and personal healing (12:00)
  • Collaboration as a key aspect of feminism (25:30)
  • How “love with accountability” can end child sexual abuse (31:30)
  • Imagining otherwise (38:20)


Aishah’s film NO! The Rape Documentary

Black women have resisted sexual violence in our communities, while also simultaneously fighting against racism and white supremacy.

The pressures for Black survivors of sexual violence to stay silent

There’s this notion that when Black women come forward about sexual violence in our communities, that we’re traitors to the race. Traitors to the race becomes traitors to Black men—race because masculine-identified.

Collective social justice

In the name of collectivity, don’t be afraid to stand by yourself for what you believe in.

Working for both personal liberation and collective justice

I do believe that we can do it simultaneously, but we cannot put ourselves, our families, our children on the back burner.

Imagining otherwise

Speculative fiction can become our reality.

More from Aishah

Projects and people discussed

About Imagine Otherwise

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at Imagine Otherwise is hosted by Cathy Hannabach and produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

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